Time, effort, blood, sweat and tears are all ingredients you have poured into your startup. However, it is important to remember that the focus cannot remain singular. You’ve got to keep a keen eye on your competition and be dynamic in your efforts to be the best.
Regardless of what you’ve in done in the past or what you think you already know, there is always room for improvement. That is beauty of running your own business, isn’t it? You hold the power to shift gears and become better than all the rest. So… what are you waiting for?
Analyze Until Your Heart Stops
Your first step is to analyze your competition for their strengths and weaknesses. Subscribe to their blogs, their Twitter feeds and start following them on Facebook to gain insight into their culture and how they are positioning themselves in your niche.
Do some investigative research on the CEO to find out where he / she has come from and where they are going. Reading interviews is a great way to get some perspective via direct questions and answers. Also, if the company is public, chances are they will have an annual report that you can review.
Your goal is to figure out what they are doing because you’ve got to not only do it differently, but do it better. Ask yourself: what are they doing cheaper, more expensive, what are their customers saying? How can I improve upon what they are doing well and how can I avoid their pitfalls?
Be sure not to focus on just the current state, but try to gain insight into their future plans too. What type of positions are they hiring and what are their upcoming plans for your niche? By studying your competition you are making a game plan for you and your startup.
Do not be afraid to get some answers by engaging in some undercover detective work. Call your competitors yourself as an inquiring customer. Companies are willing to give a lot of information over the phone from turnaround times, to the size of their team and personal guarantees.
Additionally, it is a good idea to purchase a product or service from your top competitors. By experiencing their world from a customer’s perspective you’ll be able to gain some valuable insight.
Get a Little Manic with Your Marketing
Review your monthly statements and see what places might be able to afford a cut; then, plunge those additional funds into more advertising. The key is to put those marketing dollars into a resource your competitors have yet to use.
For some that means hosting (and promoting) a killer podcast while for others that might mean throwing an awesome launch party; whatever it is make it speak to your customers and cause you to you stand out.
Waging war against your competitors can get you some attention too. Just be sure you are ready to handle any and all backlash. One example might be poking fun at other’s “outdated” tactics. Such a move brands your experience as something fresh and innovative.
Turn Your Culture into Your Ticket
Live and breathe your company’s culture. By saying what you mean and doing what you say, consumers will grow to trust in your brand. For some positive attention, try matching your message with real-time actions that give back to the community at large.
Stand out by tapping into emotions and telling your personal story. This is one way to really set yourself apart as no one has had your exact experience. If it strikes the right emotional chords, your culture can attract some new customers.
Make a behind-the-scenes video, share some before and after photos or detail your statups’s history in your own manifesto. Any effort you can make to show your uniqueness and display your personal passions will set you apart from the rest.
Understand that Your Customers are Everything
Include your customers in on your efforts to beat out the competition. While your products and services may stay the same, your customers are dynamic; their needs and interests can change at a moment’s notice. By keeping a pulse point on your audience, you are increasing your chances of keeping them and potentially gaining some of your competitors’.
Try polling your customers; find out what it is that made them choose you over everyone else. Encourage participation by offering them something in return. For e-commerce sites, consider revealing a coupon code after someone takes your survey.
Extend your efforts to provide the most exceptional customer service possible, making it better than all the rest. The investment will be well worth it based on customer loyalty and the power of word of mouth alone. Customers are driven by emotions and gauge their happiness with a company based on their overall experience. So do what you can to get them saying, “Wow, they’re so much better than X, Y and Z.”
How do you beat out the competition? Share your tips in the Comments section below!
Kelly Gregorio writes about relevant topics that affect small businesses while working at Merchant Resources International, a provider of merchant cash advances. You can read her daily business blog here.