Unless you’re unique, the only business in a tiny niche, success usually involves competing with other businesses. When you’re just starting out, fierce competition might be off-putting. But sometimes it proves an essential factor in pushing you towards innovation, forcing focus and encouraging perseverance. It can build team spirit and bring people together. It makes you think and work harder and wiser.
If you can just get through the dangerous start-up stage, you’ll be fine. But how, exactly, can you survive those first few horrible competitive months when you’re trying your hardest to get heard amongst all the noise? Here’s some advice designed to help you grab and hang onto that essential competitive edge.
1. Discover Your Strengths, Then Strengthen Them Even More
All products have their own unique strengths unless they’re ‘me do the same’ products. Most businesses also have their unique strengths, something they do better than anyone else. Unless you are familiar with your strengths you won’t be able to differentiate your brand or messages and encourage people to choose you above the rest. You need leverage. Once you’ve pinned down your edge you can capitalise on it. And that can make all the difference between success and failure.
You could follow your main competitors’ every move, of course. You’ll probably siphon off some of their customers that way. But you won’t have a distinct enough message to make a real difference, to put that competitor far enough behind you.
It’s sensible to make an effort to improve every selling point rather than copying exactly what others in the same commercial space are up to. It’s a much more efficient and effective way to spend your time, effort, and money. Once you’ve figured out exactly what makes your brand the best choice, your messaging will improve dramatically, becoming much more powerful and influential.
2. Know Your Enemy, but Don’t Slavishly Copy Them
While there’s little value in slavishly copying your competitors’ every move, don’t ignore them either. Your own brand and audience is your main focus, your top priority, but knowing what the competition is up to will help you find the right direction and plan the next steps.
Have they come up with a fresh innovation? Have they dropped their prices across the board? Do they deliver faster or cheaper? Is their customer service better? Is their range wider? Will any of it work for you, too? The knowledge is vital since you can only triumph against your competitors only if you know where you are supposed to strike.
You might, for example, take a long, hard look at a trusted, comprehensive, finely-detailed list of companies in Italy, France or any other country to get vital insight into which technologies they’re using. Armed with the information, you can create powerful campaigns to sell your goods or services to companies whose current choices might be lacking relative to your services.
3. Harness the Natural Advantages of Your Start-Up Status
As for your own business, being a start-up can deliver competitive advantages all on its own. You’re small and neat, lean and flexible, fresh and new. You can move faster, change direction swiftly. You might even be able to sneak up from behind and take over big chunks of market share without them even noticing. As someone clever once said, there’s a whole lot to learn from a worthy and unpredictable adversary.
4. Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
One of the biggest mistakes is to ignore the numbers. People do it all the time, but knowledge really is power. How will you know if you’re succeeding when you don’t have any proof? Business is all about numbers, whether it’s expenses, revenue, pricing, or market share. You need to keep track of all the relevant wins and failures or you risk ending up in a crisis.
You need to have a strict comprehension of exactly where you stand in the market, how far your consumer reach is, and what it’ll cost the business to reach set goals. You can’t be aware that you have improved on something you don’t know about, after all.
5. Never Forget Just How Much Your Customers Matter
Quite the bold statement, I guess it adds a personal touch from the author’s point of view so I’ll leave it untouched. And that means more than just selling them something they want or need. Customer service should and must strive to be exceptional. That means solving their problems, resolving their pain points, delivering everything they expect at every stage, from start to finish. You can see why after-sales service often matters just as much as pre-sale and mid-sale.
Keep everyone as happy as you can. Listen to their suggestions. Consider their ideas. Deal with any complaints quickly and politely. Learn from your mistakes. Your competitive edge might turn out to be as simple as the brilliant service you provide, above and beyond the call of duty and better than everyone else’s.
You’re Not Alone – We’ve All Been There!
Every business on the planet started off small. They’ve all worked their way up. It’s good to know that having a solid plan full of achievable goals, plus the energy to work as hard as you need to succeed, are all you need to give yourself the best possible opportunity and perhaps even hit the ground running.
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