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Helping Your Business Get One Step Ahead of the Competition

Desk top, overhead view


3 September 2018. When you run a small business, you have a whole lot on your plate. Not only do you have to make sure that your own business is running smoothly, but you need to keep an eye on what else is going on in the consumer market that you’re operating within. No matter how innovative your product ideas are, or how unique the services that you’re offering may be, there’s bound to be plenty of competition out there.

The market is saturated with small businesses specializing in pretty much every area, and if you’re not careful, you can find your customers being swept out of your arms by competitors or rival companies. So, how can you ensure that you’re always one step ahead of your competition? How can you make sure that customers are drawn to you rather than another company? Well, here are a few different steps that you can take to put you ahead of anyone else in your field.

Conduct market research

The first step that you need to take when you’re focusing on getting ahead of the competition is to conduct thorough market research. Market research is a process where you gather information regarding your existing customers’ and potential customers’ needs and preferences. You can also use it to survey what else is going on in the market too. By interviewing consumers in various different ways – from surveys and questionnaires to focus groups, one to one discussions, and polls – you can find out a whole lot of information that could be used to boost your business’ appeal.

Consider finding out what rival brands consumers are using and why they have opted for this brand in the past. See what could draw consumers away from this brand. Could they be tempted away by better customer service, bolder packaging, or a lower price point? You can carry out market research by yourself, but this tends to be time consuming and you could struggle to find the appropriate participants. Instead, consider collaborating with a market research agency. These professionals know the ins and outs of market research and can get honest and reliable data from participants. They also tend to have plenty of participants from a variety of consumer demographics already in their contact lists, so can gather appropriate candidates a lot more quickly and easily.

Ensure you have the best staff

Something that can draw customers towards your brand is high quality customer service. Good customer service ensures that customers get what they want and that any of their inquiries are answered in good time. You don’t want customers turning away and looking elsewhere because the staff that they are dealing with are incompetent or have a bad attitude. Good staff also help to move your company forward in terms of solving problems, raising awareness to issues or areas of improvement in your business, or giving suggestions for new products or services.

But how can you make sure that you definitely have the best staff out there? Well, your first step is to make sure your recruitment process is as stringent as possible. As long as you have a good idea of what kind of employee you’re looking out for, you’re going to be able to secure them at some point or another. You can make life simple for yourself by engaging with a professional recruitment firm. These companies tend to already have large numbers of job seekers on their books, and they can browse through their existing members to see whether any meet the brief that you have given them.

They can also advertise more widely, as they have access to more resources, and people are more likely to trust them to find them a good job. Once you have a list of potential candidates, it’s generally best to interview potential employees yourself. This will allow you to meet them on a face to face basis and figure out whether they will fit into your workplace well.

Maintain the best staff

Finding appropriate and competent staff members is only the beginning of the journey. You then need to continue to maintain your staff base. This will help to ensure that your staff are happy and want to stay with your company and brand. There are several ways to achieve this. First of all, consider making team building activities a regular part of their experience in the workplace. Encouraging your team to bond with one another can improve their communication with one another and will spur them on to work as a team, collaborating their different skills and giving one another a helping hand.

This will create a more positive and friendly workplace for them in general. Different ideas to try out can include an escape room, a treasure hunt, or picture games. Another way to maintain a content staff base is to acknowledge achievements. All of your staff will have basic expectations and targets, and they should be sticking to these and achieving these as a basic part of their employment agreement. However, if you notice that particular staff members are really making an extra effort, then you need to acknowledge this.

If they are beating targets, getting good reviews from customers, and staying late or arriving early to make sure that tasks are complete on time, you should reward them. Rewards could include bonuses, extra annual leave, or a prize. If your whole team are excelling, consider arranging a work party of sorts. A meal or drinks at a bar could prove a success!

Operate online

Increasing numbers of small businesses are taking to the world of e-commerce. Now, even if you have a thriving brick and mortar store or chain of stores on the high street, you should still seriously consider launching an online store that can operate alongside your current business model. Why? Well, there are plenty of benefits that come hand in hand with online operation. The main benefit of operating online is that the internet doesn’t have opening and closing hours.

Sure, customers can head to your brick and mortar store between the hours of nine to five or whatever hours you are open for. However, having a functioning website means that customers can make purchases around the clock and during bank holidays or public holidays. If they work themselves during your opening hours, they can still engage with your brand. You can suddenly make money twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Another benefit of having a website is that you can reach out to global audiences. All that you have to do is offer international shipping options. People from around the world can then also engage with your brand.

Price your products competitively

Many small business owners think that they can draw customers away by undercutting the prices of all of their competition. However, you do need to put a whole lot of thought into your pricing strategy. Things can be a little more complex than simply reducing the prices of your products and seeing customers flood through your doors. Competitive pricing tends to be a point of contention among business owners for a variety of different reasons. Cutting the price of your goods reduces the perceived value of your goods over time. What’s more, when you undercut another company, they are likely to undercut you in turn.

This process can continue until everyone’s profit margins are significantly reduced and there becomes little point in selling the product, as nobody is making sufficient profit in the process. This then sees prices rise again, and customers get irritated at having to fork out more for what they want. Instead, it is generally best to price your products around the same price bracket as your competitors, but to lure customers to purchase from you with other techniques that do not devalue your product. This could include offering free shipping or providing discounts on multiple purchases, such as buy one get one free offers.

These are just a few different ways that you can help your small business to surpass competition and stand out from the crowd in a positive light. There are, of course, plenty of other things that you can do, but the above steps should help you to get started on the right foot. So, implement them into your business strategy sooner rather than later. This will see your small business benefit from them as soon as possible, and should result in you receiving more customers and orders.

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