Owners of businesses operating in a crowded marketplace face a constant tug of war with their competitors. They are trying to provide the best possible product or service for their customers, but it does not seem to be enough. Providing exceptional customer service alongside a competitive pricing structure will be key in your efforts to stay ahead of the competition, but this will only get you so far. You need to ensure that you are offering customers a reason to choose you over other companies. If you do not have a unique selling proposition, why would anyone pay attention?
Of course, in sectors where there not much separates your product or service offering from that of the competition, here are nine other ways that you can stay ahead of your business competitors.
- Study your competition
If you do not know what your competitors are offering or why customers choose their product or service over yours, you cannot begin to differentiate your business. You need to conduct research into your competitors to work out where they have an advantage over you, where you have an advantage over them, and what you could learn from their successful or unsuccessful strategies. Click here for more information on competitor analysis.
- Test early
Many companies spend money and time researching and testing a new idea before they launch it. Why not beat them to it? When you have a new idea for a product or service, act now, conduct a small test, and analyse the results. With a small but successful test, you will be seen as an innovator without investing a lot of resources. If the test is successful you can roll it out on a wider scale; if not, you have tried something new without much loss in terms of resource or productivity.
- Make analysis part of your daily routine
How often do you analyse your business’ performance? If you are not doing it regularly, it may be time to make it part of your daily routine. By keeping a close eye on the smallest shifts in the market, you will be aware of changes before the competition and predict future trends. When you have a clear idea of what your business needs to be achieving every day, week, and month, you can ensure that your annual targets are on track to be met. It is also advisable to meet with your senior managers weekly to discuss any actions or innovations that may need to be implemented.
- Invest in your education and growth
Whether you are a business owner or a senior manager in a company, you are never finished when it comes to learning and growth. Years of business experience are invaluable, but if it is all you have to your name you may find you cannot reach the next level. Consider expanding your skillset and deepening your business knowledge by acquiring a high-level business qualification. Many business professionals (and probably several of your competitors) choose to study for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, so why not go one better and become a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)? A DBA equips business leaders with advanced knowledge and skills to solve complex business problems and carry out an in-depth analysis into specific and relevant topics. Busy professionals can acquire a DBA online so that they can continue to work.
- Do not get stuck in a rut
If you are repetitive and predictable in your business strategy, your competitors may be able to anticipate your moves and undermine you. The most successful businesses evolve and change their strategy, so do not be afraid to shake things up now and again. Take a good look at your business operation to identify where your processes could be more efficient, or techniques could be improved. New businesses are likely to be entering the marketplace all the time and will bring innovative ideas with them, so to stay relevant you need to be reinventing yourself regularly.
- Predict competitor strategy
In some ways, beating the competition is a lot like playing chess. Just as competitors may be monitoring your strategy with the hope of exploiting weaknesses, you should be doing the same to them. Look at the way they operate, anticipate their moves, and beat them to it. Consider if/how the competitor will react and what they are likely to do next.
- Look out for up and coming competitors
You may have one main competitor you tend to focus your attention on, but this is rarely the whole picture. It is likely that several other competitors on the scene might not pose much of a threat at the moment but could soon be snapping at your heels. In fact, the newer the business, the more likely it is that they will be on top of the latest technology, so they may pose more of a threat than you think.
- Be wary about extreme cost-cutting
It is sometimes necessary to cut costs in a business, but it is not always the best strategy. Cutting costs in the wrong areas can weaken your business and make your competitors more attractive to your customers. In addition, cutting prices can give the impression that your product or service is of a lower value. While your pricing should be competitive where possible, focus on showing the value of what you offer.
- Listen to advice and feedback
Businesses are rarely built by one person alone, and you need to consider lots of different points of view when making important business decisions. You should be considering advice not only from within your organisation, but also from external experts and, of course, your customers. Customers may not always be willing or able to articulate why they choose a competitor over you or vice-versa but sending customer surveys and reading reviews can help to identify major problem areas in your business. When you have identified pain points for your customers, you can take steps to improve your service.