Sniffing for Market Share

I've already talked about how this is a good time of year to work on the Personal Experience Factor of your business if the holidays aren't your busy time.

So…how do you actually go about deciding which improvements to make in your store, office or shop?

There are hundreds of ways to evaluate your PEF, and taking a global look at it will likely put you in paralysis by analysis. Yet, there's no better or direct way of grabbing precious market share away from your competitors.

Want a shortcut?

Come to your 5 senses!

What I mean is simplify the process by using your senses to rank competitors and look for opportunities and vulnerabilities. Make yourself a simple chart with the 5 senses across the top and your list of competitors along the side. Be sure to save ample room to make notes in your grid.

Now, go to your competitor's locations and have a look around. Make mental notes around the 5 senses.


Look at color schemes, newness and condition of things like carpet, paint, ceiling tiles. Look at your competitors from 1 block away, 20 feet away and 5 feet away. Trust me, your customers notice things about YOUR business that have become invisible to you. In your heart, you might hope that they forgive you for your business's visual blemishes, but they can't see your heart.


What is the tactile environment like? Are the carpets plush, the surfaces of countertops clean, the bathrooms spotless? Are customers greeted with warmth? Even if you don't shake hands (flu, colds and all that) you can at least use open arms and gesture to greet visitors.


Yes, smell. What are the odors wafting through the air in your competitor's shops? Take notes about industrial smells, medicinal smells, perfume, air fresheners or cookies. Mike Dandridge used a small convection oven and frozen cookie dough to add an irresistible odor to a hum-drum electrical supply distribution business. How about great smelling coffee?


Yes, closely related to smell. Are your competitors doing anything to please the taste buds of their customers? Are you? You don't have to be in the restaurant business to delight people with something tasty. Spend a couple of hundred bucks on a Nespresso 1-cup gourmet coffee maker and see what happens!


Hark! What's that I hear? Close your eyes and make mental notes about what you hear going on around you in your business and your competitors'. Do you hear office staff gossiping on the phone or using bad language? Are you hearing private or confidential information about customers, patients or vendors? Is the environment simply too loud with the everyday sounds of your business?


After you have notes on all 5 senses, you can easily rank your competitors according to how well they do on each sense. Then, look for ways to improve your own place. Be just a little better than everyone in all 5 senses and you'll have increased your PEF in a way that will definitely move the market share needle in the coming year. Choose one sense and make a home-run out of it and you'll be generating Word of Mouth faster than those cookies and coffee can be consumed.

Would you like the worksheet?

Subscribe to my newsletter list and I'll email you a handy PDF worksheet that you can print out to use for your own sniffy-tasty-feely-sparkling-earcandy research project. Be sure to let me know how it works for you!

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6 thoughts on “Sniffing for Market Share

  1. Dennis Collins

    Dave, this is a great, practical way to start getting a feel for what customers really experience. Most small business owners don’t have a process or system for this, and I like the ease and simplicity of your shortcut.

    I think there may be one ingredient missing, and I’m not sure how to add it. How do we get real, live customers to help us with this? I have found that we are not always the best judges of what customers really want from us.

    We know too much about our businesses, we are too involved in things that don’t really matter to customers and often waste time and money on things that make little or no difference to the experience.

    Have you ever come across anything that gets reliable customer input on what they really value?

  2. Dave Young

    Dennis – Thanks! I like simple. Most business owners are too busy to implement complicated processes and the unfortunate side effect is that they are too cash-poor to hire someone to offer up a second pair of eyes. When my dad was in the small market radio business, hed say you prepare a detailed proposal for a business owner, write a great spec spot, walk in with a boom-box prepared to give a knock-out presentation…and if youre lucky, theyll put their broom down long enough to shake your hand.

    Thats why I always tell business owners that ANY outsider is better at giving them more honest feedback than they are capable of providing for themselves.

    Enlisting the aid of a trusted customer shouldnt be too hard. Offer her a gift certificate to simply evaluate your business against just one key competitor and youll have more intel than you had yesterday!

  3. Brett Feinstein


    What about doing informal focus grouping with them? Nothing professional. Just inviting 10-12 customers over from time to time to talk about what it is the business does and how they see it? Maybe the store owner facilitates or maybe someone is there that does. The beauty of this is that not only do you learn what they see, you hear how they verbalize it so that you can use their words and language to address the concern–or to further play up a strength. You could offer a gift certificate or other item with enough value to draw a group together at a fairly low cost–especially relative to the value of the information you can possibly glean.

    We do this with our clients somewhat regularly and often get some pretty interesting insights into various situations.

  4. Dave Young

    Great idea Brett…even better if you can get them to go have a look at a competitor before the focus group.

    As the old joke goes…two guys in the woods come across a bear…one stops to tie his shoes…the other guys says do you really think you can out-run a bear? his response…I just have to out-run you.

    As you evaluate your competitors, you dont need to be 10 times better, just be better at something. If you dont stop to have a look at them, how will you know what to change? How will you know when enough is enough?

  5. Sarah mette

    Can someone send me the sniffy-tasty-feely-sparkling-earcandy research pdf worksheet? I am on the newsletter, but can’t seem to find when it came through. mette at madisonvitamind dot com

  6. Ed Wheeler

    One thing to add – not sure if it’s a category or sub category – is “intuition”

    There’s a tea shop on the other side of town that I go to – whether it’s empty or packed, it just FEELS like a tea shop – it feels legitimate, real.

    Not too sterile, yet not junky – real. When I walk in, something just feels legitimate about it.

    Apple stores do the intuition thing well – even if it’s 10am on a Tuesday and they’re empty, there’s some sort of buzz and electricity about them that I don’t see at a BestBuy or other retailer when they’re swamped – something that just feels “real” (I’m saying this even as a Windows fan!)

    As a customer, sometimes when I walk into a store, if it doesn’t “feel” like my image of that kind of store is supposed to be – I almost feel like I’m in the wrong place – like I’m intruding into somebody’s space, or interrupting someone, or that there’s something “off” that I can’t explain.


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