Even if you serve a niche market, eventually you will see some competition. Competing brands may release similar products, siphon some of your customers, respond tactically to your marketing efforts, and much more. While a rivalry can seem detrimental to your business, the reality is it’s much better than being uncontested.
For starters, it allows you the opportunity to solidify yourself as the leader or authority in the market. Healthy competition also breeds innovation and forces brands out of complacency. It encourages lower prices, better materials sourcing, smarter operations, and so on. The challenge, of course, is ensuring that you stand out from your competition.
Persistent Market Research Is a Must
Before launching your business, you did extensive research. You considered potential customers, what they want, what your products might look like, and so much more. After a product launch, you move away from some of the more fundamental analytics. It’s easy to forget they exist, especially when you’re trying to keep up with evolving demands.
If you hope to compete, the market research cannot stop. You must understand your customers, what their pain points are, and what kinds of problems you’re solving for them. Most importantly, you must identify how you’re providing value, and how you can continue to capitalize on that. If your rivals are offering similar products or services, there’s a good chance some of your customer base is going to convert. How can you do it better? What is it you can provide as a competitive advantage?
There’s no way to answer those questions without the appropriate market research. Some of the insights you should be collecting include:
- Customer feedback and suggestions for improvement.
- New pain points or problems to solve.
- What innovations and strategies the competition has adopted.
- What your audience values most (quality, price, features, etc).
- Customer behavior, both yours and your competitors.
- Customer and brand sentiment.
It should also be noted that while these are some of the most important metrics to track, analyze, and ingest, there are many more you may want to consider. Think about what can help improve your products and services, and what you need to provide a top-notch customer experience.
Compete and Grow
Armed with the right insights, it’s time to compete. It’s not a race, and it doesn’t really matter who achieves what first. Yes, in many cases that can provide a solid advantage, but first to market doesn’t necessarily translate to best in the market.
Some of the staple traits of competition include:
- Better prices
- Higher quality
- Improved products features
- Smarter and more efficient resources
- Sustainably-sourced materials
- More relevant marketing
- Well-aligned messaging and core missions
- Unrivaled customer experiences and support
Consider the age-old rivalry between Pepsi and Coca-Cola. While Coke has a proprietary recipe and a large customer base, Pepsi has been just as successful. Why? It’s a combination of competing efforts, as opposed to just a single competitive advantage. Iteration is key, with a continued approach to product releases, customer service, and so on. Both Coke and Pepsi have had some excellent marketing campaigns throughout the years, and they both continue to serve customers in new and innovative ways.
8 Ways to Provide Consistent Competition
Diving a little deeper, what are some ways to get a leg up over the competition?
1. Customer Service
Your customers have a need, and you exist to serve them. Providing better customer service than the competition is priority one. But you don’t necessarily have to focus on anything more than the experiences you’re providing. Do you offer competitive prices? Are you accommodating competitive shipping options? How do you interact with your customers? Can they communicate easily and are they getting holistic and rewarding responses from your team(s)?
90% of Americans look at customer service when deciding whether or not to do business with a company. A further 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer experience with a brand.
2. Sustainable Operations
Today’s customers care about how you’re doing business, and how you’re helping them be healthier and better for both the environment and their surrounding communities. Nearly 90% of consumers want brands to help them live sustainably, through environmentally friendly and more ethical practices.
Are you sourcing eco-friendly materials, and do you mitigate waste? What is your environmental impact? Do you have any philanthropic strategies or campaigns?
3. Iterative Products and Services
Launching new products and services is a natural component of any successful business. But if you’re focused on providing new releases, just to draw in revenue, eventually your customers are going to catch on. How are you improving upon previous generations? What new features and innovations are you delivering? Incremental updates are great, but they must provide value when they’re implemented. Consider not just why your customers would want to buy a new release, but also why they would want your products over the competitions?
4. Reinforce Your Messaging
The business logo, promotions, social campaigns, and everything related to marketing should align with the brand’s core messaging. Accurate branding is about unifying the entire business, from forward-facing actions to what’s happening behind the scenes. Precisely like what the Great Northern Instore has done with the Starbucks Cold Brew launch. They captured the essence of the brand by creating a wood-framed easel to display the new Cold Brew bottles.
If you’re putting forth the idea that your business prioritizes green and eco-friendly initiatives, but you’re not honoring cruelty-free practices, then your customers are going to find out. Something like that will destroy any trust and goodwill that you’ve banked up. The messages and ideas that you want your business to embody, must permeate throughout the entire operation.
5. Monitor the Market
It’s important to know what your competition is doing and planning, but what about the rest of the market? Are there new players entering the field? How are customer sentiment and demand evolving? Are there things happening that might take attention away from your brand?
The best example of this is the pandemic. Sometimes, events happen that force a change in customer behavior, and it’s not always something they want or choose. The economic shutdowns meant a lot of businesses had to evolve the way they were serving their local community. Restaurants had to close down, and customers stopped visiting, but that didn’t mean people stopped ordering or supporting the affected locations.
6. Collecting and Utilizing Feedback
To stay in touch with your audience, feedback is imperative. It also calls for creating policies, practices, and platforms to give your customers a voice. How can they get in touch with decision-makers? Is the feedback going to the right brand representatives? Are viable and helpful suggestions being passed on to product research and development teams? Is there a way to continue those conversations if you need or want more insights?
Customer feedback, reviews, questions, and concerns make no difference whatsoever if they’re just being dumped into a database and then forgotten.
7. Solve New Problems
Customers want help and support, but sometimes they just want guidance for a problem they’re having, and it’s not always related to your brand or offerings.
For example, Home Depot bills itself as a DIY and community-driven hardware retailer. Instead of just highlighting products it offers, the company provides in-store workshops and courses, which are an invaluable way to serve the local communities it serves. Whether customers are buying supplies from rivals or not, they learn how to complete various projects around the home. That gives them a reason to come back again and again. It also gives Home Depot a leg up over the competition.
8. Empower Your Employees
Brand advocates, ambassadors, and influencers are excellent, but there’s one source you may not have tapped yet. Your employees. By focusing on providing employees with the best possible experience, you’re investing in their loyalty, much as you would your customers. That results in better service for your customers, happier employees, and a host of brand advocates that are willing to step up to the plate for your company.
Surviving in a Competitive Market
Staying competitive is just as important as being competitive in the first place. It requires a constant understanding of the market, your customers, and your rivals. Having a solid market research team and strategy in place is a good start. You should also be providing top-notch customer experiences, adhering to sustainable and eco-friendly practices, and empowering employees to create unique brand advocates.
By following these tips, your business will become a dominant force in the market.