There is no end to the similes drawn between business and other forms of competition. Whether it’s hunting, racing, or some kind of duel with deadly weapons, we love to picture our businesses as dominant aggressors that take down any who would dare challenge their dominion. We love to track our progress in gaining on the opposition, and after overtaking them, we relish the chance to watch the margin growing ever larger.
All that rattling of sabers and waving of banners is fine, but when the rubber meets the road, it takes a detailed and meaningful strategy to get the victory.
Starting On The Inside
When it comes to beating your competition, it starts with people. But then again, what part of your business doesn’t?
The role of your employees in the quest to stay ahead of your competitors starts when you hire them. You may snag an applicant that they wish they had, or you may steal away one of their existing staff. Either way, how do you do it? Focus on what sets your business apart from the competition–from the employee’s perspective. Sure, they want to work for the company that produces the best goods, but if that comes at the cost of their wages or working conditions, they’ll politely decline and tolerate an average product in favor of an above-average life.
So you have to get them there with things that matter to them as workers, and you have to maintain that during their tenure. Treat them fairly. Involve them in plans and changes. Expect and respect their input. Throw them a fun perk once in a while. Build their enthusiasm about your product, and they’ll be enthusiastic about building your product.
Being Seen, Being Seen, Being Seen
Getting your name in front of people is huge. Targeting the places and people is even more important. Turn on daytime TV and see how many commercials are airing for educational institutions and personal injury lawyers. Why do those ads come on during that time? Because people who are unemployed or injured constitute a large percentage of the daytime audience.
Of course, it’s not enough for them just to see your name. No consumer would probably ever say, “I bought a car at this dealership because I saw their name on the outfield fence at a minor league baseball game.” No business thinks that’s what such a name placement will do. But what it does do is keep your name in front of customers. It’s much like the defaults on a computer; unless you tell it something different, it will take certain steps. Unless your customer is somehow intercepted, you want to be the default name that they think of regarding your products or services.
This is about every phase of your business. If you have an online store or an app, how much downtime does it experience? In a given year, will it be in operation more or less than your next competitor? Customers are fickle. They’re loyal to the death to your product until something interferes with their ability to get it. Then they try a competitor—often out of necessity—and end up staying with them. If your systems put customers in that situation, you may never get them back.
How about your supply streams? Are you running out of needed inputs or carrying unneeded stocks? Both can be costly, so it pays to put serious effort into properly balancing what comes in the door with what goes out the door.
The whole logistics sector of business-to-business has grown to include these considerations and countless others. Astea field service management, for example, encompasses everything from supply management to tech support, taking on business roles that many firms are either too small or too inexperienced to handle in-house.
There’s nothing as exhilarating as pursuing and capturing a competitor. When you build a solid strategy of reliability and visibility, driven by employees who love what they do, you can stay hot on the heels of your nearest opponent.
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