One of the most common issues raised by my clients, and more generally by business owners, through my work with them is around the need to keep their business competitive. The need to defend your market position and stay one-step ahead of the competition is one key to success, especially in a society where competition is growing and/or consumer spending is slowing.
The first step in staying ahead of your competition, is to know the competition! A good understanding of who your competitors are, what goods/services they offer and the ways in which they are unique will assist you in identifying the areas you need to compete in, giving you an understanding of how you need to be different. When you know your competition, the ways in which you can distinguish your own company can be considered. The need to give your customers a reason to pick your business over a rival option is obvious, and your business’ unique selling point (USP) can be decided upon and promoted to customers. This should provide customers with what they want and provide them with a clear understanding of why your business is their first choice!
Once this is understood, a good knowledge of your customer can be formed. Economic conditions can widely impact on your customer and their expectations, so start to build a profile picture of them now. Find out what really matters to your customer, whether it is low prices, flexibility, top range products, or something else? This information can then be used to refine your business’ sales and marketing strategies. Focusing on your marketing statement and putting it into action, will mean making more time to network, in order to tell people what your business does, can offer and why they should pick you. Wider marketing can be used also, such as advertising posters, leaflet drops or social media posts. The need to target new markets is obvious, but this new, more focused strategy will ensure that you sell to the right markets, ensuring that time and money are not wasted contacting those who won’t be interested or able to buy your offerings. The key here is to be “fishing in the right ponds”!
Ensuring your business image matches your target market is key. Does the look of your business, match and attract the customer it wants to gain? Simple steps such as professional business cards, appropriate social media presences, a smart, functional website, and company clothing can all help you portray the right image to your potential, and existing customers.
Although the marketing of your business will be focused on drawing in new customers, it is key to ensure that both these newer customers but also those who have been with you previously, stay customers! It is essential to look after your existing customers, as don’t forget, they will be the target market for your competition. Ensuring you provide a better customer service, being responsive to customer needs and expectations, offering extras such as discounts or loyalty schemes are all a good way to keep existing custom. For businesses who are offering a narrow range or service, the need to update and diversify should be explored. Related products or services might be of interest to your customers.
Now that you are looking to gain new and retain existing customer, the need to look to the future and plan for growth becomes apparent. It is clear through the work I do, that businesses which prepare and plan for growth show more success than those who don’t. Keeping up with new developments in your industry sector, following trends on what customers want, investing in new technology and staff, and having a clear idea of where you want to be, are all instrumental to you and your business succeeding.