Business is a competition. Competition is a business. As a startup, it may not seem like the competitive nature of the industry is a good thing for you. But actually, it is. Competition pushes you to be innovative, focused, and persevering. After all, every business in your niche will all be scrambling to have the bigger slice of the pie.
Rivals can make it harder to growth-hack.
But, of course, there’s the bad side to it. Rivals make it so much harder to get more customers and get more sales. Thankfully for you, you can learn from those that came before you. Some of which may even be your current competitors.
As Global Resources explained in its piece on Beating the Competition, “Having a challenger right on your heels pushes you to run faster, work harder and think deeper. It drives innovation, inspires perseverance and builds team spirit. Plus, competition just makes the game more interesting and a whole lot more fun.”
Finding a competitive edge against other businesses entails hard work. But you can follow these simple steps to help you get on the right track.
1. Find your strengths and build on them.
All products have their own strengths — something you offer better than your competition. If your wares don’t have any leverage over other brands then you have to go back to the drawing board.
Note that finding your product or service’s edge and capitalizing on them may spell the difference between bankruptcy or record-breaking sales.
Instead of trying to play your opponent’s game on their home court — imitating what makes them sell — why not focus on your own advantages? Put your efforts on improving your selling points than trying to copy other brands’ assets. This is a more efficient way of spending your time and resources. Emphasize on these and make sure your consumers know what makes your brand a better choice.
As Oleg Shchegolev, co-founder and CEO of SEMrush, would say, “Stop watching the competition and think for yourself.”
2. Keep tabs on your competition.
You shouldn’t copy the competition, but you shouldn’t disregard them either. Focusing on your brand and your consumers is your top priority, but knowing what your rivals are doing will help you plot your next steps.
Are they offering a new innovation? Applying a new strategy? Will these work for you? These are questions you should be asking yourself. You can’t get ahead of your competition if you have no idea what they’re doing.
As for your brand, being a startup may work to your advantage as big companies will probably not give you as much attention. You can go ninja on them and take over their market share without them realizing.
Additionally, Global Resources notes that “there is plenty to learn from the successes and failures of a worthy adversary.”
Simply put: Don’t lose sleep over them, but never ignore them.
3. Monitor your numbers.
How will you know if you’re now biting off a bigger piece of the market share pie if you don’t monitor your numbers? Businesses are all about numbers — costs, sales, revenue, prices, market shares, etc — so it’s important to keep track of your movement. Regardless if it’s a gain, and all the more if it’s a loss.
Especially for startups, knowing where you stand in the market, how far your consumer reach is, and what are the costs to achieve your goals are very important. Having concrete figures will also motivate you to improve them.
As Lewis Howes, New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur would put it: “Business is a game of inches where the smallest advancement or advantage can mean the difference between winning and losing.”
4. Value your customers.
Who is your business for, if not for the consumers? It’s not enough that you create a product that will make their lives easier, you should keep customer service as your top priority. Wanting to solve their problems easily and keeping them happy is what will make them stick with your brand.
Also, make sure that you listen to their suggestions, consider their ideas, and assure that you’re hearing them out. This could even be your competitive edge, what will make your brand endearing to customers.
Take for example, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk. In a short but very impactful social media conversation with a Tesla user, he reassured him that the company listens and cares about its consumers. Within 24 minutes, Musk has replied to a suggestion by the consumer, confirming that they will be implementing his requests in an upcoming update.
Talk about valuing the consumer.
Remember, no startup company started with the biggest consumer base in the market right off the bat. Every single business started from the bottom and worked their way up — Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Tesla, Virgin Atlantic. However, if you believe in your product, you have a concrete plan, a well-researched strategy, and the will to work eight days a week, 25 hours a day, it’ll be hard not to see your startup succeed and beat competition.
“For me, building a business is all about doing something to be proud of, bringing talented people together and creating something that's going to make a real difference to other people's lives,” Sir Richard Branson, business magnate and founder and CEO of Virgin Group.