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Competition in Detailing


This article was originally published in the IDA The Detail Dialogue March 2021 Newsletter

During many of my training sessions, the topic of competition usually comes up. Often times, with some pretty interesting stories being shared about how competitors have copied, stolen, cheated, slandered, you name it. Needless to say, competition is usually something that is negative to most professional detailers. So for my fellow detailers out there that are having an issue with competition, I want to share some tips to help you with this common dilemma.

The Competition Frustration 

There’s no doubt that competition can sometimes be very frustrating. When detailers share their experiences with me about their competition, I can quickly sense their level of frustration. Some of the common reasons for being frustrated with their competitors are due to things such as;

  • Pricing
  • Copy-cat mentality
  • Exclusivity
  • Geographic Location
  • Clientele
  • Former Employees

All things that I myself have experienced at some point in regards to competition. Competition can especially become frustrating when it is made personal by a competitor. In conversations, I’ve heard stories from detailers feeling helpless at dealing with someone that has nothing but ill will towards them and their business. We will address this frustration later in this article.

What is Competition?

Competition can simply be described as two or more companies targeting a similar audience or market to sell/provide similar products or services. This rivalry creates a contest to gain customers, increase revenue or gain market share as compared to other competitors.

In competition, there are different types of competition such as;

  • Direct Competition – In detailing this would be described as two or more similar shops that are providing and selling the same or similar services/products to the same customers to gain a share of that market. This is usually the most common in detailing.
  • In-Direct Competition – In detailing, this would be two companies that sell/provide a service in the same industry, same type of customers but don’t offer the same products or services. Think of a dealership vs a detail shop. The dealership may offer “detailing” to its customers, but its not close in comparison to what a detail shop offers. Not quite apples to apples as competitors.
  • Potential Competition – This would be a company or vendor that could create technology that could create a solution that would affect a detail shop. For example, say a company creates paint technology that replaces the need for having a ceramic coating. In my opinion, this type of competition is usually in the forecasting or potential threats as I will explain in this article.

The Importance of Competition in Detailing

Being the only game in town might sound great, but competition is an important component in the detailing business. Healthy competition makes one look at their business for weaknesses, strengths, innovation, additional services, focus on marketing and branding are just some of the examples that competition creates. Its the old adage, “if nothing changes, nothing changes”. You will notice in very small towns where there is only one of a particular business, they tend to never change and keep doing things the same way forever.

Personally, I recall when I worked for a dealer and we were the only game in town here in Fort Wayne for highline detailing. This was great for awhile but it wasn’t until we had employees leave and start their own shop or competing companies that I had to look at ways to compete to become the best game in town. Competition began an ever changing evolution of that business once competitors entered the market. Ultimately, I myself ended up leaving that company and competing against what I had created there. Its funny how things can change in that way.

Competition Benefits and Disadvantages

As you can probably start to notice, competition does have benefits to a detail shop. Some of these benefits are;

  • Creating awareness and growth in the marketplace
  • By creating awareness, it then increases the demand for detailing services
  • This demand then increases innovation
  • Helps determine competitive advantage
  • Improved customer service in the marketplace
  • Increases long-term development of the marketplace

Unfortunately, competition also has its fair share of disadvantages and its here that most of the frustrations of detail shops lie. Some of the disadvantages are;

  • Forced to compete in the marketplace
  • Copy cat mentality by competitors that are not innovative
  • Market share minimized or forced to be shared by other competitors
  • Increased marketing expenses to deal with competitors
  • Potential loss of company identity or branding
  • Loss of company focus due to frustrations brought on by competitors
  • Confusion of customers in the market
  • Customers pressured by rival competitors

Tips for Dealing with Competition

Competition can often times become a nasty and frustrating ordeal. I’ve had my fair share of situations with competitors in the past that were both challenging and frustrating. Through those experiences, I learned how to work through the challenges of competition and making competition work in my favor. Here are some tips dealing with competition that have helped me and many fellow detailers I’ve helped with this in the past.

  • Don’t Focus on Competitors

Give your business all of your energy and focus, not your competitors! While its acceptable to stay informed on something your competitors are doing, The worst thing you could do is to direct all of your focus and energy on your competitors. This will only cause you to lose focus and negatively shift the direction your business. It’s important to know what your competitors are about, but don’t make it a priority to know everything they do. For example, I don’t follow any of my competitors on social media nor do I keep tabs on what they do every waking moment. It only distracts you from your main focus, your business.

  • Don’t Make it Personal

If a competitor has you in their sights and decides to make it personal, do not give in to that. Its what they want and instead focusing what is important for their business, they are focused on you. This is their mistake, not yours. Making it personal will not only negatively affect your mental health, but will also affect your focus on your business goals.

  • Don’t hate, Innovate!

Many competitors will simply copy others to try to be competitive in a market. This can be frustrating, but its important to stay focused and innovative to the needs of your business. Don’t become a copycat yourself! Customers will always favor innovators than those who are copycat competitors. I once had a competitor that copied everything we did and by doing so, they focused their business on a path that wasn’t for them and only resulted in them failing miserably. Find innovative ways to engage with your customers that coincide with your business. Being the first to market gives you numerous advantages over other competitors.¬† Things like exclusivity with some brands make it hard for these non-innovators to compete on the same level.

  • Set Yourself Apart from the Competition, Find your “Est”

Know your competition and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Find your “est” in the marketplace. This can mean being the best, the cheapest, the fastest, the largest, the smallest, friendliest, etc. In detailing, we are all offering similar services and competing for many of the same customers. Find what makes your business unique and build on that as part of your identity.

  • Develop and Know Your Brand and Image

It sounds simple but knowing what your brand stands for and the image your business is portraying, dictates the messaging you are giving to customers. I have seen competitors that neglect this simple thing and fall into the background in the market. We’ve all seen this as the “what ever happened to <enter shop name>, you never hear about those guys anymore”. That is because they failed to establish their brand to differentiate themselves from other competitors. Make sure that your message is a positive and professional one. I’ve seen numerous detailers put out ridiculous and negative messaging to their customers, only to wonder why no one wants to use them anymore. When your brand and image is strong and well established, it really makes it difficult for competitors to compete with you. Just remember the adage, “Nike doesn’t worry about Reebok”.

The SWOT Analysis and Strategic Planning

The SWOT Analysis is an effective technique to help your business develop a strategy for dealing with issues such as competition. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats. The SWOT Analysis organizes these traits by creating a list for each component.

SWOT Analysis Template
SWOT Analysis Template

Drawing a SWOT is as simple as drawing 4 squares on a notepad and listing on each section. As you can see in the template above, each section gives you some examples of what to list. In order for your analysis to be successful, you really need to be honest and realistic. Organizing these thoughts on a SWOT will help to guide you on developing a strategy to overcome a situation such as competition. Utilize your strengths, address your weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and recognize the threats. This is a technique that I teach in my consulting work with detailers and it has been an extremely useful tool in their strategic planning.

Closing Thoughts

When I started Forza Detailing 3 years ago, I became another competitor in the market I helped create 8 years earlier. Having been a key figure in the marketplace, I had numerous advantages and certainly created my fair share of disadvantages for¬† competitors. Having been the face for another company, in Forza Detailing, I created a brand and image that coincided with my reputation, quality and expertise in the marketplace. I continue to look for ways to become the first of something in my market or have exclusivity to services that my competitors don’t have access to. To differentiate myself from competitors or those who wish to enter the market for detailing here in Northeast Indiana.

Competition to me is often more beneficial than something negative. Competition in detailing can often be very nasty and I’m sure many of you have experienced a lot of this over the years. It’s easy to be discouraged or frustrated by a competitor. In the end, you have to maintain your focus and energy on your strategy, goals, brand and identity as a business. If competitors wind up chasing you, let them. You’re blazing your own path and it does them no good to follow your path. I used to have clients tell me that imitation is a form of flattery. I was never flattered by competitors, in fact I just found it simply annoying. Having learned to tune out competitors and tune into myself, that has been the best thing that has worked for me and my business.

These are just a few of the tips that can help you through competition. Hopefully you will find these tips helpful to your business.

Mike Cardenas
Forza Detailing
Northeast Indiana
Website Coming Soon
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5 comments on Competition in Detailing

  1. Greg Pautler says:

    Nice post Mike! I love the SWAT analysis, great task to do during any slow time or if your business is struggling!

  2. Ron Ayotte says:

    I was once asked if I worried about competition. My answer was that there were plenty of potential clients, and if I worried about what the “other guy” was doing, it would detract from what I am doing! Other than my Facebook detailing page, my sign in front of the house and word of mouth. I do very little advertising. My work and my personal vehicles are the best advertising I have.

  3. Chad Johnson says:

    I often get the frustration aspect of competition. Mainly
    when i see signs etc for others detailing at a fraction of my cost. Not because i want the entire market, i couldn’t handle all the work in this area alone. But i get frustrated because these other guys are willing to not only offer their services so cheap, but they continue feeding the animal (the animal being “full detail”… the term is so highly subjective and means so many things to different people). To see a sign saying “full detail for $50 dollars” makes my skin crawl as I know their full detail isnt full at all, its likely going to be a really fast wash and cheap tire shine that seems to be made with motor oil due to how hard it is to get it off the tires when i get called to fix their “full detail”.

    Coincidentally; does anyone know what type of cheap tire shine/stuff these dealerships and production places are using? Its often greasy looking and splattered along the rockers… but washing it multiple times with almost any type of cleaner still leaves the tires with residue remains of this substance. Just curious what others use to combat this stuff…

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