Get ahead of your competitors – what do you need to put in place

Here, Simon Joyce from Anchor Vans, explains how your small business can get ahead of your competitors and find success.

Some markets are crowded to say the least. For many the thought of entering a highly competitive sector is off-putting but some will rise to the challenge and boldly step into the light.

You may be that brave warrior or perhaps you are already battling it out with competitors new and old alike. Either way, competition is not necessarily a bad thing, it signifies demand and opportunity. The key is to provide a product or service that stands out, and ensure that your message is communicated to the right people.

Here are some points to consider for fending off the competition:

Know your competition

Perhaps the most obvious, cosy up with the competition! Not literally, but do get to know them and what they do. Whether you are just starting up or running an established company, operating without awareness of what your competitors are up to is risky business.

Check out their offerings, visit their websites and social media profiles, what type of promotions do they run? How does their service differ to yours?

Perform a SWOT analysis on your competitors (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) just as you would for your own business.

Don’t forget to consider the not-so-obvious competitors, those that might not look like you but who may fulfil your customer’s same needs but in a different or, perhaps even better way.

There are numerous reasons to monitor the competition, from picking up new ideas to ensuring your prices are in keeping with the market. However you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, straight out copy competitor activities, just being informed will enable you to take action to beat the competition.

Know your target market

Understanding who your customers are and what they want makes you better placed to provide the right service.

Research is paramount. Talk to those around you, conduct market research, carry out a test run. Listen to the responses you get.

Talk to and listen to your existing customers. Who are your competitor’s customers? If you continue communicating with your audience you won’t be left in the dark if the market shifts.

See also: How to reach your target audience and boost lead conversion

Think outside the box

Do you operate a business that stands on a level playing field with everyone else? To bumble along with the rest may work well for some time, but some simple adjustments could upgrade your business earning new customers or even opening up new marketplaces.

What’s your USP (unique selling point)? What differentiates you from the competition? If you design or manufacture perhaps your product can be adapted differently, maybe easier to use, more environmentally friendly or safer than other versions available. If you are a reseller, maybe your sales service can provide something different to that of your competitors.

Deliver added value

Go above and beyond, ensure your company and service stands out from the crowd. Offer excellent customer service and make your customers feel important and they will come back time and time again.

Change

Always be prepared to adapt to changing times. Markets, technology and consumer behaviour can change rapidly. A business that keeps its finger on the pulse will be more ready to react to such changes, enabling it to stay ahead of competitors. If only for a short time, it may be enough to win new business and hopefully retain it.

Benchmarking

So you have a good understanding of your target market and you know what your competition is up to. But how do you really get a grip on competitor performance, enough to know where your business measures up? This is where benchmarking comes in.

In business, benchmarking refers to the comparison of one company’s processes against another’s or against industry standards. Typically this might include quality, efficiency or customer satisfaction. It is a powerful tool which should be employed continuously to promote ongoing progression within a business.

Competitive benchmarking describes the process of comparing against successful competitors, whereas non-competitive benchmarking applies to businesses that are not direct competitors. Both methods can be constructive, whilst understanding the processes of successful competitors is useful, new ideas from outside the industry can be more advantageous and give your business the ‘edge’ that it needs.

Here are some pointers for getting started:

What: choose what to measure. If the company is a limited company there will be a wealth of public information available online. If not, look at their online presence, maybe ‘mystery shop’ them to experience their customer service.
Who: choose successful businesses of a similar set up and size, remember to consider those outside of your sector
Data: collect performance information
Review: analyse the information collected
Implement: decide on the elements to put into practice, make sure to set goals and measure effectiveness

Take care: remember to carefully consider changes, what works for another business may not work for yours. Simply copying a competitor can be pointless, go one step further, use benchmarking results as a platform for new ideas.

Simon Joyce from Anchor Vans

Further reading on getting ahead of your competitors

Related Topics

Competitors

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