November 7, 2016
In this fast-paced and shifting economy we live in, at the end of the business day, an entrepreneur inherently asks himself “what did I do today to grow my business and stay ahead of the competition?” On a scale from “Nothing” to “Skyrocketing,” a particular business day can look exactly like the ones before and the ones about to come, or distinguish itself for being truly spectacular.
There are plenty of tools to boost your business, but we all need to face the harsh truth here: unless you came up with a mind-blowing business idea that still has no competition whatsoever, you are probably up against tens if not hundreds of similar companies that want the same thing: to convert, retain customers and stay ahead of the competition. This is exactly what your competitors want too, so let’s see how you can win the race, at least today.
1. Diversification on All Possible Levels
This is a rather risky business and this is why not many are willing to place their bets on a possibly losing hand. Market diversification can be simply described as targeting new markets and promoting new related products.
One of such hazards is that the new people you target aren’t interested in what you say or sell. The others are of financial nature and can prove disastrous. Before deciding on diversification of audience or portfolio, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Where can I find new customers and what can I offer them? Let’s take Time Warner Cable as an example. They quickly understood back in the day that mobile would become huge and people would access their site from multiple devices, therefore, they invested in offering their customers a smooth and seamless mobile experience. This is the point where you leave your comfort zone and look into new media, apps, social networks and actual places in which your new future clients might be interested.
- What is it that I do better than my competitors in the market I wish to tap into? If you took a look over statistics, you saw that there are millions of people using Instagram, SnapChat, Tumblr and so on that are targeted by your competitors. If you want to diversify the market, you should identify who these new users are, what they want and how you can approach them in a different manner than your competitors do.
2. Avoid Online Alienation
There is a huge trend these days in attracting people to take polls and surveys and answer brands’ questions – it is the perceived brand’s transparency, honesty and genuine interest in giving the customers what they want by paying attention to their feedback. However keep in mind that there is something called “survey fatigue” – people are rather fed up with being asked what they think and feel. And, let’s be honest, if you identify high satisfaction levels among your clients, this doesn’t mean they will stay loyal to you and not jump in the arms of the competition at any given time.
- The old phone call is back – yes, we live in an online-dominated world and that is the problem: we don’t have human contact anymore; we don’t read emotions and gestures anymore; we don’t treat people as people but as target numbers. The smart companies out there already started to shift gears. They put aside online survey tools and started making phone calls, holding Skype conferences and having handouts sessions to actually interview selected customers.
- Conduct focus groups, organize “meet & greet” events with your customers, feature clients as influencers on your website etc.
- Invest in A/B testing – this is not a new approach, but it is often overlooked – tweak and fine tune every aspect of your website and test everything from the color of the “Shop Now” button to the area of the website people are most likely to hover their mouse on.
- Analyze users’ behavior after each campaign, poll or focus group and tailor your information gathering strategies by combining all possible feedback channels.
3. Take Business Storytelling Seriously
One of the raging marketing trends of today is business storytelling – we have all heard about it, but are we implementing it correctly? Business storytelling is not about sales – or at least not directly – but about making people like you, follow you and come back to you. Such a marketing approach is not easy and you will need all your team’s great minds to pull it off. But let’s take a look at some essential ingredients to make your business story addictive:
- Tell a compelling, personal and powerful story triggering people’s curiosity and willingness to share your story with their peers.
- Storytelling is not about bragging, but overcoming obstacles and sending an inspirational message.
- Facts and figures are all right, but you need to communicate emotions, either positive or negative, depending what message you transmit.
- Remember that people’s attention span is a joke, so don’t bore them with details they don’t care about; start your story in the middle, where you encounter the problem and quickly reach the A-HA moment of finding the solution.
- Incorporate your story into everything: from your “About us” page to your latest video streaming campaign.
4. Let Your Own Employees Increase Brand Awareness
This may also sound like a no brainer, but if you are a good employer, your own team will be more than willing not only to speak highly of you among their peers, but also genuinely get involved into promoting your brand and generate leads. This is not some corporate scheme of “let’s pretend we are all happy to show loyalty toward the company” but internal human resource strategies to keep your team members happy. Employees’ satisfaction is more than a huge factor contributing to your business success, but a rather untapped pool of promotion possibilities not many pay attention to. Take a look at your competitors: how are they treating employees? Are they a part of the company’s storytelling? Are they the new voices on a mission to get the good name of the company out there on new media they happen to use? Are they coming with new and crazy marketing ideas as a hobby?
If your competitors treat employees just as employees, it’s time to focus on this major upsale point you want to build – your team is the honest, transparent and trustworthy source of online and offline marketing. You can think about this strategy as a part of your nonlinear marketing approach – it is a rather unconventional way of communicating your message, using non-traditional sources. Studies show that people trust other people more than they trust companies. And if your employees manage to bring along at least one enthusiastic friend to your doorstep, it means that everybody is doing the right thing. As long as you live up to the promise, the friend will bring another friend and so on.
When it comes to staying ahead of the competition things can become hectic and difficult. Nonetheless, as a last tip and piece of advice, always look at the big picture and learn from others’ success and failure stories.
Michelle M. Baker is a business growth consultant with an enquiring and entrepreneurial mind. By spicing her strategic plan with self-discipline, innovation and proper networking, Michelle currently helps companies reach their business goals. For more information and contact, reach Michelle on Twitter: @michelle_m_bake.