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Gaining a Competitive Edge Part Two: Staying Ahead of the Competition

Last week we looked into how businesses can use SWOT analysis to identify their strengths and weaknesses are as well as auditing those of their competitors. This helps small business websites market to the strengths of their business and to the weaknesses of their competitors. In this post, we’ll take you through 5 things every small business can do to stay ahead of the competition.

1. Value existing customers
Retaining existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones. In fact it can cost up to 7x more to acquire a new customer. Concentrating on and re-engaging your existing customers is a great way to stay ahead of the competition, after all your competitors would love to acquire them themselves.

The first step is creating a customer database. Once you have the details of existing customers, take the time to understand them. Find out what their challenges are and what they want from your product or service. Once you understand your customers better, you can market to the things that really matter to your customers. Don’t be afraid to cross-sell or upsell to existing customers. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% – this is huge in comparison to the chance of selling to a new prospect, which is around 5-20%. Also, remember that good customer service and a positive experience with your product or service is likely to improve sales and could attract new customers. Another great reason to value existing customers is 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family.

2. Get creative
A great way to stay ahead of the competition is to think outside the box. When considering how to market creatively, think about whether there are any new markets you could approach. For example, branching out internationally or even into a different town could mean you tap into a new market where there is little or no competitors vying for your prospects’ attention. Partnerships with companies that complement your own could also be a way to enter new markets, or perhaps, targeting small niches that have been overlooked may prove fruitful.

Thinking creatively about marketing channels could also prove beneficial. If you are working in a predominantly offline environment, testing new and different forms of online marketing that your competitors haven’t tried could attract new customers. Likewise, if you are an online retailer, try attending events that your competitors do not exhibit at.

Have an idea
3. Define a Unique Selling Proposition
Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is what will differentiate you from your competitors. The USP should be clear so customers can pinpoint it without having to ask, and it should be linked with what your customers feel is important. SWOT analysis will help to identify the strengths of your business and the opportunities that are available to your business now and in the future. These will help you to define a list of points that give you a competitive advantage over your competitors. Once you have your USP, craft a strong statement to help convey it. If you are having trouble deciding on your USP, test out a few options with your customers to see which resonates most with them. Once your USP is defined it can be used to underpin your marketing strategy.

4. Develop your product
Always look for ways to expand your offering and develop your product. This shouldn’t be at the expense of your core offering, but should complement it instead. For example, if you are a coffee shop you could start selling coffee beans as a way to add a new revenue stream. If you are fitness instructor, you could start offering nutrition advice as well and fitness classes on your personal trainer website. Standing still in competitive industries is risky, innovating your product or developing your services in ways different than your competitors will help you stay ahead of the competition.

5. Think big
Planning for the future and considering the big picture is a way to stay ahead of competitors. If you are able to plan for change in advance it will make you more agile to changes when they actually happen. For example, if you are in the tech industry, reading and keeping up with the latest trends will make you aware of legislation or innovations that could impact your business. Likewise, if you are a clothing or jewelry business, keeping up with the late fashions on the catwalk will make you more aware of how consumer tastes could change in the future, helping you to tailor your offering to them.

Having a clear idea of where you want your company to be in 6 months, 1 year and 5 years time can really help make your business successful, and it will help to motivate yourself and employees to have achievable goals to work towards.

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