Recently we have found ourselves reading a little too much about how to keep up with our competitors. How to make sure that we are measuring up against our rival companies to ensure that we don’t fade into insignificance. And whilst this is sound advice for new business, emerging into new markets for the first time, this is not necessarily something that I want to hear about as a business owner that has been around for some time.
Once our businesses have had a certain amount of time to blossom and to grow into strong contenders within our chosen industries, it is then time to take it up a notch. So today we are not talking about how to ‘keep up with’ competitors. Today we are talking about how to keep up, how to catch up and how to overtake our competitors and take a proud position right at the forefront in our field of business.
Observe Your Competitors
So yes, before we look into catching up and overtaking, we must first look into that all important primary stage of ‘keeping up’. For that to happen, we must go back to simply looking at their websites. In order for us to understand how we can overtake our most successful competitors we must first immerse ourselves in their world.
Firstly look at their website and ask yourself the following questions. Does their website look professional, not just on a PC, but also on a mobile device? What key pieces of information differentiate that business from yours? What service or products do they offer that your company doesn’t? What are the differences between you regarding price? Do they offer an email signup and look like they are actively trying to build a database?
All these questions should be answered in a way to solidify the differences between your website and theirs. Their online content and yours. Their product or service offerings and how different they are to yours. Once you have established the major differences you will know the areas where you can improve your business, capitalising on their limitations by building on your strengths and start pulling away from them.
Another area that will help you to learn about market movements and your competitors activities is through online customer reviews. This again will give you a competitive advantage by enabling you to find out where they have gone wrong and therefore where you can sharpen your tools in order to get out ahead.
Have a look at online review sites, such as Yelp, Foursquare, Google Reviews, for example, to find out what people are saying about your competition. Are there any trends or patterns occurring that you can learn from and how do others reviews and complaints compare to those about your company. Collate negative reviews and positive feedback in order to get a good understanding of what your consumers want and expect and then adjust your offerings to make sure that you stand out as a company that understands your customers needs.
Using the search engines will provide you with a whole wealth of information about your company, your industry, your competition and your ranking within your field. If you are unsure about how to go about this there is a wide range of search engine experts that will be able to help you to understand how the search engines work and how you can use them to your advantage. Keeping it simple just do a generic search for your business type and location and see what comes up. Which page does your competition and you show up? If your competitors rank higher than you, you probably need help from SEO experts.
You will also want to be looking into whether your competitors are using Google Ads or some PPC (pay per click) advertising campaign in order to boost traffic to their website. These are also areas that you need to monitor in your industry in order to start closing that gap between yourself and your competition.
Social Media Stalking
Yes, we all know that social media ‘stalking’ is a thing and that is never more true than when it comes to business. Stalking, slightly more pleasantly otherwise known as ‘following’, your competitors on social media is a great way to monitor movements in the market and what is working and what is not. Following competitors on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube are some of the most active social media platforms that will give you the best idea of the interesting campaigns, promotions and customer interactivity that is going on in your industry. From there you will be able to see how you fare in your social media strategy and therefore how you can get much much stronger in this area.
Be A Customer
One of the best ways to really get your head around your competitors and the level of service that they are providing is to be a customer yourself. Putting yourself into the shoes of their, and essentially your potential customer is one of the best ways you can truly understand why people may be going to them instead of to you. Only once you truly understand this can you start moving towards changing it.
The best way of doing this is by going through the consumer experience with them. Visiting or buying through them. Bricks and mortar stores deserve a visit, talk to the employees and get a sense of how they communicate and connect with their customers. If they have an online store then buy an item and understand how their buying process works. Track how they look after their customers before, during and after a sale and see how you can learn from the things that they are doing well and the things that leave a little to be desired.
It is also worth setting up a google alert for your competitors to find out the latest news and information regarding movements in your market and in your competitors businesses and use these notifications to weigh up how you are faring with the activity happening in your business.
Now We’ve Caught Up, It’s Time To Overtake
So now that we have confidently understood where we have been going wrong and closed the gap between our businesses and our competitors. It is time now to turn the tables, to overtake and to finally be the ones who are keeping our competitors on their toes.
Focus on Customers
So now that you have an in depth understanding of successful campaigns, powerful strategies, strong customer service techniques and have a general overview of what works and what doesn’t in your industry, it is now time to start funnelling all that lovely new information into your customers. Knowing your customers and knowing what they want is the number one, most important element of any business. So now is the time to start revising your website, marketing strategy and your business model to really get under the skin of your target market and start delivering against those needs and carving yourself out as the leading company that really delivers.
Now that you have completely immersed yourself in the world of your competitors now is the time to differentiate yourself. To give your customers good reason to come to you, over your competitors, comes down to the USP’s that you carve out for your business that makes you stand out head and shoulders above your competitors.
Your USPs should be tapping into what your customers want and need and these should be the clearest message of your company.
Ramp Up Marketing
Now that all the above is in place, it is time to really hit the ground running with your marketing. Now that you have this new wealth of information about your market and your customers it is now time to put it all into practice with a brand new approach on how you market your business.
With all the world going digital these days, marketing your business no longer needs to cost the earth. Marketing can range from modern social media campaigns, all the way to more old school advertising avenues like posters in your local supermarket, to making sure you are being featured in local business listings. Depending on who your target market is. how old they are, how they shop and receive information about products and services revolve your strategy around the most likely way, in the most likely places, they are to be looking for your kind of product or services.
Sometimes all that is needed is a little facelift and a little TLC when it comes to the branding of our companies, in order to bring us into the modern day business world. As stated at the beginning of this article, it is all very well to read about how new businesses can survive in the competitive landscape, but what about the businesses that have been around for a long time.
It is all very well to be attached to our business logo, branding and overall look and feel of our company. However as the world of business evolves and develops around us, so must our businesses continue to evolve in order to stay fresh and relevant to an increasingly demanding consumers market.
So with the above tips on how to create your powerful competitors advantage, you can begin enjoying keeping your competitors on their toes, rather than the other way around.