From the November 2007 issue of Entrepreneur

In a fiercely competitive marketplace, even the greatest products and services won't stand out unless they're presented as part of a valuable offer. Slashing prices may reduce your profitability and weaken your marketing position, but "bundling"--combining a variety of features to create a compelling whole--can add the value necessary to close sales.

  • Consider market value vs. price. Pricing among competitors is often similar, so most customers buy with an eye toward value. Getting the most for their money is often the deciding factor when choosing between multiple vendors.
  • Study competitive offers. Have you ever shopped for a particular product or service only to find that one vendor's prices were significantly lower than the rest? You probably wondered if this company or its product was inferior in some way. That's precisely how lowball pricing can negatively affect your marketing position, so align your pricing to make it competitive while also adding value. This will enhance your company's position in the marketplace.

The first step is to evaluate the value propositions offered by your competitors. Gather their marketing materials, shop their websites or stores, and look at how they add value to their products or services.

  • Take a fresh point of view. Consider each of your competitors' value propositions from the perspective of your best customers. Shed your insider's knowledge regarding these companies and try to see them as a comparison shopper would. Is there something missing from their offers? Where do they excel? What can you market that your customers will value more?

Meet with your frontline salespeople to explore the needs and desires of your customer or client base, and go directly to customers and prospects to learn what they want most. Depending on your industry, you can conduct surveys by mail, phone or e-mail. Consider adding a polling feature to your website so you can gather visitor feedback. And add a message board or blog to your site that pulls in customer feedback and comments.

  • Package it. Bundling is the smart way to add value. You can create products with additional features you know your target audience will want, or you can add service elements such as extended warranties, longer customer service hours and more as part of your bundle.

In any highly competitive arena, value stands out as the deciding factor. You'll close more sales by creating a bundled offer that presents a greater value than what your competitors are marketing.

Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business, at smallbusiness now.com. Her new e-book, Big Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur at smallbizbooks.com.