Guest Post By Eleanor Hecks
Every business has to deal with competition in one way or another.
It’s likely that at least one of your competitors is doing something you’re not. They may be beating you in a critical business area, drawing away customers who may have tried your brand already.
These five areas are commonly overlooked, but they can have a big impact on how customers make purchasing decisions. This is how to identify if you’re falling behind — and how to take back the lead.
1. Market Knowledge
For modern businesses, data is one of the most valuable resources you can have. Market research and an understanding of your competition are essential to successful advertising, branding, and product development.
How well do you know your audience and, if your business has a local presence, the consumer base in your area? Gathering info on your target audience — like demographics, preferences, and pain points — will give you a sense of what they need and what kind of messaging they’ll respond best to.
If your competition knows their audience and the local market better than you do, they’ll probably have a much easier time creating a strong, recognizable brand. They’ll also likely be in a better position to create products and services that target the needs of their audience.
Ongoing market research is valuable for any brand — but it can be especially valuable when you feel like you don’t know enough about what your customer base is really looking for.
2. Customer Service and Retention
According to research from Adobe, 40% of all e-commerce revenue comes from just 8% of customers.
For most small businesses, repeat customers are essential to success. Not only is it typically easier to convince a customer to make a repeat purchase, but customers also typically spend more the longer they shop with a company.
Customer retention practices are critical for generating new leads, encouraging repeat purchases, and keeping repeat customers around.
You can also reach out when customers make another purchase, or if they decide to stop doing business with you.
Actively soliciting feedback, both positive and negative, can help you uncover blind spots in your customer service practices. Over time, this info can help you implement new policies and make adjustments that can boost customer satisfaction and improve customer loyalty.
3. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Every business needs to have something that makes them distinct — a quality the competition can’t provide.
Your unique selling proposition is this idea summed up in a few words or a quick phrase. It’s what makes you stand out from the competition — and why a customer might choose you, rather than a product from a competitor that likely has access to the same audience, technology, and raw materials.
USPs vary significantly from company to company and across industries. In general, you need a claim that’s both interesting and realistic, as well as something that will appeal to your customer base.
If you don’t have a USP, or if other competitors have a similar USP, you can have a much harder time drawing the attention of your target audience.
To create a strong USP for your company — or make sure that USP is truly unique — start by identifying who your local competitors are and what USPs they bring to the market.
Businesses with physical storefronts may do this by creating a business map that shows what areas of the region their competitors are operating in. Each of these regions can be labeled with the competitor’s name and their USP.
You’ll also need to get a sense of your global competition and what USPs they offer to your target audience.
4. Productivity and Efficiency
Inefficient production practices can have a severe negative impact on just about any business. Finding ways to improve productivity at your business will help you do more with the resources you already have.
An audit of existing business workflows and processes can help you identify bottlenecks in your day-to-day operations. Data can help here. For example, metrics like your cash-to-cash time cycle can reveal inefficient inventory management and shipping practices.
You may also look outside your business. You may find bottlenecks in your business’s supply chain that are slowing down your shipping time and making it harder to deliver items to customers as quickly as possible.
5. Brand Awareness and Recognition
Customers often choose brands they recognize, especially if they have a good idea of what that brand offers or stands for.
For small businesses especially, brand awareness and recognition are key to standing out and building a loyal customer base.
Having a strong USP can help here. Thinking long-term when you develop ad campaigns can also help. By keeping your marketing consistent with your branding, you have a better chance of building a strong and recognizable brand.
Certain long-term marketing strategies can also be good for boosting brand awareness. Branded packaging, for example, or partnerships with influencers, will help customers and potential buyers remember your branding and company name.
Content marketing can also be an effective strategy. With a strong content marketing plan, you can increase your business site’s traffic or draw local attention, making people more aware of your brand.
Focusing on These Areas Can Help You Beat the Competition
Many small businesses overlook these factors — giving their competitors room to develop a serious competitive advantage.
By focusing on these areas, you can put your business in a better competitive position and develop a deeper understanding of the market you’re in.
By Eleanor Hecks
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.