Between big-box stores and online retailers that ship all over the world, small to midsize businesses have never had more competition. Customers may overlook you unless you give them a reason not to. That's why it's so important to learn how to be more competitive.
Being competitive is about more than lowering prices. It's about making a difference for your customers. And it may be easier than you think. These five steps can help you stand out in the marketplace.
1. Provide value.
To win business and keep customers coming back for more, you need to provide value. At the end of the day, what people want is to feel as though they got their money's worth with whatever it is you're selling.
Step back a minute and ask yourself what exactly your customers need or want, and then give it to them. Solve a problem, satisfy a desire and deliver an unforgettable experience. Make consistency your mantra, and focus on quality.
Above all, try not to get complacent. Continue improving whatever good or service it is you're selling. Provide value to your customers during every transaction, and you may see them return again and again.
2. Put people over processes.
Yes, processes and procedures make your business run smoothly and efficiently. And most of the time they allow you to provide better, faster service to your customers. But if they ever get in the way of that, I say choose your customer every time.
Be willing to forgo processes in favor of being people-centric. Consider empowering your employees to go “off script" when the need arises. Rather than ingraining in them the idea that they must blindly follow the company's policies and procedures, teach them that when there's an opportunity to do right by your customers, they can take it.
Not only does this strategy help make for happier customers, it also makes for happier, more satisfied employees. And that's how to be more competitive against more rigid businesses.
3. Tell your story.
Another strength you have is your story. People like buying from businesses they connect with on a personal level, so go ahead and get personal by telling your story.
You can share how and why you got into business, what's driving you and what your company values are. You may want to post photos of yourself and your staff doing what you love, and get involved in community outreach projects.
Chances are, something you say or do will resonate with your customers, making them more inclined to be loyal to you and your business.
4. State your differentiator.
What makes your business different from the competition? Do you personalize your services to each individual customer? Handcraft all your products? Use only organic ingredients?
Research your competitors intently, and tell people how you're different. Clearly communicating your differentiators is part of how to be more competitive; it helps you stick out and become more memorable.
You can also take it a step further by continually monitoring your competition and evolving—as a business and through your messaging—when necessary. I recommend always thinking about how you can grow and perform better for your customers than the competition.
5. Find a niche and develop clear messaging.
If you are having a hard time determining your differentiator, consider a niche. Choosing a niche to specialize in and then creating some clear messaging around it is one way to set yourself apart.
I recently asked myself how to be more competitive with my company and decided to reposition Tote + Pears so that our offerings better aligned with our passion and expertise, as well as with where we could provide the most value.
In reality, our business hasn't changed. We're still providing the same core business consulting services that we have for the past seven years. But by highlighting our expertise in a niche area, we're able to communicate our message more clearly and, as a result, open ourselves up to more opportunities that are the right fit.
Think about what you're an expert in, then focus your business and create clear messaging around that. That way, when someone comes looking for what you do best, you will be the obvious choice.
Learning how to be more competitive may help you maintain or grow your market share. It isn't difficult, but it does take practice and dedication.
Just remember, your business is worth it.
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