Finding Your Event Rental Business’ Competitive Advantage

What are you good at? What are you better at than anyone else in your market? Why does it even matter?

As an event rental business, you can’t be everything to everybody. But you can be so good at one thing that people notice. Hopefully, though, as you’ve grown and scaled your event rental business, you’ve realized that you can’t do ALL. THE. THINGS. In fact, specializing in something— becoming known for it— makes you even more successful. Having a brand identity, or catering to a particular niche can be the secret sauce that makes the difference between short term achievements and long-term sustainability. 

Are you known for having a unique and original rental collection? Do your customers love you because of your dependable on-time deliveries? Is your price point what attracts your most loyal clientele? When you think about your ideal customers, why do they choose you over all of the other options? What is it that brings repeat customers coming back? 

No business can be the best at everything. And not all customers have the same priorities. This diversity allows for multiple event rental businesses even in the same market to be successful. By focusing on your own realm of expertise— the thing that you do better than anyone else— you’re able attract people who value what you offer. That means that not everyone will like you but you’ll find some people who really love you. A small group of devoted super-fans is much better than a million lukewarm followers who are apathetic about purchasing from you.

As you evaluate your event rental business, ask yourself where your strengths lie in the following categories: 

Product:

This is the stuff you rent. Your product is what makes up your rental collection but it also accounts for the condition of your items, the innovation of them (how often you get new things), customization options, and the quantities you offer.

Experience:

How do customers go from wanting to rent something to reserving it to having it show up to returning it. Their experience encompasses the journey from inquiry to completion of the job and is about how they move from one step to the next. How they feel as they encounter your brand and product is what is at stake here.

Service:

The way your clients are treated. If your business has standards of service, your clients know what to expect and can depend on being treated a particular way by everyone in your organization.

Price:

Whether you’re offering a luxury product or a commodity, the price point can be a differentiating factor. Changing the pricing you’re able to offer is dependent on your operational efficiency.

Access:

Making something available to your market. This can be seen as making something more convenient or as providing something that people cannot obtain on their own.

In general, you should seek to Dominate your market in one of these areas, Differentiate in a second, and be On Par with your competitors in the other three areas. 

For instance, if your competitive strategy was to offer mid-century modern furniture rentals for weddings and special events in Georgia, you might decide to Dominate in Product, Differentiate in Service, and be On Par in Price, Access, and Experience. That might play out like this: 

  • You only buy original pieces or highly curated reproductions.
  • You maintain your collection to an impeccable standard: rips, stains, scratches, and dents are unacceptable. All furniture is repaired or replaced immediately if it comes back damaged. 
  • All members of your team (from Sales Staff to Delivery Crew) are trained to make eye contact with clients. They are instructed to say “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir.” 
  • Crew members and front office staff alike maintain a cheerful demeanor and make a point to always offer a positive solution to any problems that arise (“we can’t help you” is not an option). 
  • All deliveries are scheduled with a goal of arriving 10 minutes early. Clients are given a 2-hour window but your team is known for always showing up early.
  • Price points are similar to other rental options and actually quite a bit higher than “standard” rentals in the area.
  • Delivery fees are more expensive than others because of the high standard of service. 
  • The delivery area is limited to the state of Georgia.
  • Showroom appointments are only available Tuesdays and Fridays 10 am to 4 pm.
  • Clients walk through a typical “customer journey” from inquiry to proposal to confirmed order to delivery to pick-up. They aren’t “wined and dined” particularly. The path is fairly comparable to competitors.

However, if you run an event rental business that chooses to Dominate in Experience, Differentiate on Price, and be On Par in Product, Access, and Service, your priorities may look more like this: 

  • Clients come to you because you can take care of all of their needs. Your process starts with a personalized evaluation that pinpoints all of the rental items they might have (everything from forks to executive restrooms). They won’t have to shop around for quotes because you can provide everything they require.
  • You’ve refined your customer journey so you can anticipate needs clients don’t even know they will have. You have solutions before they know what problems they are going to encounter. 
  • Every quote begins with an onsite walk-through at the venue where a rep takes measurements, comes up with a floorpan, and scopes the entire project. 
  • Proposals are delivered within 2 hours of this onsite walk-through.
  • Clients confirm their orders via e-signature and online payments. 
  • During the planning process, any changes requested are processed and confirmed with client within 30 minutes of request. 
  • Every installation includes an onsite representative to be the point-of-contact for your customer. 
  • Because of the size of your typical orders, you’re able to offer very competitive pricing. Since your orders tend to include all of the items a customer might need for an event, you are able to reduce your margins on some items to achieve these price points. 
  • Your collection consists of typical tables, chairs, bars, arbors, and decor. Your collection is good quality but you aren’t attracting people because you’re the only game in town with the kinds of pieces you carry. 
  • You maintain your collection in good “rentable condition” but you aren’t repainting pieces between every single rental. 
  • Your staff is courteous and kind but they aren’t trained to use specific language or behaviors with customers. 
  • You hire unskilled labor for most of your delivery crew and they report to the onsite rep. The crew doesn’t interact with the customer. 

You can see from these examples, that a client who values a one-stop-shop will seek out Company B while someone who prioritizes the mid-century modern aesthetic will be more inclined to hire Company A. There is room for both companies in the same market. There are customers who want different things. 

As you decide which area you want to Dominate and Differentiate in, you’ll want to consult with your customers. Using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey like Delighted can enlighten you as to what areas they think you’re actually dominating and differentiating. Sometimes their perspective doesn’t match your goals and you’ll need to adjust our organization accordingly. However, having that feedback is an essential place to start. 

Remember that you don’t need to be the best in all five categories. It can be freeing to realize that in order to Dominate in one area, you actually must be On Par in others. You don’t have to have the most fabulous collection, killer service, an unbelievable experience, say yes to every order, and do it all for pennies. Let your strengths and your ideal clients’ priorities help you as you develop your completive strategy. You can’t be everything to everybody but you can be the best at one thing and have people flock to you for it.

Want more insight about how to position your event rental business in a competitive market? Most of the insight above was derived from Jeff Tanner’s presentation Finding Your Unique Position In A Crowded Marketplace: An Identity-Based Competitive Strategy at Lend & Gather 2020. You can check out his presentation by enrolling in Lend & Gather 2020 Online. He also references Crawford & Matthews’ book The Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try To Be The Best At Everything.*

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