Just as competition in the marketplace spurs innovation and keeps quality high and prices low, so it goes with tea. But sometimes when folks hear the word “competition,” they think the worst: cut-throat tactics, dirty tricks, spreading lies about the “other guys,” and so on. I’m happy to say that most folks in business are more rational than that. They know that competition means they have to do better to get you to buy from them instead of from those “other guys.”
Let’s say you open a tea room. You’ve done the research, the hard work, the public relations, and the grand opening. The customers are coming in — maybe not a steady stream lining up around the block, but enough that you will see a return on your investment sooner than you thought.
Then, another tea room opens up across the street. Panic time! No, wait, stay calm — that’s just competition. Is it good or bad? That depends on you.
If you’re the type of person that loves a challenge, you will take positive action to keep your place ahead of that one across the street. You will do things like upgrading your décor with crisp white tablecloths instead of using paper placemats. You might add more teas to your selection and some new items to your menu. Maybe you will offer daily specials and coupons. Or you’ll launch a PR campaign that makes your tea room take on a certain character to make it more appealing. You might even do all of the above. Plus, you’ll cultivate a social media “presence.”
From the customer’s perspective, there are now two places to choose from when wanting a nice cuppa. And one of them just updated its décor with fresh-looking white tablecloths and expanded its menu and tea selection. Yay! It’s worth 50 cents more for that special tea you can’t get across the street, and the scones are so tasty!
See? It works!
Of course, the game doesn’t end here. That place across the street will do some upgrading, too, so you put in a Wifi hotspot and have some cool music playing. You develop a real cozy atmosphere so that folks will feel that they just have to stop in every day to make their lives feel complete.
The overall goal of promoting the consumption and appreciation of tea is the real driving factor here. You wouldn’t go to all this fuss just to make some quick “bucks.” Tea rooms and tea shops and even online tea stores are a lot of work. There has to be more to it than money. Plus, if you’re a real people person, a tea business gives you an ideal outlet for meeting and talking with people.
Competition improves tea in other ways, too. It spurs tea growers to try to develop new cultivars or even clonal tea plants. It assures that they tend their tea gardens well, update the equipment in the processing factories, or even make high-end teas more available to their customers. New equipment for steeping is another result (and you, dear readers, have seen lots of such devices talked about on this blog by me, Bill Lengeman, and others). For example, there are tea kettles galore, yet ever more innovative and creative designs come on the market. Ditto for other items used to steep and enjoy tea, from automatic teamakers and fancy teapots to overly complicated travel mugs (sometimes, the drive to be better than that “other guy” makes folks go overboard).
Collaboration is good, too, as May King Tsang pointed out recently, especially when you are a small business trying to compete with bigger companies.
Either way, the tea customer wins!
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