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How to Stay Ahead of the Competition

How to Stay Ahead of the Competition

Feb 20th 2019

You have a business that is doing well; you have made it in the business world. After all that hard work, it is time to sit back and relax. Keep things going as they are, and enjoy what follows. Unfortunately, this is not a good approach in business. The minute you think you have it made, it can all come crashing down. You need to maintain the good things you have within your business. Whatever your strengths are, without maintenance these can dimish. Plan now to make sure your business keeps succeeding and goes from strength to strength.

Of course maintaining the good work you have already done is so important. So is thinking about other aspects of the business and making improvements. In business, never be afraid of change. Improvements are just that, something to improve your business for the better. There are many things where you can make small adjustments and improvements. Consider these as a method of staying ahead of the competition. By working to keep them at bay, you have a way to do the best for your own business.

Take Time to Know Your Customers

Your customers are what makes any business work. Without customers, a business will fail. Your customers might be happy right now, but will this last? Ask your customers for feedback. You will never know what they think unless you ask them. You need to keep your customers happy or they will leave and go elsewhere. Whether you have a day care business, dog grooming or newsstand, it is the same. If they give you some good suggestions, then do not be afraid to make small changes. If there are any changes you cannot make, be sure to explain why. Then at least they know you considered it.

Things change. It is a simple fact of life, but as a business owner you need to respond appropriately. If you hold back and refuse to respond to changes, you will lose customers. If you have a café and some of your customers become vegan, you need to offer them options. If they cannot eat or drink what you have on offer, they will find somewhere that does. They might have loved your employees and the atmosphere. However, if they cannot buy anything, they have no alternative than to go elsewhere. Therefore, it makes business sense to meet the needs of all your customers, by making small changes.

Try to put a smile on the face of every customer. Ask them how their day is going, or chat about the weekend. Perhaps offer them an incentive, like a free $5 voucher when they spend 5 x $10. If you are internet only, can you send an extra treat? Perhaps you could add in a discount code for next time, or a small bag of candy. Go the extra distance; it will definitely be worth it. These are little things, yet they get people talking about your business. Word of mouth is such a strong force. A recommendation always means more when passed on from someone you trust.

Prioritise Customer Service

Make customer service one of your priorities. Customers are the lifeblood of your business. If they go elsewhere then you will not be in business for long. Get into the mind-set that every single customer deserves a great experience. Say that you are a masseur seeing your eighth client of the day. That customer deserves the same experience as customer number one got at the beginning of the day. Even if you are just selling someone a carton of fries, it is the same. Whatever your product or service, strive for a high customer satisfaction.

There will be times when things go wrong. The wrong order brought out for a customer perhaps. You are out of stock of something that customer needs today. You shut unexpectedly for an emergency at home. It could equally be that someone feels they got bad customer service. Whatever it is, respond fairly when things go wrong. There is no point getting angry with a customer as there is no chance of a positive outcome. Explain the situation, apologise quickly and with sincerity and then find a solution. This is a true test of customer service.

Know About Your Competition

To ignore your competition in business is never a good idea. You have to know exactly what they are doing. After all, when it comes down to it, they would steal your customers if they could. If you are savvy in business, you will want to take their customers if possible. Think about your main competition. Are you a retail store selling books, competing with a physical store in the next town and online? Or selling novelty gifts online to people all over the country? Your presence and type of business will affect who you are in competition with. Knowing your competition means you can become aware of what to do to challenge them and benefit yourself.

Think about your competition and consider what makes them stand out. Perhaps they are a multi-million dollar burger chain with a lot of advertising and a prime location. Or it could be the cool city coffee store next door. This does not make their business better than yours. Find out what makes them different to you. You can then take some tips from them and adopt a few strategies if they fit with you. Taking on some new ideas can be a positive step. Do this while retaining your uniqueness for the benefit of your business.

Know What Makes Your Business Special

Do some research to find out what makes your business special. What defines you and gets customers through the door? It must be something, perhaps excellent ambiance and customer service? Or the range of products you stock, or your reliability? There are going to be factors that make your customers choose to use you. It is vital to identify this and be prepared to do more of it. Making more of the things you are already good at is an easy way to improve. It could be as simple as a smile every morning. It could be as rare as your complex and technical knowledge that customers rely on.

Think about the different things in your business that are worth a further investment. What can you do more of to make a positive impact for your own benefit? Your business’s individuality could be down to so many different factors. Investing in the best of what you have to offer could bring so much. You can do this by speaking to customers or making comparisons of what is good. You can see what is not quite so good and either improve these significantly or focus elsewhere. By looking at your competition objectively, you may be able to see the difference. Then use that knowledge for positive investment.

Keep Updated and Fresh

A good way to develop your business is to keep up with the latest trends. When you learn what potential customers want now, you have the power to give it to them. Perhaps you have a printer’s that makes leaflets for other organisations. By having up to date machines, you can produce copies quickly and in vibrant color. If you are not up to date with market offerings, then your customers might go elsewhere. If you sell vitamins, but fail to notice the big new health trend, this can be a problem. If you fail to see elderberry or similar is the ‘new’ health supplement, customers will find it elsewhere.

It is however, essential that you react to market changes for a long-term gain. Responding to a new trend with unrestrained enthusiasm can lead to issues for you. Elderberry could be today’s health fad and could be out of favour tomorrow. If you decide to stock up with 1,000 bottles, then you could be left with hundreds of jars. Be responsive to market changes that suit you, but consider it to be for the long-term. In a short-term gain situation, there are often plenty of losers. You will need to work smart to ensure that you take advantage of the opportunity without losing.

As a successful business, you will no doubt already have a brand identity. This is a vital part of your business to get a presence in the marketplace. A way to keep things fresh is to market yourself. Put your business out there and get people seeing it. New signage is a great way to do this, as is freshening up your internal space. Even just a little additional lighting, resetting the furniture or a new counter can have an impact. If you operate on the internet, then improving your website can benefit customers. Better photos, making it easier to manoeuvre around or easier to check out the shopping cart. Even one small change can be a big help.

Look for Untapped Markets

There are going to be untapped markets in your line of business. People who could benefit from what you have to offer. People who currently go elsewhere who would actually prefer your business to the alternative. How do you capture those people? The first thing is to identify some of those groups. Are there some big groups of people in the local area who do not access your services? Perhaps college students, the elderly or those working nearby? If you are an internet business, do you mainly appeal to one or two groups of people? Consider your appeal to different groups carefully to benefit your business.

If this is the case, think about what you could do to market your business to them. Could you give a discount to a certain group of people? Perhaps distribute some attractive leaflets to local offices with a discount on. Get a couple of college students to leaflet around the college for you. Or give them a $20 gift card if they bring in a table of 4 friends. Or ask 5 of your best customers to bring a friend in for a free drink. There are so many options to market yourself and get new customers. Using existing customers can be a very positive way of doing this. Remember though that they will rightly expect an incentive to do this.

Have you considered marketing to diversify your customer group? Can your business be a place that meets the needs of more types of people? Does it appeal to people of different ethnicities? What about people of different ages and different beliefs? Consider whether it is attractive and easy to access for people who speak other languages. By tapping into these groups, you can find a brand new customer base. These might be small groups in your area of business or geographically. However, every customer is important to your business. They all have the potential to put their own positive stamp on it.

Be an Exceptional Boss

Your employees are the face of your business. They have such a great power with your customers. The power to offer a brilliant experience or the power to give them a less than perfect one. Make your employees happy on a daily basis whether you are there are not. The first way to do this is by giving them good paychecks that they are happy with. If they are able to pay their bills without getting worried about debt, they will be happier employees. Whether or not you take a slice or profit from your business, treat your employees properly.

Your employees can truly enhance your business in so many ways. In order to show your employees that you value their input, invest in proper training for them. This could be First Aid for one or two people each year. It could be Customer Excellence one morning or evening when the business is closed. You could find things that will improve their work for you. Equally, you could suggest to employees that they find appropriate training opportunities they want to do. Training courses will empower your employees and show them that you value them. They will also offer important skills for the workplace and beyond.

Have you considered incentives for your employees? Perhaps if you have a restaurant, on their birthday you could offer them a free meal for two. If you have a computer business, you could sell them a home computer system for cost price, occasionally. It is really anything that links to your business. Your business could be something like making medical supplies and therefore employees cannot use it. In this case, it could be employee of the month, who gets a $25 gift card. There are a multitude of options that can make a positive impact on your stuff. Do however avoid making it an unfair competition that someone can take advantage of.

The key thing is that if you are lucky enough to have great staff, then that is fortunate. Your aim should be to retain great staff by any reasonable means you can. Bad staff can ruin a business very quickly. They are additionally difficult to get rid of, so can have a negative impact for a long time. Even a good new staff member takes an investment of time to train. It is much better to keep good existing staff if possible. Cherish your great staff members. After all, you do not want your competition to get hold of them. Allowing them to poach your great staff will only improve their business for the better, so avoid it!

You can try many ways to keep ahead of your competition. You must start though with knowing who your competition actually are. You must keep looking too. New businesses are set up all the time by those keen for a slice of the action. Do not get caught out by thinking you are the only sportswear shop within 10 blocks. Then you turn the corner one day and see the reason sales have been going downhill. These businesses, internet or physical businesses, are most definitely your competition. Your aim to stay ahead of them, needs to be a regular consideration. Part of this is knowing what makes your business special and maintaining that.

Doing more to market your business can be a successful way to stay ahead. So can keeping people happy. Putting customer service as your number one priority will help customer relations. Keeping your employees happy will help make this happen. Develop great people and pay them well to keep them a part of your business. To keep customers coming back, remember to maintain fresh offerings. Beware of fads and potential drains on your profit that will not be positive. Respond to market trends in a way that in unlikely to tie you to debt, for best results. Enjoy every minute of your business and plan to make it better. Build it up for a brighter future for yourself and your employees with satisfied customers all round.