Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.
There are many ways that small businesses can compete in today’s market, and depending on the industry, different approaches may work better than others. But when it comes to keeping up with larger companies and still managing to pay your employees every two weeks, you need all the help you can get. Here are 10 strategies on how small businesses can compete in today’s market.
- Create a Solid Marketing Plan
- Use Growth Hacking for Your Business
- Know Your Customer Base
- Figure Out What Makes You Different From Competitors
- Keep an Eye on Competitors’ Marketing Strategies
- Invest in Paid Advertising
- Think Like Your Consumer
- Reach Out to Influencers and Increase Brand Awareness
- Be Creative With Other Companies’ Products or Services
- Start Using Digital Tools Right Away
1. Create a Solid Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is a road map that shows you exactly how you’re going to compete. It maps out your entire marketing strategy and allows you to take a bird’s-eye view of all aspects of your small business.
A well-written marketing plan can help you get your business off the ground and set it on the right path.
A good marketing plan will not only help you stand out from the crowd, but it can also help you understand your customers, develop more effective marketing strategies, and measure and track your success.
Writing a good marketing plan takes time. It can be tempting to just jump right in and start spending money on advertisements, but if you don't have a clear strategy or a clear understanding of your target audience, then all that money could be wasted.
Here are some tips to help you write a good marketing plan:
Do your research. A solid marketing plan needs to be rooted in real data about your target audience and the market you’re entering. The more information you can gather, the more effective your plan will be.
Outline your goals. Great plans start with a clear set of goals. Be as specific as possible and make sure each goal is measurable so that you can track how well your business is doing at meeting its objectives.
Decide how you’ll measure success. Without metrics, it’s hard to know whether or not your plan is working — and to figure out what needs to change when it isn’t. Decide what tools you’ll use to measure progress (for example, Google Analytics) and set up tracking in advance so that you have time to interpret the results before they’re due.
Define your budget. If you don’t know how much money you have to spend, it’s hard to decide which strategies will work best for your business. Set a realistic budget and then determine how much of that money should go into each effort (content creation, social media advertising, etc.).
Set timelines for implementation. Your marketing plan should include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll execute your strategy. If you wait until after you’ve created your plan to determine how long it will take to execute each action, then everything will end up being thrown together at once, and nothing will be given enough time or attention to reach its full potential.
Make sure your plan is easy to understand. Since you’ll be handing off your marketing plan to many different people (your co-workers, team members, investors), it needs to be well-organized and clear enough that anyone can read it. If you use jargon or acronyms that someone outside of your industry won’t understand, then you’re missing out on a great opportunity for effective communication.
2. Use Growth Hacking for Your Business
If you are a business owner, you will need to learn how to use growth hacking for your business. Growth hacking is a process that involves experimenting with marketing methods to get results more rapidly than traditional marketing approaches would allow.
Growth hackers are people who can develop and implement marketing strategies that will increase market share and profits. These people have a different way of thinking compared to other marketers. They have mastered the art of generating leads in a cost-effective way while also increasing online visibility.
Unlike larger companies, start-ups often have limited resources to invest in marketing. This means that they have to focus on getting the best return on their investment in marketing efforts. One way to do this is by using a growth hacking process which involves trying different marketing approaches and seeing what works best.
Some of the strategies that growth hackers use include:
A/B testing - This is using 2 or more versions of a website to test which one performs best. This approach aims to improve conversion rates by changing design elements such as font size, color combinations, spacing, layout, etc.
Content Marketing - Content marketing is a type of internet marketing that involves generating, publishing, and distributing content to a specific audience. It is often used by businesses in order to: attract attention and generate leads; expand their customer base; generate or increase online sales; increase brand awareness or credibility; engage an online community of users.
Referral programs - These are incentives given to current customers to sign up new customers. Dropbox and Uber are two companies that have successfully used this growth hacking technique.
Paid marketing - This is one of the most common methods for growing a customer base. Paid marketing includes pay-per-click advertising, social media ads, and banner ads.
Viral marketing - Viral marketing is the art and science of creating viral messages that can be used to promote a product. The goal of this type of campaign is to reach as many people as possible by creating an infectious buzz. While the specific elements of a viral message may change from one piece to another, there are certain things that always remain the same.
Creating compelling content - This could be a product guide, meme or infographic. The idea is to create something people want to share with their friends.
Encouraging referrals - By offering discounts or free stuff for referrals, growth hackers can get existing users to spread the word about their products.
Creating viral loops - Growth hackers design their websites so users are encouraged to invite others to sign up and use the site, too. For example, when a user creates a new account on Dropbox, they’re encouraged to invite friends to sign up for the service as well.
Getting press coverage - Getting the media talking about your startup is one of the best ways to build brand awareness and generate leads. Growth hackers are always thinking of creative ways to get media outlets writing about them (e.g., using Kickstarter).
3. Know Your Customer Base
The third strategy for competing in today's market is to know your customer base. If you're a small business, this is much easier than it is for larger companies. You can develop a personal relationship with customers, get to know them and their families, and learn about their needs.
If you're selling products, as opposed to a service, you need to know what your customers like and dislike about the items they purchase from you. If you don't know this, ask them! A survey can be an easy way to collect this information. This will help you focus on the products that are important to your customers and perhaps eliminate some of the items that aren't.
As a small business owner, you need to have a clear picture of who your ideal customer is so that you can make sure everything you do is focused on attracting more of those people. When you have a clear profile of the type of person who buys your products or services, it makes every future decision easy because it allows you to find more people just like them - otherwise known as "your people."
It is critical to understand who your target customers are as early as possible in your business venture. Without this knowledge, you will waste valuable time and money trying to sell to everyone when nobody really wants what you're selling. You'll also find it difficult to obtain financing because lenders will want to see that you have a firm understanding of what your market demands before they invest their money with you.
Here are some key considerations to help you understand your target audience:
Age, gender, marital status, and other demographics are crucial in understanding your customers’ needs and purchasing habits. Some of these factors will influence which marketing channels or messaging tactics you choose. For example, a direct mail campaign is more likely to reach older audiences, while younger shoppers may be more responsive to social media marketing.
The term psychographics refers to consumer attitudes, interests, and behaviors. If a customer is a fan of a certain sports team or type of music, that information can help you make connections with them on social media by sharing relevant content. A consumer’s lifestyle can also give you clues about their needs and how you can meet those needs with your products.
The location of your target customers will affect how you market to them, for example by determining how much of your advertising budget should go toward online compared to traditional channels. It will also affect the types of products and services that are most relevant to them as well as pricing considerations.
4. Figure Out What Makes You Different From Competitors
Until the last decade, small businesses have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to competing against large companies. Big brands like Walmart, Amazon, and Starbucks have done a great job of dominating the market through their influence and resources. However, with the rise of social media and other digital channels, small businesses have an opportunity to compete.
To compete with big brands in today's market, small businesses need to follow these strategies:
- Focus on what makes you different from your competitors. What sets you apart from others? Why should customers buy from you instead of your competitors in the market? What is your unique selling proposition? If you cannot answer these questions, then consider developing a USP or marketing message that clearly differentiates you from your major competitors.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest technology. This includes being active on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Also, make sure your website has mobile-friendly capabilities since most people use their phones to search the internet.
- Keep up with the latest trends in your industry or niche market. Subscribe to industry publications and consider joining trade associations so that you can learn more about what's going on in your industry and take advantage of new business opportunities before they disappear into thin air like a flash mob!
- Find out what customers want by asking them directly through email surveys and other methods like conducting focus groups with current clients who are willing to share their thoughts about how well your company does compare to competitors.
- Use online surveys and poll your customers to find out what they think of your business and how you can improve it. You will be surprised by what you'll learn!
5. Keep an Eye on Competitors’ Marketing Strategies
Another important strategy is to keep an eye on competitors' marketing strategies. This can help you understand what is and isn't working in your industry.
This will allow you to see which of your competitors are creating great content, what their audience thinks of it, and how they are getting the word out. With this information, you'll be able to create content that stands out from the crowd and connect with your target audience more effectively.
Here are six tips for keeping tabs on competitors' marketing strategies:
See what kind of social media platforms they're using. If you don't already follow them, add your competitors' profiles to your list of people to follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Pay attention to the content they post and how often they post it. How many followers do they have? What kind of content gets the most engagement?
Subscribe to their emails and newsletters. Click on their ads and follow the links they publish in social media posts. See what kind of content they're promoting and how often they're sharing it.
Set up Google alerts for your top competitors so you'll be notified whenever news about them is published online. This can also help you see whether or not there's negative information about them out there that you should try to distance yourself from (unless it's something serious). You can also set up Google Alerts for the products or services you sell so when someone writes about them online, you get an email letting you know what they said.
Monitor their websites. Create a dashboard using Google Analytics or another third-party website analytics program to monitor how much traffic each of your competitors gets as well as what keywords people are using to find them.
Use tools to see what they’re doing online. Google Alerts is an excellent tool for staying on top of the competition. You can see who has mentioned them recently online, and then find ways to connect with that audience.
Follow them on social media. All businesses should have business social media accounts, so take a look at what they’re doing — and how their audience interacts with their posts — to get ideas for your own business' social media strategy.
Sign up for their email newsletter. Meet your competition where they are by signing up for their emails. This will give you insight into how they communicate with customers, which can help inform how you communicate with yours.
Connect with common connections and fans of your competitor via LinkedIn. LinkedIn offers many opportunities for networking, so use it as a tool to meet people who are connected to people who are connected to your competitors.
6. Invest in Paid Advertising
When it comes to marketing, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You have to invest in paid advertising to compete with your competitors in today's market if you want to grow your business.
Paid advertising on the web can be a great investment for your business. If you're skeptical, consider this: You're already investing time and money in building an awesome website and developing wonderful products and services — but how much time are you spending supporting those efforts?
It's all too easy to put all of your eggs in one basket, assuming that your website will be the center of your marketing universe. But relying on organic traffic and social media mentions can only get you so far.
Here are reasons why it's so important:
You want out-of-the-box thinking! You need an innovative approach that can look at the big picture and see how each piece of the puzzle fits together. There are plenty of bright minds available that are not only cost-effective but also capable of exceeding your expectations in ways you may not have thought of.
You want the best! You want to make sure that the people who represent your brand have experience working with a wide variety of clients across many different industries — from large corporations to startups and everything in between.
You want an agency partner! It's not about one-time projects or quick fixes; it's about building a long-term relationship that will grow as you grow your business. Hiring an agency allows for flexibility when things change in your business model or goals shift over time. It allows for ongoing optimization based on results and feedback from both sides.
7. Think Like Your Consumer
When you're selling a product or a service, it's important to think like your customer would. You need to think about what questions they might have about your offering, what problems it solves for them, and why they should care about buying from you instead of a competitor. Once you know these things, you can start creating content that answers their questions and helps them make a decision.
Here are some basic steps:
Make a list of everything your customers need to know before making a purchase. Some of this will be obvious — whether your product is new or used, for example. But much of it might be less obvious and requires you to think about their perspective. What would help persuade them?
Write down the questions that come up most frequently in conversations with customers or potential customers. This might include things like shipping costs, whether there are warranties or guarantees if it's made from environmentally friendly materials, and so on.
Create a blog post that answers each question in turn. You don't have to create one blog post for each question — you could create one long post with subheadings for each topic, but in general, it's better to create multiple posts on different topics that your target audience will find useful. That way they can read only the ones they care about, and then come back later when there's something else they want to know about.
Make sure to include product descriptions that are clear and easy to understand. Keep them short, but don't try to make them too short either — your customers won't buy from you if they don't have enough information about what you're selling.
8. Reach Out to Influencers and Increase Brand Awareness
Being an influencer is a valid strategy if you're already well-known and have established a loyal following. However, if you're trying to promote your brand, being perceived as an influencer can backfire because it can lead to the perception that you have little influence over what you're promoting.
For example, if you're posting about a product that your company makes, people could wonder why you're promoting the product instead of just telling them about it. If you're creating content for a brand that's well-known but not widely distributed, people could wonder why you're promoting something they've never heard of.
In addition to being perceived as an influencer, reaching out to influencers also opens your company up to criticism. People who are criticizing your company might say things like "Wow, look at this amazing new product from X Company! I love it! I'm going to buy it right now!" But when they see your face on the product photo or hear that you were involved in its creation, they'll want to talk about how much they paid for it in comparison with what they would've paid for the same thing from your competitor's brand.
This could leave you open to accusations of price-gouging or fraud to combat these potential issues, make sure you're only working with a niche audience: either target influencers who are well-known and popular among a niche audience or create content specifically for a niche audience.
Here are some quick tips on how to determine who is a good fit:
- Decide what kind of influencer you want to target. Do you want someone with a lot of followers or someone with a specific niche? If you have a specific goal in mind, look for someone within that niche with large followings. If you're looking for general exposure, look for lots of followers across a variety of different categories and industries.
- Check out their social media profiles and see if they have an active following that you can tap into.
- Ask them what they're looking for from an influencer marketing campaign, such as increased engagement or increased sales through product promotion.
- Determine whether or not they would be open to working with you by having conversations about the project or event that you're planning.
9. Be Creative With Other Companies’ Products or Services
If you're planning to compete with your competitors, you can do more than just offer similar products or services at a lower price. You can also be creative and offer something totally different.
Instead of competing on the same battlefield, you can use a different type of weapon to win the war.
If your competitors are offering similar products or services, and you're unable to compete on price, then here are some ideas for how you can compete with them in other ways:
Offer a service that's a different price point from your competitors' services. For example, if your competitors' prices range from $50-$100 for a service, then offer yours for $200. Charge more for your higher-end service and charge less for your lower-end service. (See also: How to Price Your Services)
Offer a product that's a different size from your competitors' products. For example, if their products come in "small," "medium," and "large" sizes, then offer yours in "mini," "regular," and "mega" sizes.
Offer a product that's a different color than your competitors' products. For example, if they only sell blue T-shirts, then sell red ones instead.
Offer a product or services that are similar to your competitors', but unique, you may be able to charge more for your offerings. Of course, as with all things in business, it takes hard work and determination. You must truly believe that what you're offering is valuable enough to set it apart from your competitors' offerings. Be sure that you have confidence and a plan of action to make what you're offering attractive to potential customers or clients.
offer a higher quality product or service than your competitors, then price becomes less relevant to customers who are willing to pay for this quality/value.
Offer an after-sales service that is significantly better than that provided by your competitors.
10. Start Using Digital Tools Right Away
Many small businesses are competing in a marketplace where digital tools are no longer optional. From marketing to sales and customer service, these tools can help you manage all aspects of your business more efficiently and effectively. Often, your business's success may depend on it.
As a small business owner, it's up to you to stay in tune with the latest trends and know when it's time to adopt new tech tools. If you wait too long, you could find yourself at a competitive disadvantage against larger companies with bigger budgets.
To be sure you're always in step with your competitors, here are six ways to use digital tools right away:
Marketing automation software. With marketing automation software such as HubSpot or Marketo, you can manage all of your marketing campaigns from one place. The software integrates with other business technologies, such as CRM systems, so that data can pass back and forth seamlessly between applications. This makes it easier to track the success of campaigns by seeing which ones generated leads and how many converted into customers.
Shopping cart platforms. You can set up an e-commerce website and accept payments from customers without any technical expertise thanks to shopping cart platforms like BigCommerce or Shopify. These tools can save you thousands of dollars in coding fees by providing everything you need to get started for free or a nominal fee.
Get a mobile-friendly website. This means you can make purchases and sign up for services on any device — not just a desktop computer. Here's why it matters: More than half of all online traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets, according to TechCrunch.
Post on your social media accounts. Social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are free to use (at least for now). There's no better way to keep your business top of mind. Updating your status is easy, too. Just talk about the latest news at your business or the new products you have available. Ask questions to get people to interact with your posts. Post photos of your products or customers using them. Your posts don't have to be long — a few sentences will do fine — but they should be regular.
Start a blog or newsletter. It's another great way to let people know what's going on at your company. You can use the same content in both places and share it through your social media accounts as well!
Collect email addresses from customers who visit your store(s). All you need is a clipboard and some paper forms, although there are many marketing automation tools. One of HubSpot’s main selling points is that it integrates with many other tools, including customer relationship management systems like Salesforce, email marketing software such as MailChimp, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Muhammad Rafiq