What the Competition Doesn’t Want You to Know About Your Industry
Figuring out how to stay a step ahead of your competitors is no easy task. You have to keep a good working relationship with others, be a good sport but also get ahead of the game. Knowing as much about your industry as possible helps you predict future trends and prepare for them. However, your competitors may keep some trade secrets close to the vest.
According to the United States Small Business Administration profile report, approximately 32.5 million small businesses exist. A net increase of 42,650 companies happened after the pandemic struck. Many people either left their positions or were laid off and chose to start their own firms.
You may find you have more competition than at any point in the past, or you may be one of the new startups trying to find your niche.
You may wonder if you should even consider sharing information. After all, the people you give the data to may outshine you and steal some of your customers. The business world is full of stories of unscrupulous competitors.
There are some types of information you can share to develop a good rapport with your rivals, such as meeting regulations in the industry. There are other things you should keep silent on and protect your proprietary information.
Here are some things to keep in mind that your competition may not want you to know, but you can learn from.
1. Know Your Audience
When creating buyer personas, you should dig down into both demographic and psychographic data about your typical customer. Your business may be a bit different than the others in your field, so your customer base might be slightly varied from your closest competitor.
However, you can also learn by studying who buys from other companies. For example, if you cater to the younger crowd and another brand caters to baby boomers, what does their audience look like? How does it vary from yours? What are they doing successfully for marketing that you can repeat but with a younger focus?
2. Heat Map Your Processes
Heatmaps give you a visual tool to see how well your current efforts work with your customers. Other brands may use heat maps to improve their website, sales territories, and even customer service.
Heat maps give your business a considerable edge over your competitors. You can improve communication within your organization, get a grasp of time-based trends and figure out what areas are underserved and where you can most easily grow your sales territories.
Your top competitors likely already use heat maps for at least some of these tasks. Look at where you can utilize the technology to better serve your users.
3. Drive Quality with Rivalry
Your competitors may use competition with you to spur their staff toward greatness. If you don’t have any outside forces to measure up to, it’s hard to know exactly how well you’re doing. However, if you compare your progress with another brand, you can easily see if you’re falling behind.
Make sure any rivalry you encourage is friendly. You want your employees to strive to do better than the other companies out there, but not play dirty. Your reputation as an honest and fair company is far more important than winning a particular client or beating another brand on a launch date.
4. Understand Customer Impact
Customers have a lot more bargaining power than you might think. The more competition in an industry, the more bargaining power they have, as they can take their business to the lowest bidder.
Industries with low entry barriers may create the perfect storm where you have to offer your services at such a low rate that you have a low profit margin.
Seek to find services or products unique to your business. If you’re the only one offering something or providing it in a specific way, you can charge more. Make sure you’re the go-to guru in your field. People will pay more for a better experience, but only if it’s noticeably better or higher quality.
5. Seek Multiple Suppliers
Data shows retailers kept 43 days of inventory in February 2020 but the pandemic and demand for some products has led to a 33-day inventory supply and shortages across many areas. Difficulties in getting supplies have impacted nearly every industry, from auto to paper goods.
One thing your competitors know is that you should never rely on a single supplier for your block chain. Make sure you always have a backup. Consider getting your materials or products from multiple sources. If one fails or falls behind, you’ll still have the other to help you fulfill orders.
No one predicted the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many factories shut down at the height of the virus to protect workers, or people called in because they were ill and couldn’t work. Today, companies have a hard time filling positions and keeping things running.
How could you prepare for such a situation? First, you can keep a bit more supply than is typical. If your industry keeps a two-week inventory, you might want to keep a 4-week or 6-week for popular items. You can also have backup suppliers should one or more fail you. Never put all your eggs in a single basket.
6. Improve Your Existing Products
Even if your business is successful right now, you should always keep an eye out for ways to improve products and services. You can be almost certain your competitors or those wanting to jump into the industry are looking for ways to improve on what you do.
Create an in-house team whose job is to seek out new innovations. Look at the technology of today and make guesses about what people might want tomorrow. One example of this type of innovation is seen with the Apple Watch. People stopped wearing wrist watches, turning to their phones to see what time it was.
However, Apple realized there was still a purpose for a digital watch, if it did more than simply tell time. They innovated the invention and turned it into a mini computer you wear on your wrist and use with your cellular phone plan. By improving on the original purpose of a watch, they reinvented the entire industry and remain a leader in the sphere.
7. Know Your UVP
What is your unique value proposition (UVP)? Not only should you know what makes you stand out from the competition, but you should understand what their UVPs are. Most brands state it somewhere on their website or within their promotional materials. Their UVP drives home the benefits of doing business with them over you.
Once you have a firm understanding of what makes your competitors stand out, you should make sure your UVP is different. However, you also must provide the same level of service as they say they do in other areas.
Dig deep and find something you offer or can provide that no other brand does. Make sure it’s something your customers care about. For example, you might be the oldest company in your town, but if you don’t box it up in a way that benefits the consumer, they won’t care. What you can promote is your level of experience and how you are always on the cutting edge of innovation. Look at what benefits your clients and why they would care.
8. Improve Customer Experience (CX)
PWC surveyed consumers and found 32% would leave a brand they formerly loved after a single bad experience. The things they care about most include speed, convenience and helpful employees.
The CX you provide can’t be reliant on what anyone else does. Your competitors already know and have their own personality and rules on how employees interact with customers.
Look outside your own field for examples of excellent CX. For example, when you go through the drive-through at Chick-Fil-A, how are you treated? Is the service fast? If you say, “Thank you,” they answer with, “My pleasure.” When you go to Walmart, your experience might be quite different, but it tends to be speedy and inexpensive in most cases. Which model works best for your brand?
You can adopt elements from different companies outside your industry to create an amazing CX for your clients. Don’t be afraid to survey your customers and ask them what you can do to improve.
9. Keep Your Best Employees
Employee churn puts you behind the game. If you don’t strive to create an amazing company culture, you risk losing your best workers to competitors. They take with them all the time, training and investment you poured in.
Pay as well as you can, offer benefits and give them perks. Show your staff you care about them as individuals and work to create an open atmosphere providing what they need, such as training, help, and promotions.
You can’t prevent every single worker from leaving, but you can make them think twice about walking away from a position and company they love for a different one. You lose momentum every time you have to seek a new candidate and retrain them.
Focus on Your Brand
It’s easy to get distracted and worry all the time about what your competitors are doing. While it’s smart to pay attention to their failures and successes, your business’ story is different from any other brand’s. Make sure you focus on making your company the best it can be and driving innovation and what the competition does won’t matter much.
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