By Mercy Meuni
Blast your business competition out of the water
It is a reasonable assumption that your small business will not be a monopoly. So to secure your position in the market, you will have to compete against smaller and equal-sized businesses and even larger counterparts.
Surprisingly, competition can have a positive impact on your business. It is easy to get complacent and remain in a comfort zone when your small business is performing well. Some healthy competition will keep you on your toes by encouraging you to be innovative, produce the best quality of your product, manage your failures and successes, and utilize your resources better.
Businesses do not succeed by chance. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, while 50% don’t make it to five years. If your business is unable to compete with similar counterparts, it is doomed to fail. So, you need to have a solid plan on how to compete favorably and take the lead.
Take care of your existing customers
Many businesses fall into the trap of neglecting existing clients while trying to woo new ones. This can be a costly mistake because, in the age of the internet, negative reviews from unhappy customers could be seen by potentially millions. It is also easier and cheaper to maintain existing clientele than to win new buyers.
Your competitors view your customers as their potential clients, and most probably, they will try to steal them. Therefore, you must develop a system to cultivate your customers’ loyalty and confidence in your services. You can employ the following measures to enhance clients’ experience with your business.
- Create a loyalty program for your clients. This enables customers to collect redeemable points with every purchase. To accumulate more points and therefore earn a significant discount on a future purchase, your customers will prefer to shop with your business.
- Collect feedback from your clientele and implement viable suggestions. Social media and email can be a powerful tool that your business can use to obtain feedback from customers. Some clients may also leave ratings and opinions on your website, giving you useful insight.
- Establish responsive customer care. Exceptional and prompt customer service will set your business apart and foster long-term relationships with clientele.
- Develop a customer referral program. This program encourages existing customers to refer a friend, and in turn, they get rewarded with a discount or a freebie. In essence, you will acquire new buyers and maintain your existing clientele.
A company we can all learn from is Trader Joe’s. The American grocery chain has employees who go far and beyond for their customers. There was a viral, heart-warming story that depicts their dedication to customers. Ten years ago, Trader Joe’s delivered food to an 89-year-old man who was snowed in at his home in Pennsylvania. His daughter had called multiple grocery stores asking if they could deliver food to her elderly father. None of them would do it. When she finally spoke to Trader Joe’s, they delivered the food free of charge and in less than 30 minutes despite the bad weather. The kicker is that the company does not even offer delivery services!
Know your competition
To compete favorably with other businesses, you need to keep an eye on them. Utterly ignoring your competitors will put your business at a disadvantage. On the other hand, fixating on them and their every move will adversely affect your business.
Monitoring your competitors will provide useful information for your business. Seek to understand them better. In which areas do they excel? Which of their practices are subpar? This knowledge will help you figure out your competitive advantages and disadvantages compared to other businesses. You can then develop strategies to improve on areas where you fall short and capitalize on your competitors’ mistakes.
Some of the information you should be looking for includes their; sales and profit numbers, marketing approach, market share data, and how potential customers perceive their products and services. Some sources of this information are their websites, price lists, newspaper articles, advertising campaigns, and tenders.
Look after your employees
Your staff has a significant impact on your business since they handle your customers. Employees who are happy in their work environment will be motivated, pro-active, and likeable to your clients. With disgruntled employees, on the other hand, their unhappiness will spill over into their work and how they relate with your buyers.
Capable employees are highly coveted, and your competitors may try to pinch your exceptional staff. Once you hire the right personnel, you need to take care of your talent pool. You must communicate with them to know of any challenges and reasonable ways you can make the workplace more conducive. When possible, you can even help employees out with personal problems as this will earn you their loyalty.
Offering benefits will encourage hard work and boost the morale of your employees. For instance, a staff member who meets their sales target can get a reward of a bonus or a holiday.
It is also essential to praise and recognize outstanding employees. This simple action helps the employees feel that their efforts are noticed and valued while encouraging other personnel to elevate their services. Using a channel like the employee of the month could provide such recognition for your workers.
Motivated employees are always looking for an avenue of growth. Therefore, you need to provide opportunities for advancement for your personnel. Promotions within your business will fulfill your driven staff and prevent them from leaving in search of greener pastures. Once you have hired your competent employees, you need to trust them. Do not micromanage them as this will dampen their morale.
Comparably recently named Google as the tech company with the best corporate culture. When it comes to taking care of its workers, Google’s efforts are unparalleled, and we can all borrow a leaf from their book. Some of the features that make Google a coveted workplace include;
- flexible employee scheduling
- extensive health care and benefits
- ample opportunities for career advancement
- an innovative culture
- employees are allowed to bring their pets to work
- a fun and conducive work environment
While your small business may not be on par with Google, providing some perks to your employees will play a significant role in motivating them.
Target new markets
The ultimate goal of every business is to generate revenue. In a competitive market, you may lose some of your current customers despite your best efforts. In the interest of remaining profitable and growing further, it becomes essential for a business to attract new customers.
There are various ways you can expand your customer base. If you are running a small business catering to the local market, tapping into the online market can be a game-changer. Venturing into online selling gives your business access to a market with billions of potential customers. To win over online customers, you will have to build an online presence. A website and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are an excellent place to start. For growth on these platforms, you will need to curate engaging content and make posts frequently.
When the quality of your products and services exceed the customers’ expectations, your business will receive some free word-of-mouth marketing from existing clients. This form of promotion is invaluable since consumers place their trust in friends and family, and they will believe them over advertisements. Also, one person will tell a friend, who will then tell another friend, creating a chain that is promoting your business and bringing in new customers.
As an entrepreneur, you cannot assume that the market knows about your business. It is up to you to spread the word about your business to as many people as possible. Marketing techniques are continually evolving, and as such, your strategy needs to be up to date.
Marketing strategies comprise of online and offline techniques. Some offline marketing strategies include networking, cold calls, direct mail, and print advertising. Most businesses have, in the recent past, shifted towards online marketing since it is cheaper, has an extensive reach, and results are easy to track. Some of the online marketing techniques include social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing and optimization, blogging, and affiliate marketing.
You will need to develop a marketing strategy that will work for your business. You may have to combine a few marketing tools to promote your business effectively and thrive in a competitive market. An example of effective social media marketing is the use of targeted ads. First, you will need to identify the demographics of your target market. Using platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Ads, you can then focus your marketing to an audience that is most likely to buy your product or service. For even greater efficiency, you can pay for your ads through the pay-per-click (PPC) model. With this system, you pay for the ad only when someone clicks on it.
Affiliate marketing is a low risk, cost-effective form of online marketing that a small business can also apply. It entails working with affiliates who promote your product or services on their blog, website, or social media platforms. They make a small commission whenever a member of their audience uses their unique referral link to make a purchase. Affiliate marketing is performance-based, meaning that you only pay when your products or services are purchased.
Highlight your difference
What makes your business unique? What are your standout features? An effective way of surviving in a competitive market is figuring out a distinct feature of your business and turning it into your unique selling point (USP). A compelling USP should convince customers to choose you over your competitors. Some of these distinctions include;
– Ethical sourcing of products.
– Handcrafted products.
– Customized products.
– Use of new, uncommon technology in your business.
A great example of a business that has differentiated itself exceptionally well is Lush Cosmetics. All Lush products are handmade, and they emphasize on this message. Every product from them bears a beautiful sticker marked with a cartoon image of the person who made it. This feature fosters a deeper connection with consumers, and their products feel more personal. Lush Cosmetics are also very conscious about the planet, and they pride themselves in eco- friendly packaging, ethical sourcing, sustainability, and their products are not tested on animals. Today, more people are concerned about the welfare of the planet. Therefore, their core buyers deeply value their actions. All their attributes set them apart from their competitors and build them a very loyal customer base.
Innovate to outshine the competition
Innovation is vital for a business to grow and survive in a competitive market. Many people view innovation as a complicated process, which is not usually the case. Simple improvements in your business, for example, improving the packaging of your product, are all part of innovation.
For your business to stand the test of time, you need to encourage innovation in your business. Your employees are your team, and you should involve them in problem-solving in the business. Giving your staff the mandate to come up with solutions for tough challenges will result in a variety of creative and innovative ideas. Applaud and reward staff for productive innovations to encourage a culture of creative thinking in your business.
You can also seek ideas on how to advance your business from your customers and suppliers. Suggestions and complaints provide valuable insight that you can use to improve your business. You also need to accept that failure is part of the process. For every revolutionary innovation, there is a ton of failed ideas. As an entrepreneur, you should not be afraid of implementing new ideas. If they are successful, your business will compete better, and if they fail, you will learn some valuable lessons.
Amazon is a perfect example of an immensely innovative company, a factor that has seen them gain a tremendous advantage over their competitors. Some of their notable innovations include;
- Fast and affordable shipping with Prime and Prime Now. Amazon has dramatically reduced its shipping durations, and consumers now expect such fast services even from other companies. Amazon is also developing Prime Air, which will make use of drones to make deliveries in 30 minutes or less.
- One-click buying. Amazon has made their purchase process very easy and straightforward.
- Kindle. Amazon has given new life to the e-book market by creating an affordable, timely, and favorable way for people to access books.
Amazon has other groundbreaking innovations such as Alexa, Amazon dash buttons, among others, and they perfectly exemplify the power of innovation in business.
These are just some of the ways you handle competition in business, but you need to find what works for your business specifically. These strategies will help you acquire and maintain happy, loyal clients and thus cement your place in the market. What is your game plan when it comes to staying ahead of your competition? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.