How do you set yourself apart from the competition?
When we formed BlackBridge Investments in January of 2011, we set out to do great things. Our goals for our company were to invest in the lives of ourselves and our families, invest in the recycling industry, and invest in innovative technology to create a competitive advantage for our company in the market and provide the best customer service possible.
Simply put, BlackBridge prides itself on striving to do things really well – and our goal is to distinguish ourselves from the competition just by the higher-level way in which we do business and get deals done for our clients and trading partners. Here are a few of those areas where we try to set ourselves apart from the competition – perhaps these sound familiar to your business as well:
Work quickly and efficiently.
No one enjoys waiting for feedback when there is a deal sitting on the table that will generate profit. However, it is important to follow proper QA/QC procedures at all times. For example:
- Have samples approved prior to shipping the first load.
- Get recent photos with a date and timestamp.
- Visit the facility if it is feasible and even ask trusted partners in the industry if they have ever worked with that potential new customer.
- Ask for recent loading photos. This way you can compare the pictures on the floor to exactly what was loaded on the truck.
- Ask where the material is normally shipped – domestic or export?
- Have there been any issues regarding quality?
In our business, we have found that it is possible to work “quickly” and “efficiently.” If you have good processes in place and have done the upfront legwork and relationship-building to make sure your trucks are being loaded properly, it’s easier to be confident (and work fast) on every deal.
Use the best technology available to create a dynamic competitive advantage.
Technology is the backbone of our business. We have utilized technology in many aspects of our business, often in ways that are uniquely innovative within the recycling industry. There are many opportunities to use technology to make your business better, whether it’s lead generation, sales, CRM, photo and document storage, or proprietary software. Technology tips include:
- Manage your customers and contacts with an adaptable CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool that lets you keep track of when to call, as well as a record of all your previous interactions with that company/person. Let it be the lifeblood of your company! Every time you talk to a customer, it’s a chance to enter notes into your CRM database and continually get smarter about what your customers need from you.
- Re-invent your marketing efforts online. Create interesting content, advertise in industry magazines, sign up for services like Help a Reporter Out and provide quotes about markets when appropriate.
Technology doesn’t have to be intimidating or expensive. There are many affordable, easy-to-use online tools out there today that make it possible to connect with customers and promote your business to the wider world.
Whether you’re in the plastic recycling trading business or any other industry, continuing to develop your value proposition and competitive advantage is important to long term success. Of course, pricing is always king, but there are other ways to make sure we stay at the top of mind for our suppliers and end users. Ideally, if you have great customer service, you will be able to build strong relationships and get to the point where you will be the trader of choice – even if you can’t completely match the price of a competitor.
Here are a few tips for how to enhance your customer service:
- Use the best possible freight companies you can find. As we wrote about previously about working with trucking companies, freight companies are vital to our success. Something we take into account is that some freight companies are better at certain lanes, aspects of the job such as drayage vs OTR, double blind techniques, being on time, rates, etc. Do some trial and error and categorize and prioritize your freight brokers. We want as many strong freight partners working with us as possible, however, some are just better than others. Find what really works and use it to your advantage!
- Something that sounds so simple, yet is forgotten by many of us…be responsive. Respond to your e-mails and answer your phone as quickly as possible. We all get busy and distracted, but it is important to make each and every person you work with feel like the most important customer or partner. Find time to answer everyone back, even if it isn’t an immediate sale or something you can use right now. You never know what may come of that call or email down the road. Every point of contact is part of your ongoing process of building relationships.
- Prioritize a crisis when it arises. If a truck is rejected, we stay on top of whatever is happening with that scenario and get it solved immediately. We strategize with business partners and customers on the best way to handle things with the least amount of losses and frustrations. It is vital to listen to what our customers have to say and follow their pain points. When you can solve problems quickly, you will be remembered for that.
As BlackBridge continues to grow its footprint in the industry, we want to instill these same ideologies and philosophies in anyone who works for us and with us as a partner. These concepts are the backbone of our company and future success. We believe that the entire scrap plastic recycling industry will be better off if we all can look for ways to enhance our efficiency, responsiveness, and relationship-building skills.
What are your thoughts on this? How do you try to make your company stand out from the competition? What are some best practices that you see emerging as being important for companies in our industry? Please let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org