No matter what market you’re in, effective competition can draw away your customers over time. If your competition can solve their audience’s problems and offer great customer service, they’ll create loyal customers who may be unwilling (or at least, unlikely) to come back to your brand.
It’s possible for any business to beat the competition at their own game and win back their target audience.
By focusing on a few different problem areas, small businesses can stand up to their competitors, and secure new customers. With these strategies, you can identify where your competition is outdoing you and know how to take back the lead.
1. Knowing What Your Customers Need
Every good business plan starts with identifying customer needs and pain points — specific problems your customers have that they can’t seem to solve.
Identifying unmet needs and unresolved pain points can allow you to develop better offerings and also find new ways to market the products and services you already provide.
Knowing which questions to ask will help you identify these pain points and start to formulate a plan of action that will help you can solve them.
Ideally, this will mean that you can provide solutions to customer problems, and not just a product or service.
Researching the competition and finding out what customer needs they’re focused on is also important. Your approaches are likely to overlap — but you may find that they’re putting a unique spin on their marketing or tackling pain points that you haven’t been able to solve.
This research can help you change up your approach to marketing. For example, you may find that you would benefit from offering new services or finding ways to solve current customer pain points with the services you already provide.
2. Points of Difference
In a crowded market, businesses that look like everyone else won’t stand out. Even if you offer high-quality products and provide excellent customer service, you may struggle to draw in customers if your marketing isn’t all that unique.
This is why successful businesses emphasize their points of difference (PODs) — or what makes your company different from the competition.
Do you have a unique product with benefits no one else can provide? Do you go the extra mile when it comes to customer service? Or do you have a unique mission — like a commitment to sustainability, or giving back to your community? Asking questions like these can help you identify what sets your business apart from the competition.
On the level of individual marketing campaigns, being willing to think outside the box can help your business. Safer ads are less likely to grab a customer’s eye than more ambitious marketing.
In some cases, this may mean finding a niche within your market and pursuing it aggressively. You may want to reorient your business plan to tackle a particular set of issues or needs a customer group is having. You may also want to specialize in a particular kind of service you already offer.
In other cases, you may want to find a way to stand out within the niche you’re already in. Unique packaging design, bold graphics and more experimental advertising can be a great way to draw the attention of your audience if you already have your niche locked down.
3. Local Marketing and Segmentation
If your business has a physical presence, or mostly operates in the same region, local or area marketing can be an extremely powerful tool.
Tabling at events, partnering with other area businesses and sponsoring area charities can all be effective ways to generate word of mouth where your business operates.
To make your marketing and business plans more effective, you may also want to map out the competition. Business mapping can help you plan expansion, or figure out which regions to prioritize in your advertising. A good map can also help you identify the areas your competitors have locked down — and the areas where customer needs are going unmet.
4. Unique Business Models
In some cases, a company’s business model may be holding them back.
Innovation and unique services that competitors don’t offer, for example, may help a business get ahead of the competition.
Flexible pricing models and payment plans can also help, especially if your services are a major investment, like home repairs or renovations.
5. Brand Loyalty and Customer Retention
If you want to keep your customers engaging with your business you’ll need to actively work on your business’s customer retention.
Customer retention programs and strategies, like loyalty programs or communication calendars can help you make sure that you’re keeping existing customers in the loop about new deals and offerings.
Marketing personalization can also be a great way to keep customers engaged. Personalization will also help you ensure that your marketing communications — like emails and app push notifications — are providing most relevant updates possible.
Having strong brand values can also help keep customers around. If you prioritize business values like convenience, or if you have a mission that resonates with customers, people may be more willing to stick with your brand, even if the competition is working hard to capture their attention.
Beating the Competition and Building Customer Loyalty
If the competition is drawing away customers from your business, looking at these problem areas may help.
Identifying what your customers need, marketing locally and emphasizing what makes your business unique can help you stand out from the competition and bring back customers to your business.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.