When I started my marketing agency, I knew that I was the new kid stepping into a saturated and highly competitive environment. I was competing with agencies that were established for years. Because of this, I understand the concern many small businesses and startups face when competing with larger companies.
Of course, many of us are in saturated industries— and we are also competing with big brands. So, how can you grow your small business in a competitive industry?
Know Your Industry Inside and Out
In today’s competitive environment, you have to really know the space you are in. Too often, businesses start without the industry knowledge they need to build a successful company. As a result, they are unprepared for the challenges they will face.
When getting to know your industry, here are a few important questions to answer.
- What is the history of the industry you are in?
- Who are the industry participants?
- Who are your top competitors?
- What challenges are your competitors facing?
- How is the economy affecting your industry?
- If your industry is affected by seasonal changes, how will you prepare for that?
- Are new technologies affecting your industry?
- What are companies not offering that you could?
You’d be surprised how many business owners there are who do not really know the industry they are in. When you take the time to do the research, you already have an advantage over those companies.
Research the Competition
If you want to take on the competition, you need to know who they are and how they work. It is not only essential to know who your competitors are but to understand their strategies as well. By researching your competitors’ marketing strategy, you get to see what’s working for them, what isn’t and identify opportunities for your business. Where are they falling short? How can you provide more value for your target market than they are?
Find Your Competitive Advantage
Your competitive advantage is the thing your business does better or differently than your rivals. Identifying your competitive advantage is critical because it essentially says why consumers choose your brand over the competition. You have to know what that reason is so that you can communicate it to your audience.
Examples of competitive advantage include geographic location, experience in your field, ease of use, niche focus, and customer service. What sets your business apart from the competition? Why should a consumer choose your business over your rival?
Find and Dominate Your Niche
I’ve talked to small business owners who have been hesitant about staying within a niche because they felt it would limit their opportunity for growth. But, that is far from the truth. As a small business in a competitive industry, you need to be very specific about solving the problem. When you focus on conquering your niche, you can build trust, credibility, and authority in your space.
Here are a few tips to finding your niche:
- Start with your interest and passions
- Check out the competition. Is there a group of people or problem that is being ignored?
- Conduct market and keyword research. What are people searching for around your industry?
When you find your niche, you can learn how to master a specific space. Most likely, you do not have the resources available to serve everyone. And that is okay. It is much more effective to master one thing than to be average at many things.
Deliver an Exceptional Online Experience
The experience you provide your website visitors is critical. Your website is often the first interaction people will have with your company. This initial interaction is how most people decide if they want to do business with you. 75% of people admit to judging the credibility of a company based on its website.
Your website should be clean, fast, secure, and easy to navigate. The content on your website should be high-quality and should answer your visitors’ questions.
In today’s digital world, online users have high expectations and low attention spans. It takes users .05 seconds to form an opinion about a website. If your page does not meet their expectations, they will quickly leave and find a competitor’s website.
Leverage Content Marketing
I cannot stress enough the importance of content marketing for small businesses. Content marketing is one of the most effective, cost-efficient marketing strategies that exist.
Many small businesses and startups are driving massive growth using content marketing. That is because content marketing generates over 400% more leads per $1,000 within 36 months than paid search campaigns.
It is important to remember that you cannot grow your business by sporadically publishing content. Effective content marketing is strategic, data-driven, and backed by a documented plan. RouzHouse has a great article covering how to create an effective content marketing strategy for your business.
Use Long-tail keywords for SEO
68% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. This means Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be a top priority for your business. SEO enables your customers to find your business when they are searching for what you offer. However, ranking for keywords in a competitive industry is not an easy task.
In a competitive environment, broad keywords are challenging to rank for. Bigger brands with higher domain authority will almost always rank for major keywords.
The solution: long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific and less difficult to rank for. Even though they have a much lower volume, they actually make up most search engine queries.
Use Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms are powerful to generate brand awareness and build a community of people who know and love your brand. Use social media as an opportunity to show your brand’s personality and what makes your business unique.
Of course, social media is a very competitive space as well. It takes time to gain traction and build a loyal fan base, but it is absolutely worth it.
Before you begin posting on social media, you should develop a social media marketing strategy. Your social media strategy should address your goals, who your target audience is, and what social media channels they use. Having a documented social media marketing strategy will help guide the content you publish and make your marketing efforts much more effective.
Here are a few additional tips for growing your social media accounts:
- Post consistently – studies show that one social media post is optimal, but avoid posting more than twice per day
- Be consistent with the look and voice on your social media accounts. You want people to recognize your brand.
- Create engaging content that interests your target market. People will not follow you if you’re just selling your products.
- Respond to all of your comments and direct messages
- Check out what your competitors are doing on social media. Develop a strategy that unique from theirs and helps you stand out.
- Produce more video content
- Do hashtag research and use the proper hashtags for each post
- Optimize your social media bio make sure your contact information and links are included.
Take Care of Your Customers
To build a successful business, you have to provide great customer experiences. This is often an advantage your business will have over your larger competitors. But, unfortunately, many big businesses have a reputation for poor customer service.
Small businesses cannot afford to have a bad reputation— especially in a competitive environment. So make sure you are keeping your promises and delivering a quality product or service every single time.
When you provide a great customer experience, you build your reputation both online and offline. Happy customers result in 5-star reviews, word of mouth referrals, and of course, brand loyalty. People will want to return to your brand when they need you.
Of course, many challenges come with being a small business in a competitive space. But, there are also many opportunities and ways to overcome those challenges. If you are trying to grow your small business in a competitive industry, it is critical to refine your business and marketing strategies. Be consistent, leverage digital marketing, and build a strong reputation as a business that keeps its promises.