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Keeping a Step Ahead of Competitors

– Contributed content –

Runners

(Maxmann, Pixabay)

19 Jan. 2020. If there’s one thing that you can’t be accused of, it’s resting on your laurels. Your combination of technical prowess, people skills, tireless research and a whole lot of passion have seen you build your enterprise up from nothing. Your blood sweat and tears have gone into ensuring that your business stays afloat against overwhelming odds. You and your team pour your hearts and souls into ensuring that your operation is the best that it can be… every minute of every day.

But despite your valiant and sincere efforts, the stats are pointing in all the wrong directions. They point to declining sales, disengagement on social platforms and an overall lack of enthusiasm for your brand.

To rub salt into the wound, it seems like your competitors are doing better than ever. Their sales figures keep on climbing, their social feeds show a higher standard of social engagement than yours, and their customers keep coming back to them time and time again, despite your best efforts to engage them.

As dispiriting as this can be, this does not mean that you should throw in the towel just yet. When your competitors are getting the drop on you, it behooves you to identify the reasons why and strategize accordingly. Here are five ways your competitors may be gaining the upper hand, and what you can do to reclaim your advantage…

They’re keeping a closer eye on you than you are on them

Feel like you’re being watched? That’s because you probably are. Competitor analysis is an important part of delivering operational excellence through market research. And if your competitors seem to be thwarting you at every turn it may be because they’re keeping a closer eye on you than you are on them.

Of course, it’s important to keep your attention on your own operation. But as your attention is increasingly occupied by the operational necessities of the daily grind, it becomes more and more tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore your competitors. The more you do this, however, the more ground you surrender to them.

Invest your time and efforts in comprehensive competitor analysis. Identify things they’re doing well and how they might represent a better value proposition in the eyes of your target market. You should also look for the things they’re not doing as well as you. Each of these is a potential opportunity that should be reflected in your marketing endeavors.

They have an SEO advantage

Even if you’re operationally superior to your competitors in every way, they can still beat you to the punch if they appear higher up than you on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The simple reality is that consumers are getting more and more fickle in this digital age. They know that they have more choice than ever, and assume that the businesses that are higher up on SERPs are there because they deserve to be there. As such, they’re not likely to scroll too far down the results page to choose a brand or product. Search engines are a different kind of meritocracy, and if you don’t engage them on their own terms you could lose prospects to a competing business, even if they’re offering customers less.

As such, you’re going to have to play the game if you’re to beat out your competitors on this particular battlefield. Some ways to do this include;

  • Establishing a content marketing strategy that builds value in your brand while boosting your SEO (more on that later).
  • Carrying out a technical audit of your online content to identify unnoticed SEO red flags like duplicate content or broken links.
  • Build backlinks from trusted local sources.
  • Combine paid ads with organic lead generation strategies to boost conversions and encourage regular repeat traffic.

SEO is a complicated and multifaceted discipline which requires you to keep a lot of plates spinning at once. As such, many SMBs find that outsourcing is more viable (and cost-effective) than trying to keep it all in-house. Outsourcing a white label SEM company can give your business the upper hand on SERPs. They can identify a strategy that’s tailored to your needs and budget and identify how your competitors are getting ahead of you in SERPs to create a more level playing field.

They’re more attractive to top-tier candidates

One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition is by ensuring that you have the best staff. Great businesses are made by great employees as well as great entrepreneurs. And if your competitors are attracting a better class of candidate, they will have an inherent advantage, even if you offer a superior program of training and on-boarding.

The good news is that there are a number of ways in which you can make yourself more attractive to the kind of candidates who will take your business to the next level. The first, and most important, is to ensure that you’re doing right by your employees. Ask yourself honestly;

  • Are they paid a living wage?
  • Do you offer them the flexibility that they need to achieve work / life balance?
  • Do you have an employee recognition that helps them to feel that their achievements are valued and celebrated?
  • Have you invested properly in an ongoing course of training and development?
  • Are you invested in them as an individual, or are you just interested in the function they perform for your business?

Asking these hard questions can increase your value in the eyes of candidates when new team members are needed.

If you’re doing everything right and your employees are happy, motivated and engaged congratulations, your employees are doing better than 85% of the workforce. And they should make sure the world knows about it! Incentivize them to leave reviews for you on sites like Glassdoor. You may be surprised by how quickly word gets around.

They’re more active on social channels

Having a Facebook account doesn’t mean that you’re “doing” social media. If you’ve started to notice that your competitors’ social channels generate way more interest and engagement than yours, it’s vital that you ask yourself why.

For the better part of a decade now, social media has been the country’s number one online activity. And if you’re not engaging them effectively on social platforms you may risk falling at the first hurdle.

One of the biggest mistakes brands make on social media is going in for the hard sell with every post. Yes, social media offers opportunity for conversions, but it’s primary purpose is to engage with your target audience. Listen to what they say (even if it’s less than flattering). Respond to comments they make in a timely fashion. Address complaints in a way that’s sincere and conciliatory. Like and share their comments. Make yourself a part of the community.

Get social media right and you’ll see that fickle consumers start to perceive more value in your brand.

They’re giving people a reason to keep coming back… even if it’s not to buy

Finally, like your social media presence, your content marketing should give people in your target audience a reason to keep coming back to your website, even if it’s not to make a purchase.
If your competitors’ content resonates with the audience more strongly than yours, it may be because it is of greater value to them.

While content marketing should be a showcase for your abilities, expertise and insight it cannot be allowed to become self-congratulatory. Your strategy should always hinge upon what generates value for the reader. When your content addresses their needs, concerns and frustrations it builds value in your brand and generates more conversions in the long term.

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