If you run a small business, chances are you have some form of competition whether it’s direct or indirect. Chances are even greater that you may be subtly paying attention to how these competing businesses serve their markets in an effort to go above and beyond with your own customer service strategies.
How can your business stay ahead of its competitors without being too obvious about it? Follow these tips to gain a competitive edge.
Read Industry Reports
The fastest way to gain a competitive edge in your industry is to eat, sleep and breathe the industry your business is in.
Read industry reports, strategic planning guides and trend forecast information available from analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester Research. Keep your finger on the pulse with what’s trending and find ways where your business can contribute to the conversation. Your business will be better able to stand out and stay ahead of the competition once it knows the ins and outs of its industry.
Monitor Your Competition’s Social Media Accounts
Studying the competition’s social media accounts is about more than watching which platforms they have a presence on. What kind of content are they posting? How often do they post content? How many followers regularly engage with their content? What kinds of comments do you see most frequently? Can you pick up the voice of the business simply by visiting their pages? And how often does their following increase per platform?
Take notes on how competing businesses use social media, whether it’s to their advantage or disadvantage. Use your observations to better inform your own social media strategy for how you will create content, share it and interact with existing followers as well as draw in new ones.
Read Customer Reviews
Head to every crowdsourced review platform where your competition may have a presence, including Yelp and Trustpilot, and read what real customers have to say about the business.
What do customers like and dislike about their customer experience? Learning more about what customers don’t like about a competing business gives your business the chance to provide a much more satisfying experience which sways unhappy customers from a competing business in the direction of your business.
Read Employee Reviews
In addition to knowing what customers like and dislike about a competing business, it can be helpful to visit sites like Glassdoor and get a firsthand perspective from former and current staff about how the business is run. If you’re struggling to hire, you may use the information you find on Glassdoor to recruit talented employees away from competing businesses to come work for your company.
Share Evidence From Happy Customers
As you study what competitors are doing well or doing wrong, do not forget to highlight your own wins. If a customer writes a positive review about your business, share it on your social media accounts. Owners of the business may write back and thank the reviewer in a timely manner on platforms like Yelp and the business may also write back on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Similarly, if a customer review is unhappy or negative do not try to hide it or avoid responding. Reach out to the customer to let them know you received their review and address it privately in a DM or PM, depending on the social media platform.
Develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Can you identify one specific benefit which differentiates your business and its offerings from competitors? This is your unique selling proposition or USP.
For example, your business might be a company selling T-shirts. Let’s say it’s you and two competing businesses: business A and business B. Business A does not use organic cotton in its materials. This gives your business its USP since you do use organic cotton.
But wait! Business B also uses organic cotton to sell its shirts. What now? Take a closer look at business B and see if there’s anywhere else you can differentiate. Maybe it relys on ads that are viral but not necessarily honest. This can be another USP in your company’s corner: honest advertising.
Keep going and look for every opportunity to showcase your strengths. Identifying your USP not only helps you stand out from the competition, but it allows your business to give its customers the best experience possible.
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