Outsmart the competition, sell more than the competition, grow bigger than the competition, get more funding than the competition! Competition, competition, competition. Bad, elbow tactics, win, win, win. No, let’s talk about why you should love having competitors to pull focus back on yourself in strategic thinking! We will walk you through five different angles of viewing your competitors as an asset rather than nuisance or hindrance even: business strategy, accounting, marketing and sales, productivity, and customer experience. Use these to hone your expertise and increase profitability as a result.
1. Business Strategy
Strategically, it may be difficult at first to get a grasp of what a competitor is doing. Pay attention over a period of time though and notice how they may not have it all as together as they pretend to have. People are surprisingly dishonest when it comes to (perceived) success! Or their chaos is visible to all but themselves.
An example would be someone, who shares how well they are doing both financially and privately yet once you read their newsletter a year later, there comes the sad confession of how lonely, anxiety-filled and stressed out they were behind the scenes. Or they dress in expensive clothes and accessories to project a successful image, but it is unlikely given the completely messy business model they’ve chosen.
Moving on from solopreneur level to small business, we can wonder how an entrepreneur makes their business stay alive, when a team member needs to apply for governmental aid to get food on the table and bills paid. Or how a stagnant inventory is constantly on sale in their webshop.
No matter which of these you pick, the common denominator is lack of control.
Raise your awareness regardless of which stage your own business is at in its life cycle. Practice observing your work from the outside and you might catch loose ends in need of tying up.
Introduce yearly and quarterly planning sessions if you haven’t already. Shooting in the literal dark rarely makes anyone hit their business targets, so help yourself do better work by leading yourself and your team in clarity.
Get personal with your numbers. You would not believe how many have no idea of what happens financially in their business.
They don’t track key performance indicators (KPI) useful for their particular business model, and they don’t analyse effects of marketing campaigns on numbers. Did that Facebook ad cause the slight increase in sales, or could it have been some other reason? Since they focus only on the increase, they shove more money into the ads, without having absolute certainty that it was no other cause.
What will it cost to develop a new product? Yesterday we posted on our Instagram account about break-even analyses and how they should be done before starting to develop something new so you’re sure it’s a financially viable option. But if you are scared of numbers and keep telling yourself you can’t possibly learn, doing this sort of financially healthy number crunching likely doesn’t happen.
The first person to consult is your bookkeeper or accountant. As business owners we can’t and shouldn’t know everything, but a successful business doesn’t happen by accident.
Be bold and look at the numbers you receive monthly perhaps, the financial statements, and ask questions to learn.
3. Marketing & Sales
Value propositions are part of business strategy, but implementing them in marketing and sales efforts very much a practical and constant task. Your competitor is working hard and shows a great deal of possibly dormant talent, but when sales are few it’s because the customer doesn’t get it.
Be clear about why you exist (see our 3 Tips To Get Started With Business Strategy), where you are headed, exactly why someone should buy from you: what they will receive in exchange for money and why you are the best to sell them what they want or need.
Once you know why you are the best at your value proposition, you price accordingly instead of underselling. Underselling is the death of many a business, no matter how much expert talent the business owner may have had. Learn to fall in love with doing better business, as per our tagline, and increase profitability.
Running a business is leading it with stable finances happening in the background, and marketing is part of this, but your competitor tends to forget about the power of deep reading and life-long learning. Their loss!
Generally, successful people don’t have lots of time to spend in social media, so question where your efforts produce the best results. A clear division between work and leisure isn’t a given, but create this and you get ahead of your competition in some cases.
Scattering notes all over the place, choosing not to verbalise goals but taking it day by day just-in-time, allowing procrastination to happen, comparing to others and feeling lesser as a result, and many more harmful activities all add to overwhelm and decreased productivity.
Keep a list of so-called Someday/Maybe tasks and projects as per Getting Things Done by David Allen. This is one of the best parts of GTD, we think, because it forces you to prioritise and acknowledge that you have only so many hours at your disposal each day and then the calendar already moves on to the next one.
Ask other solopreneurs to join you in accountability challenges, support chats, etc. if you find it hard to work efficiently alone at all times. It’s more common than you might think to hit a wall simply because there is nobody else to talk internal business matters with.
Schedule outdoors walking meetings with yourself to get a daily dosis of daylight as well as clear the head away from your typical work environment. I find that it helps me a lot and today’s walk took me past our library.
5. Customer Experience
Pay attention to how you feel and react when shopping in others’ businesses. What makes you frustrated, annoyed, feel disrespected, unhappy or angry even? If any of those occur in your company, make it a priority to fix them immediately. Your competition surprisingly often chooses to ignore fixing what isn’t working and, not surprisingly, ego is involved.
Ask your team if you have employed others. Internal insight is far too often ignored, but involve your people and they will care enough to share their pointers and development ideas.
Ask your customers for feedback from time to time and be courageous enough to take all of it to heart, even when your initial reaction is unfavourable. Nobody said personal growth is easy, but growing as an individual means growing as a leader, and that means a better team working happily to serve customers.
Remember, a customer who bothers to give feedback wants to remain loyal. It’s when they go silent that you should worry, because silence means you already lost their business. All the big names have already said this, including Richard Branson about taking care of the team, who then takes care of the customers on your behalf, and Bill Gates on the best learning opportunities being from the angriest people.
Finally, if Customer Experience as a concept is a bit foggy, take a look at our blog post What Is Customer Experience or CX? for answers. It’s complex and not even global corporations get it right yet.
The heading says you should love the competition and we give you five reasons. They are not just tools or techniques to get ahead, but reasons. When you observe their doings, and learn from their mistakes and weak points, you have the privilege of free education. It’s all there, ready to be applied in practice!
What are your thoughts on this? Is there one area in which you feel particularly weak or strong?