8 Ways to Give Your Small Business an Edge on the Competition

July 7, 2017
The following eight tips will make you think twice about keeping your friends close and your competition even closer.

Does your small business’ marketing strategy need a pick-me-up? If your latest efforts to engage your loyal customers and overall target audience have hit a plateau, you might want to consider looking to your competition for pointers. Become a marketing sleuth. Is your competition utilizing one social media platform over another? Are they posting more branded visuals, videos, or infographics? These are just a couple of details you should scrutinize when it comes to your competition. The following eight tips will make you think twice about keeping your friends close and your competition even closer.

No. 1: Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. In order to do this well, you will need to collect as much information on competing businesses as possible. This information should include, but is definitely not limited to, locations, product/service knowledge, pricing, overall marketing messages, website addresses, and online reputations. For example, if one of your competitors possesses a sizable online media presence, you might want to consider building your business’ reputation through a digital press campaign.

No. 2: Categorize and conquer. Realistically, your competitors exist within three groups. The first group is your primary competitors, which offer the same product/service as your business and share your target audience(s). Next, there are your secondary rivals who either provide a higher- or lower-end version of your product/service, or they sell a similar commodity to a different group of target consumers. Your tertiary competitors are only related to your business extraneously. These contenders could serve as potential partners to your business, or even potential threats if they choose to change sails.

No. 3: Pretend to be a customer and shop your competition. This slice of advice is most beneficial for small businesses who operate brick-and-mortar storefronts. If you fall into this group, you ought to determine who sells the same products or services within a surrounding radius, then physically stop by these locations. What are your first impressions? Were you greeted warmly? Did anything stand out or surprise you? Pay special attention to the layout of the shop, as well as the workflow and customer service. Compare your findings with your own store and make the necessary changes to stay in step with your competitors. If your business sells its products/services online, keep track of competition for keywords with Google AdWords and SEMRush. Either way, you will definitely want to investigate your competitors’ websites and social media profiles. This will give you an idea of their social media marketing habits, which are becoming more and more lucrative for small businesses and corporations alike. What time of day do your competitors usually post on social media? When was the last time they updated their site? Identifying the answers to these questions will assist you with spotting the areas where your business can improve.

No. 4: Learn more about your competitors’ staff. Do the companies you compete with have a large staff mostly comprised of unskilled workers, or do they hire fewer yet more proficient employees? The goal in looking at your competitors’ staff is to discover ways to boost your own. Other aspects to consider include whether or not your rivals’ employees earn commission and how that affects overall performance. Sites such as Glassdoor offer insight into employee satisfaction and the inner workings of your competition’s business. You may also want to try to identify if third-party vendors or independent contractors are hired to reduce overhead. Although it might be difficult to obtain this information, it will be very useful if your business can get its hands on it. Public records can help you research the ownership and organizational history of competing brands, while searching online for any press they have received can also produce valuable data concerning reputation.

No. 5: Re-evaluate your own pricing based on your competitors. Only 8-15% of businesses employ value-based pricing techniques that are based on a customer’s willingness to pay for their particular product/service. This means you should not let your prices be influenced by a competitor's. Starting a price war mostly leads to costly losses that counteract your aspirations to increase your business’ profits. With that said, competitor-based pricing may work in a highly saturated and well-researched market, but it will be imperative for you to seek counsel from a qualified third party to ensure that your prices are just right.

No. 6: Look to your competitors for content inspiration. Maintaining a consistent yet impactful social media or blog presence is not always easy. Don’t be afraid to browse the content your competitors create and publish. You don’t want to just rip off your competition’s ideas nor acquire the reputation of a copycat, so look for ways to revamp material they’ve already covered as well as the topics and angles they have neglected. Analyzing your competitor’s content will be useful for identifying the direction of your own business’ strategy.

No. 7: Utilize link mirroring to compete for better SEO results. Although manually building links is no longer the cornerstone of SEO strategy, it will still be beneficial for your business to target specific link sources when seeking a competitive edge. Moz’s Open Site Explorer is a link research tool that can aid you in identifying the websites that link to competing brands. With this data under your belt, you can build a link profile that is similar to your higher ranking competitors or one that covers more ground. Knowing how your competitors stand with SEO will help you leverage your own online campaign.

No. 8: Use social media to your advantage. Your business will want to continually find ways to boost engagement on social media platforms as well as discover new tactics to expand its audience. Your competitors’ followers have an interest in your industry, so don’t shy away from sending them your own content. You may even want to work with your competitors directly. Guest posting and pooling resources on social media will be mutually beneficial for you and your rivals. It can open the door for guest posting on other industry sources and ultimately enable your business to reach a wider audience. Facebook Insights offers the handy “Pages to Watch” section, while Hootsuite and Oktopost have the capabilities to compare your business’ social media strategy to others through total views, sharing, and click-through rates. If your small business invests the time to investigate competing brands, they can become the greatest asset to your marketing strategy.

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