Handling your competition as a small business owner can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. It is important to educate yourself in regards to who your competition is, what they are offering, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. You cannot control how your competitors run their businesses, but you can control how you run yours, and having a full understanding of your competitive landscape can help. The following is a list of strategies to use in your quest to compete effectively in your industry.
- Help clients see you as a friend. If clients see you as a friend instead of just a business, they are more likely to be loyal to you. In order to do this, put their needs ahead of your own. If a customer is looking for something that you are unable to offer, be honest about it and even go so far as to recommend where they might find it. Clients will appreciate your honesty and that you didn’t waste their time trying to talk them into something they probably don’t need. Because you have demonstrated that you are sincere in your desire to satisfy their needs, they will likely come to trust your professional opinion and will return to your business again and again.
- Use social media for word of mouth. The potential for exposure via social media makes it an extremely valuable tool of which you should be taking advantage. Creating a social media presence will cost little to no money, but it does require an investment of time. It isn’t necessary to tackle everything at once, however. Try your hand at social networking sites like Facebook or Pinterest, start a blog, comment on others’ blogs, create a YouTube channel, or reinvent your website. Decide which avenue will most effectively spread the word about your business and focus on that. Social media is this generation’s word of mouth, so be sure you are taking full advantage of its benefits.
- Create partnerships. Creating partnerships with other business owners means less competition for you. For example, a local cupcake shop is having a hard time competing with the new frozen yogurt bar that has just opened up down the street. Health conscious shoppers are now shunning the high-calorie cupcakes for a refreshing treat that is easier on the waistline. The owner of the cupcake shop forges a partnership with the yogurt bar to bring in some fresh baked cupcakes in healthier varieties (gluten-free, low-fat, etc.) to create a yogurt sundae section. The cupcake shop gets a percentage of the sales, the yogurt shop is reaching a wider customer base, and they both get to cross-promote each other’s goods. Seek out other businesses who have similar interests and you can cut down on your competition.
- Implement incentives for referrals. Referrals are often the lifeblood of small business. Consider offering your customers unique incentives to motivate them to give you more referrals. This can be anything from a tiered reward system to a one-time discount or VIP customer membership. Show your appreciation for their referrals in a way that will make them want to bring you more. Also, by creating incentives, you avoid the often uncomfortable method of flat-out asking your customers for referrals. You can introduce the program and incorporate the “asking part” into your presentation.
Staying ahead of the competition is a necessary part of small business ownership. How do you compete effectively? Please share your ideas below!