When you run a business, it’s essential that you know what your competition is doing. Understanding how they are working and what their strategies are will give you a better idea of what you can do, and how you can do it better. However, just copying the competition is never going to help you, and it will give people a bad impression of you. Instead, you need to keep ahead of your nearest rivals. Here are some ways that you can do it.

Know your competition

Unless you really know your competition, there is no way you can get ahead of them. You need to know them intimately, understand their motives for doing what they do, and see how they are make their marketing, for example, work for them. It’s essential that you know what your competitors are offering their customers too and of course, what their unique selling point (USP) is. Without knowing this, you can’t compete, and ultimately, you can’t differentiate yourself.

To find out all of these details, you may need to do some undercover digging. Perhaps send an email or phone like a customer would to ask questions. Bear in mind that they may well do the same thing to you and, as everyone knows, it’s all fair in business. Without this information, you could easily get stuck, so it is an essential part of your marketing and business growth strategy.

Know your customers

Unless you know your customers well and give them what they want every time, you could find that they migrate over to the competition rather than spending their hard-earned money with you. It can be a big problem for your business, especially if your cashflow is reliant on these customers, which is why it is so important to ask them what they want of you and then to act promptly on that information.

You can send out email surveys or leave feedback forms in your store if you have one. Alternatively, you could arrange a small gathering of customers to chat about your business and how you can improve it. People love to give advice, so an event such as this, especially if you provide food and drink, should always be well attended. The information you get from your customers could seriously help you to boost your business and not only retain the customers you already have, but find new ones along the way too.

Be clear about the differences

If no one can see how you differ from your competitors, it’s going to be hard to persuade them to use you instead of them. It is even truer if you have higher prices, or you are in a tricky place to get to physically. Therefore you must not only know how you differentiate, but you must let your potential customers know too.

Whatever your own USP is, it must tap into what the customers want as well as what they need. It should also include something that only you can do, and this is how you will show that what you sell and how you sell it can only come from you and not from your rivals in the area, or even further afield if you sell online. This can take a while to come up with, but without it, you could be losing custom without even realizing. To get people to walk through the door or click on your website you need to be different and you need to be obvious about it.

Keep learning

Just because you feel you are good at what you do, that doesn’t mean you haven’t got more to learn. If you can discover more and find new things to do what you do, searching out innovative methods that will impress your customers as well as giving them as good or even better service as you always have done, you are onto something special that will certainly make you stand out.

It might not even be something directly to do with your business as long as you feel you will be able to incorporate your learning into your strategies somehow. There are many different legal studies programs, for example, that could give you a better understanding of corporate law and what you should be doing to protect your customers. This kind of knowledge can be useful in ensuring your customers that their information is safe.

If you don’t keep learning, it will be easy for your competition to race past you, taking your customers with you in its wake.

Boost your marketing

Marketing is one of the most essential things you can do when you run a business. Determine the best way to market your product, it could be radio or TV ads, or it could be in print. You might choose to distribute leaflets through people’s doors or put up a big billboard. Whatever your particular business there will be an advertising strategy that works for you, and perhaps more than one.

This is where your competition can really help you. Take a look at how they are focusing their advertising. Look at it objectively and determine what you do or don’t like about it. When you know, and when you understand what it is about that ad that truly works (assuming it does) you can try to replicate that yourself. You can’t copy the ad. Doing so will look bad on you and won’t have the same impact as the first time it is seen, but you can use it to give you ideas that work along the same lines.

Once you have worked out how and where you will advertise, you will need to boost your efforts because you want your ad to be seen before or even rather than your competition.

Update yourself

Make sure you are always as up to date as possible. You can start with your image. If your premises could do with a coat of paint, for example, take the opportunity to have an update if you need to. Logos and fonts, even taglines, can easily fall out of favor and become old-fashioned looking and sounding. If you update your image, you will show customers that you are thinking of the future and that you recognize that things need to change. Your image includes not just your storefront if you have one, but also your website, business cards, branding, uniform and social media presence. Your image needs to reflect your USP, and if it doesn’t, that can be confusing and off-putting for customers. Don’t let them get away just because your image is out of date.

As well as your image, you need to ensure that your business has all the most up to date technology that it needs to progress and give your customers what they expect from you. If you don’t, your competition will.

Take care of your existing customers

If you are constantly looking out for new customers and spending all your time, energy, and money on finding them, you could be neglecting your existing customers, and that’s always a mistake. After all, these customers are the ones who have helped you get to where you are. Without them, you would lose a lot of money, so if they start drifting away because you aren’t paying them any attention, you may have financial troubles ahead.

These are the customers that your competitors are going to be targeting, just as you are targeting your competitors’ existing customers. If they don’t feel appreciated, they will go elsewhere. A leaflet through the mail slot or a flyer on the right noticeboard could be exactly the catalyst they need to stop using your services.

Plus it costs a lot more to find new customers than it does to retain and even upsell to existing ones, so if you want your bottom line to increase as much as possible, these are the people you need to please first before you start looking elsewhere.

Be a great employer

Your team is all-important when it comes to differentiating yourself from the competitors and doing the best job for your customers. That’s why it’s so important to be a great employer. You need to listen to your staff and implement their ideas if they are good enough. You also need to acknowledge good work.

Skilled, motivated staff members are the best way to build a business and a good reputation, and if you can hire the best people, you competitor won’t be able to! You will have the best team for looking after your customers and therefore the best chance of making a good profit.

Finding the right team is about more than just offering a good salary, although that will help. You should also consider the benefits that you will be offering and the long-term security of the role you are hiring for. These things are important and if you want to attract the best you need to be fair and flexible. When your great team is looking after the customers, you can concentrate on building the business.