The following is a guest post from Dana Mia Kim. Dana Mia is a former business consultant turned an online marketer. She has worked with several industries such retail, hospitality and fitness companies which helped her to gain knowledge and experience in these fields.
With so many businesses operating in the market, it can be challenging to keep up and stand out from the crowd with your own identity. It seems that the top players in your industry aren’t moving from their spot, while newer and more streamlined businesses are entering the market at alarming rates. The more players there are in your industry, the harder it is for you to get noticed among the noise.
This doesn't mean that stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight is impossible. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. Here are seven ways you can stay ahead of your competition and keep yourself running in the race:
1. Learn from Your Competitors
Business owners all agree that competition is hard to deal with, mainly because it means that a percentage of their market is not paying attention to them, and that are potential sales lost. That’s why companies try hard to be a step above their rivals – to gather as much of their niche under their wing. But the best business owners know that their competition is not a threat, but an opportunity.
Competition can help you challenge yourself to work harder and smarter with what you have. Innovation stems from understanding what it is that’s standing in the way of further growth and using that knowledge to become better. Co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, Darmesh Shah, mentions that the biggest competition of any business is itself, and that losing the will to fight is what makes most startups fail.
So, observe what your competition is doing, and learn from it. Their mistakes and their successes can be lessons to you as well if you know how to leverage the situation.
2. Provide High-Quality Customer Service
A significant factor that plays in whether a consumer will further transact with a business is how well the company received them and how expertly were they helped in solving their concerns. Almost 75% of customers state that a company’s competence is best shown through the quality of their customer service.
Your customers value the experience they had with your business as much as they appreciate the product or service they are availing. By making them feel like they are valuable members of your customer base through excellent customer service, you are taking care of their loyalty towards your business and ensuring that they will keep listening to you first.
3. Own Up and Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
Pride can be one of the strongest factors for you not only losing customers, but also failing in the race that is staying relevant in your market. Negative experiences with businesses that put their pride above the satisfaction of their customers not only turn them away, but also spreads fast from customer to customer, especially now that social media usage is prolific.
When you commit a mistake and it makes your customer base unhappy, own up to it and take steps to correct them. This will not only let you preserve the good name you have within your niche, but also help you see where you can improve regarding processes and quality. For example, if you are an online clothing store that mistakenly sent the wrong item to a buyer, apologize, offer to replace the product, and maybe even throw in an extra product or service to compensate for the trouble.
If the problem was not your fault, you might be required to go out of your way to make sure that the complaint is still resolved regardless.
4. Never Lie to Your Customers
Honesty and transparency are crucial in businesses, as it gives their audience a sense of security on what they are signing up for if they enter into a transaction with you. It also saves you the potential trouble of having to cover up lies with more lies just to keep up the farce you've set up to "keep your customers happy." And when you're caught lying, it will only damage your reputation.
Contrary to popular belief, sharing bad news will not turn away your customers, so long as you're also showing that you're taking measures to fix these incidents. It prevents them hoping for a product or service, only to become disappointed when they find out that you haven't been honest with the actual status of their transactions. Most customers will understand unforeseen circumstances like delays and internal problems if you are open to them about it and are not adding fuel to the fire.
5. Embrace Technology and the Digital Stream
Technological advancements in this age are making it easier and easier for organizations to reach their goals. If you aren’t making the most out of it, you’re seriously losing out on great opportunities to let your business grow. For example, social media platforms have allowed businesses to take advantage of the chance to connect with the majority of their market through advertising tools, such as Facebook Advertising, Twitter for Business, and Instagram Business Tools. AI and bots are also starting to change the game for businesses and marketers around the world.
Some digital marketing tactics can also work strongly in your favor when you've managed to do them right. If you have a website or eCommerce platform, you can help yourself become more visible by using SEO (search engine optimization) to become a more relevant and priority result for people looking for products and services you are offering. You can also use content marketing to further establish yourself as someone with all the right answers by providing helpful guides, insightful tips, and recommendations based on what problems your niche has.
6. Find Your Competitive Edge
One of the most common ways to stand out from the crowd that’s vying for your market’s attention is by showcasing that you’re something different, something new, to them. Find a unique idea that has never been done before by your competitors and make that your competitive edge. Whether it’s the kind of atmosphere that you are offering your customers, ease of access, advocacy, or any other ways to differentiate yourself from the competition, you’ll want to have something that is uniquely correlated to you.
Inc.com gives three ways on finding your competitive edge: defining your guaranteed home-run customer, describing the problem you fix perfectly for this ideal customer, and declaring your market. These steps are all focused on not being “better” than your competitors, but becoming the only answer that your customers will have for their problems — building a customer-driven statement that will set you apart from the rest.
7. Cultivate a Positive Culture in Your Business
As MarketingDonut puts it: “Skilled, motivated staff underpin vibrant, growing businesses.” You can have the best products in the world that will solve all of your customers’ concerns, but if you aren’t taking care of the people working for you, it will reflect in their working behavior and will trickle down to the quality of their work and the way they treat your customers.
Making sure your staff are cared for in your business doesn’t just mean competitive wages — it means empowering them to contribute to the business, furthering their potential, providing them with a good work environment, highlighting a structured career development, and giving them their due for all their hard work. Better working conditions can lead to success for the business and better employee loyalty, retention, and engagement!
Standing out from the rest and being noticed by your niche is no easy task, and it gets more and more difficult as time passes. But it is doable, especially when you follow the steps we’ve shown.