When you started your business, you will have had a dream about where it was going to end up. You might have wanted it to grow to give you a good living or to be able to pass it on to your children and future generations. You might have decided that you wanted to sell it at the right time, or perhaps you just wanted it to be the most successful business of its kind in the area, the country, or even the world.
These dreams are what told you it was time to launch your business, and they are what is driving you on and keeping you motivated now. While these dreams may all be different for each individual running a business; they will undoubtedly have one goal in common.
The ultimate dream is to get ahead and then stay ahead of the competition working in your area, both in terms of location and in terms of your sector or niche. If you can do this, you will be on your way to making a dream a reality. Here is how to do it.
Know Your Competition
Before you can work out exactly how to get ahead of your competition, you need to know who your competition is and what they do. You will need to take time to monitor and study your competitors in the marketplace, and it is particularly important that you can determine what it is that makes someone choose them instead of you, or you instead of them. Understanding these differences and using them to your advantage will help you to get ahead.
There are lots of ways, thanks to knowing who your competition is, that will help you. You can design a marketing strategy by seeing how they work and what is bringing customers to them (you can’t copy what they do, but you can get inspiration from them, and you’ll learn what to avoid as well.) By doing this, you can save yourself time and make your marketing budget go further, plus you’ll find many new customers and clients, so it helps in every aspect.
Be An Early Adopter
Some people are naturally cautious, and some like to jump in with both feet and implement an idea without much thought. If you want to run a successful business and get ahead of the competition, you need to position yourself somewhere in between.
The more cautious you are in business, the fewer risks you will take, and although this might keep everything running smoothly, it won’t allow your business to reach its true potential. Therefore, if an opportunity presents itself, and you feel it can work well, do your research (this is crucial to be entirely sure that what you are doing is a good idea), and then go ahead and do it. Don’t wait for too long because otherwise, your competition will get there first, and you won’t be seen as the innovator, but instead, you will look as though you followed their good idea.
This is called being an ‘early adopter,’ and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. However, if you can get to a point where your research is thorough but quick, eventually you will feel more comfortable determining which innovations to implement and which will do more harm than good in your business. If you have looked into something and seen that it wouldn’t work for you yet you spot that your competitor is using it, don’t worry, and don’t make that change your mind. What works for one business may not work for another, and you need to stick with your own decision unless there is a very obvious reason to change your mind.
Gain More Knowledge
The more you know about your sector and your products, the better. When you know as much as possible, you will be more confident when speaking to customers and therefore able to sell more to them. Plus, you can position yourself as the expert in your field, showing that you know more than anyone else, and becoming the respected, trusted business that people come to first.
Being an expert is a crucial part of the growing success of your business. You need to show that you are competent in what you are doing and that you can answer any query or question that might come your way. If you’re not sure that you know enough or feel you could benefit from knowing more, obtaining a Master’s degree is always a good thing to do. This will show that you are dedicated to your field, that it interests you, and that you are as up to date as possible regarding it.
No matter what sector you are in, you can find a degree to suit. You can study a Master’s in computer science online if it helps, or a Master’s in business, or art or design. The list is endless and choosing something that will benefit your business will be extremely easy and help you hugely.
Once you have the knowledge you need, you will need to show that you have it. You can do this in a variety of different ways including:
- Blogging and vlogging
- Free advice
- Write an eBook
Do what works best for your business as it will be different for everyone.
Look At Your Daily Routine
What do you do during the day at work? Having a routine in place is incredibly important for someone running a business so if you don’t have a routine, or you do, but it’s not a particularly productive one, then it might be time to reassess and change things around so that you are more productive.
Some people are better at working in the mornings, and others prefer late nights. When you run a business, you don’t have to stick to standard office hours if you don’t want to. If you know that it is not helping your business or your productivity, and if it means that your competitors are gaining ground or even racing ahead of you, then you should take another look at what you do and how you do it. Starting earlier and finishing earlier or starting later and finishing later could make a massive difference to the success of your business and boost you out in front once more.
It’s not just the times that you work that will need to be considered. You will need to look at what you are doing as well. How do you start your working day? Do you answer emails? Look into orders that have come in? Do you reply to contacts and queries? Or you do just sit at your desk and do whatever seems most pressing at the time?
If it is this latter idea, you aren’t using your time wisely. It’s better to block out your time and get into a good routine. If anything urgent comes in you will need to be flexible, but otherwise, stick with what you are doing, and you are more likely to get it all done, be more relaxed, and be better able to get ahead of the competition.
Don’t Be Predictable
Over time it can be easy to become predictable in your business. We don’t mean the established routines for working as mentioned above; we mean with regards to your advertising, your marketing, your social media, your products, your offers, and so on. If these become predictable, you will bore your customers, and they may look elsewhere after a certain amount of time just to see what they might be missing out on.
If you can keep things fresh and exciting, they won’t do this. They will follow you and buy from you because they will be excited to see what you do next. Not only will it keep your customers intrigued and interested, but it will help any staff you have too – they will be happier working in a company that is innovative and different, where they can try different things and see what works. If you have no staff, then the same will still apply to you, and having a fun place to work (even if you have built it and own it) is crucial to general wellbeing and overall happiness.
Don’t Forget Your Fringe Competitors
When you are working out who your competitors are and what competition you have, you are sure to look at the most successful business in your sector and location. This is, of course, a good thing to do – you can boost your own business massively this way.
You shouldn’t forget or ignore your ‘fringe’ competitors either. These are the businesses that are doing similar things to you but that are small or have only just started, for example. You may think they are not much of a threat, but by ignoring them, you might miss the fact that they are starting to grow and that they are rapidly closing the gap between you and them. Before you know it, they could overtake you because you were focusing all of your energy and time on the most apparent competition out there.
It is also important to keep up with what these smaller businesses are doing because these are the ones that will most often utilize new technology and potentially be the most creative. You can learn a lot from what they do and how they do it, even if they are not as big as you or they don’t seem to be true competition just yet.
Get Customer Feedback
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business; without them, you wouldn’t make any money at all, and you wouldn’t be growing. Therefore, it is important to listen when they have something to say. Some customers will offer unsolicited advice and feedback, and this can often be extremely useful. If you don’t hear anything, you can send an email to request that they send any feedback they might have across to you. Again, they may not do this, but a simple reminder can be enough to galvanize some people into action.
The feedback you receive may not be useful at all. It may be about things that are out of your control, or that you know you don’t need to change because you have already experimented in that way or looked into the possibility. In this case, all you need to do is thank the person offering the information and leave it at that.
Some feedback, however, will be extremely useful. It could offer you an insight into your business that you had never seen before, giving you ideas of new ways to do things that you wouldn’t have considered previously. Customers are always going to want to buy products or services from you cheaper, and receive them more quickly – can you help them? If not, what can you offer instead? Better customer service or higher quality items could be the answer.
Don’t Cut Costs
There will be times when cutting costs might seem like a good way to bring in more customers. However, it should be avoided where possible (apart from when you run a new year sale or have another special event in which case it will be seen as a one-off reduction) because it will make your business look bad.
Cutting costs and lowering prices when there is no special event will be noticed by your competitors, and although your customers might enjoy the saving, it could potentially give the impression that your business is having problems and that you need to reduce prices to sell anything at all.
Work instead on showing your customers why you have set the prices at the level you have; show them that they are buying exceptional quality, that the after sales care you provide is second to none, and that they will always enjoy the shopping experience with you. If you can do this, they will be happier to pay your prices, even if they are slightly higher than someone else’s – they will feel they are getting a lot more for their money.
Founder Dinis Guarda
IntelligentHQ Your New Business Network.
IntelligentHQ is a Business network and an expert source for finance, capital markets and intelligence for thousands of global business professionals, startups, and companies.
We exist at the point of intersection between technology, social media, finance and innovation.
IntelligentHQ leverages innovation and scale of social digital technology, analytics, news and distribution to create an unparalleled, full digital medium and social business network spectrum.
IntelligentHQ is working hard, to become a trusted, and indispensable source of business news and analytics, within financial services and its associated supply chains and ecosystems.