Business competition can be fierce, especially in markets with aggressive competitors and when customer spending is slowing down. Use these ten ideas to defend your market position and build your competitive advantage
- Know the competition. Find out who your competitors are, what they are offering, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. This will identify the areas you need to compete in, and give you a platform for differentiating yourself.
- Know your customers. Customer expectations can change dramatically. Find out what matters to your customers now - is it lower price, more flexible or premium service, the latest products?
- Differentiate. It's essential to give your customers good reasons to come to you rather than a rival. Develop a unique selling point (USP) that taps into what customers want. It should be clear and obvious - no-one should have to ask what makes you different.
- Step up your marketing. Make more effort to tell people who you are, what you sell and why they should buy from you. It doesn't have to be expensive - promotional ideas can range from posters in your window and leaflet drops to campaigns on social media.
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- Update your image. Simple steps such as painting the front of your premises can make your business look more modern and inviting. Look at your business cards, social media presence, your website, branded packaging, clothing and so on. Does your image reflect your USP?
- Look after your existing customers. They will be your competitors' target market. Improve customer service by being more responsive to their needs and expectations. Consider offering low-cost extras such as improved credit terms, discounts or loyalty schemes. It's cheaper and easier to keep existing customers than to find new ones.
- Target new markets. Selling into more markets can increase your customer base and spread your risk. Are there other potential customers similar to your existing target market? Could you reach a wider audience by selling online or overseas? Make sure you tailor your offer to each different market segment.
- Expand your offer. What new products or services might your customers be interested in?
- Be the best employer. Skilled, motivated employees underpin vibrant, growing businesses. Attracting them means more than paying a competitive wage. People are often more impressed by a good working atmosphere, and benefits such as flexible working and structured career development.
- Look to the future. Businesses that plan for growth are more successful than those that stand still. Keep up with developments in your sector, follow consumer trends, invest in new technology. Have a clear idea of where you want to be in one, three and five years' time.