|1. Know what the competition are up to |
It sounds pretty obvious that, in order to stay ahead of the competition, you need to know what they are doing. You want to be benchmarking yourself against them, watching how their work is resonating within your target market and seeing their campaigns land so, if it is affecting your business, you know to join the dots.
But, more than all that, you also want to know how to outshine them!
A lot of business professionals will admit to you that they don’t spend enough time scanning the competitive environment. Why? Because it can feel like a mammoth task.
However, by using just a few key touch points you can keep your finger on the pulse. Simply signing up to your competitors’ newsletters, following their social channels and checking out their blog every few weeks will help you identify opportunities to outshine them.
Be careful not to overwhelm yourself… be realistic when you choose how many competitors you track. We would suggest choosing the two or three that are most important to you. Then, add an aspirational competitor or two into the mix; by keeping an eye on the businesses you would love to be competing with one day, you will help give your company focus and drive.
2. Differentiate your offering
You need to differentiate your offering sufficiently to make your services seem more appealing in a competitive market.
Take some time to sit down and think about what truly makes you different in the market. This won’t be the same as what makes you a good business; you could be friendly, highly skilled and trustworthy, but if all the businesses in the competitive space offer those same things, then they are not creating differentiation for you.
The best thing to do is to start with marketing research – what do your priority buyer groups want? Where can you meet their needs where others don’t? If the answer is ‘nowhere’, how can you evolve your business to make it more differentiated? Once you have some ideas on the table, it’s important to ask yourself how differentiates help you achieve your business goals to ensure they stay aligned. It’s no good offering a 50% price reduction to differentiate yourself if, despite it being very attractive to clients, it means that you can’t grow commercially in the way you need to.
Even if you think you know what your differentiators are, it’s worth revisiting them regularly. Companies in our space grow and change constantly… is your business the same as it once was? Possibly not. With M&A activity on the rise, do you have different competitors against which to differentiate now? Highly likely. Have you got something new, such as increased investment, that could be formed into a point of differentiation? It’s worth a think.
3. Leverage your marketing mix
Now you know what makes your business the very best option for your clients, it’s time to let them know. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here… it’s all about leveraging your brand, channels and resources in a way that makes sense.
Maybe your brand doesn’t communicate who you are? It’s one of your most important tools, so don’t neglect it. Consider a brand refresh or rebrand project.
Maybe digital channels like social media are draining your resources with no tangible impact on web traffic? Go back to the drawing board. Ensure you have a clear purpose for each channel and produce a simple digital strategy to align all your efforts and maximise resources.
Maybe your brand and channel usage is strong, but your website doesn’t perform for you as a lead generation tool? It’s definitely time to take action. Without a strong website, all your efforts to generate traffic get lost the moment a user arrives on the site.
Maybe your business is doing all the right things but just isn’t getting the visibility it deserves? Maybe it’s time to consider employing awareness tactics and investing in PR.
4. Strategically attend events
Be strategic about event attendance and don’t be led by others. Now that events are back with a bang in the sector, you may see competitors rushing to book their places at every one, but don’t follow them blindly. Carve your own path.
Did you manage just fine without events during the pandemic? If so, how important is a return to events for you, really? Make sure to layer your new event strategy on top of what’s been working for you over the past few years – don’t just rush to go back to your old ways. Let your competitors do that if they want, you’ll only reap the benefits of continuing to invest your budget in different ways.
When you do choose to go to an event, don’t shy away from opportunities to go toe-to-toe with your competitors… doing so can be a huge benefit of attending shows and conferences.
Make sure to keep an eye on them throughout the event. Ask yourself, how does your brand stand up to theirs? Does their stall attract more prospects? Is their messaging more powerful? Are people enjoying their resources and merchandise? Who’s gaining more traction? Regardless of whether you feel your brand or theirs comes out on top, you will have learnt a huge number of valuable lessons.
5. Embrace B2C tactics
Business-to-business marketing is traditionally seen as something that need not employ the creativity that business-to-consumer marketing relies on. After all, all B2B decision makers want is professionalism, right?
It’s impossible to market to a business – it’s important to remember that you are always marketing to people. Dry professionalism or generic designs just won’t cut the mustard anymore; individuals are advertised to every few seconds of their waking life, so you need to cut through the noise to make them take notice.
Take a few leaves out of the B2C book: be fun, live your values loudly, embrace creativity, try new things and let your personality shine. Don’t rely on what’s always been done before. Carve a new way forward for your brand that’s focused on individuals.