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Taking the Lead: Tips on How to Differentiate Your Small Business from its Competition

In any industry, competition is bound to exist. As a small business, you have to find ways to emphasize your unique qualities to stand out from the rest. Your product, branding, and customer service efforts should all be a reflection of your businesses identity. You want to gain customer loyalty to ensure success into the future. Here are a number of ways you can work to be a step ahead of your competition.

Study Competition in the Industry

In order to stand out among your competitors, you have to familiarize yourself with what others offer. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of those who offer similar services will enable you to target areas for growth. Approach your competition as a customer by subscribing to their newsletter and purchasing their product. This will give you an idea of their sales process and customer service. As you develop your own business plan, brainstorm ways in which you can be more efficient and better meet the needs of customers compared to your competitors.

If you take a look at local restaurants, many have to find ways to gain more customers. The Original Oyster House is a locally owned restaurant in Alabama that serves Gulf Seafood. If you look at their Twitter page, you can see they set themselves apart by showcasing their product and services through unique content. They even publicize how they reach out to military families once a week by offering them a discount on their meal. These efforts distinguish them from other small businesses in the area.

Have a Clear Brand Identity

Once you have gained insight into what you are up against, develop your brand identity. What do you want to communicate to your customers? What benefits are associated with your brand? Create a logo and tagline that are consistent with your brand. Feature it on your website and social media platforms. When you choose a domain name, make sure it is memorable and representative of the image you hope to project. Let your brand’s personality shine forth in your tone and style of writing. If you are a brand that exudes a professional feel, make sure all your correspondence is written to reflect that tone.

Take a look at Lewis Communications Inc’s site to get a general idea of how to get your brand to speak to customers. The advertising agency’s work speaks for itself in high quality video. The writing style is simple and straightforward. Potential clients come away with a feeling that the agency has a strong creative spirit. Strive to leave your customers with a general sense of what makes you unique.

Address the Pain Points in Your Industry

Take a look at your industry and identify any areas where customers are not having their demands met. For example, if you are the owner of a local cleaners you may find customers complain about hours of operation. Maybe most cleaners aren’t open after five or on weekends. You can address this need by adjusting your hours to fit their needs. Doing so will gain you more customers and speak to your dedication to customer service. The key is to always talk to your clients to see what they would like to see offered. You can adjust your business accordingly.

Be Known for Your Customer Service

Make sure your business offers superior customer service to beat out the competition. Hire quality employees and train them to ensure clients receive the attention and care they need. Customer service extends beyond face to face interactions and phone conversations. It also need to be addressed on online. Use Hootsuite to monitor the conversations centered on your brand. Be a part of the conversations and respond quickly to customer concerns. You want to avoid letting negative posts spread on the web. If you tend to customer’s needs and carry out promises, you can increase the amount of positive feedback and reviews you receive. Clients appreciate good service and it’s an effective way to distinguish yourself from your competitor.

Reply to Every Review

Speaking of reviews, it’s important to put time and effort into replying to every one. Customers take the time to give you feedback, so the least you can do is take the time to say thank you. This helps potential customers to see that you’re active and committed to ensuring your customers are happy. But why do you need reviews, you might ask? Reviews are the only way for online customers to check that your service is as good as you say it is. It’s almost like asking someone who just came out of a shop you’re about to head into if there was anything good inside. If they say it’s great inside, you’re more likely to go in. If they say it’s awful, you probably wouldn’t bother to even step through the door.

Focus on Niche Marketing

Specializing in one area of your industry can set you apart from your competition. Niche marketing is a practice you can implement to focus in on a particular audience with a specific interest. Many businesses try to reach broader needs. If you take a different approach by developing an expertise in one area, clients will feel you are the best source for their needs. This will give you an advantage over others in your industry. Hopsters is a business that has incorporated niche marketing to find success. It targets young professionals by offering them a place to brew their own beer. By creating a marketing strategy for a particular demographic, they were able to better create a unique and well-received experience.

Show Generosity

Building your reputation among customers can help you grow your business. One way you can do this is by supporting a specific cause. Offer a percentage of your sales to an organization you care about. Customers will have an even bigger incentive to shop in your store. You can also increase your visibility by supporting community events. Serving as a sponsor of a race or donating items for an event can gain more attention for your business. Outreach efforts highlight the values of your small business.

Make Appealing Offers

One way you can gain customers is by offering great deals, discounts and guarantees. You can offer a week long free trial so customers can be sure your product meets their needs. Offer specials on certain days so customers can buy your product at a reduced price. Often times, what makes a potential client turn into a buyer is the security of knowing they are getting value from the item. If you guarantee the benefits of your product or service, you can eliminate their doubts and trump the competition.

Personalize Interactions with Customers

As a small business, you have the advantage over large companies that can’t offer personalized customer service. Given the size of your business, you will be able to offer one-on-one care and advice. Try to build long term relationships with clients. Note their names and stories they tell you so you can bring them up the next time they visit. They will appreciate your attention and are more likely to become return customers. Those who buy your products can also become great promotional assets and advocates for your brand. Ensure they spread a positive message about your services by treating them with the utmost care. You want clients to feel valued so go the extra mile to make sure they are satisfied.