Staying Ahead of the Marketing Competition, Here’s How...
BY: JENNIFER HUBER ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 02, 2016
Maybe you’re at the top of your game, or just starting out. Maybe you’re in expansion, or maybe you’re recovering from last year’s boom (or bust). No matter where you are, one thing’s for certain—it’s vital to stay ahead of the marketing competition in your industry.
Your customers are your brand, your backbone, and your bread and butter. Keeping them happy, returning, and recommending you to others will go further in securing your future than any other move you can make. No matter who your industry serves, or what your target market is, you must take care of your audience.
Many of us are engaged in competitive industries, from business and technology, the service industry, finance, innovation, marketing, and all the way to creative fields. We all face some sort of competition, and have to differentiate ourselves from the crowd. What are some smart strategies you can keep ahead of the marketing competition?
1. Focus on Strengths
Every company has weaknesses, and areas they could improve upon (some companies more than others). It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae and overwhelmed by the things you need to fix. Take a step back and evaluate.
Even in a simpleSWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of your strategic plan, you target your strengths first. While it’s important to be aware of the areas you need to work on, and the challenges coming down the line, your main focus should be on enhancing and building upon those important strengths.
If your company is small, you can offer individualized service, and a chance to connect with each and every customer. If your business has a great website and a regular weekly newsletter, but your social media suffers, consider ways you can incorporate emails and web updates into your social media strategy. If you have happy customers, build on your word-of-mouth marketing strategy and incorporate some endorsements and recommendations into your promotional materials.
Figure out where you shine, and use it to propel you to the next level.
2. Target Your Customers
Everyone likes personalized contact. Having a handle on customer data is mandatory when it comes to really touching your customers individually and standing out from the crowd.
When you have a major client, treat them like gold. Know what they want, and how to get it for them. Set up reminders and pointers in your CRM so you can respond before they even realize they needed to pick up the phone.
Think of new and innovative ways tosegment your customer lists and use your data to drive your marketing strategy. Group your customers by sales, their demographics, their preferences, or any other bit of data you find useful. Learn from big companies like Amazon, that have proven how targeted data-driven marketing works time and time again.
Use analytic tools to really pinpoint what it is your customers want, and why they have chosen to connect with you in the past. Looking back on what they wanted from you historically, can help you measure their preferences, learn about their future needs and ways to build upon your connection.
3. Work Smarter
When it comes to getting ahead of the competition, you need to work smart. This “buzz phrase” gets thrown around often, and leaves people scratching their heads. When it comes down to it, working smarter, simply means, you need to stay on top of your data, andkeep your existing customers happy.
We all know it takes more work to gain a new client or customer than it does to simply continue servicing an existing customer, yet time and time again customer acquisition and sales trump customer service in our marketing strategies. In reality this is backward! Hold on to your existing customers, and don’t let them fall through the cracks.
Not only will your customers become your biggest advocates, but sales will gradually increase as they become more comfortable and happy with your service. You go from being “a guy” (or gal) to being “THEIR guy/gal” and that’s when the real magic happens.
4. Take Care of Your Employees
Another way to stay ahead of the competition? Value your employees. When you have an employee who’s invested in the company, understands your vision, your goals and strategy and takes ownership of their work, the results are unlimited.
As a president, CEO, or director of your company, you don’t have time to deal with data, or even learn to understand it all. While it’s critical you have a role and mental grasp in every aspect of your company, you don’t have to micromanage and do it all. Hire good people and trust their expertise. Take care of them, and your employees will take care of you.
We’ve seen examples ofhappy employees and high levels of employee satisfaction all over the Fortune 500 list. There’s a reason why these companies are the most successful and it has everything to do with their employee satisfaction and happiness. If you want to motivate your employees, learn what makes them tick. Reward them for a job well-done and keep them just as invested in the success of your company as they are. Let them know—if you do well, they will do well too.
5. Only Take on What You Can Handle
So many companies, especially small businesses try to take on more than they can handle. When it comes to marketing and staying ahead of the competition, this “bite off the whole mouthful mentality” can be hard to overcome.
Take for example, social media strategy. Many companies go from having no social media, or a rarely used Facebook page, to opening a Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram account, as well as a blog. All of these platforms end up sitting there unused, overwhelming you and your employees, leaving customers to wonder where you’ve disappeared to (or worse, having them forget about you all together).
Consider instead, a strategy where you take on one platform at a time. After a few months of regular updates, reviewing analytics and following your audience, incorporate another platform, to see if you can increase the results and continue your success. It’s all about pacing yourself rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
6. Get Your Name Out there
If you feel daunted because no one has heard of you, it’s time to increase your profile and get yourself out there.Build your brand awareness. Start to network—join your local Chamber of Commerce, your industry association, or another professional organization. Volunteer to support a few small groups—your local Little League team, the school’s booster club. Get your employees to sit on a few non-profit boards. Advertise locally, and ask customers to give you endorsements.
There’s a reason savvy companies offer free bumper stickers, yard signs and catchy slogans—they get you noticed!
If you have a bigger marketing budget, consider what strategies will get you the most bang for your buck. Is your online presence strong? Would you do better to invest in a billboard, a commercial or do you need to up your social media and online advertising?
Whatever areas need some work, focus on simply getting your name in front of people. Create a hashtag, add some humor to your ads, put some emotion behind your story, and make sure you have an eye-catching logo and tagline.
Getting ahead of the competition requires some forward-thinking, organization and clear vision. It means looking ahead to your future, rather than checking your rearview mirror to see who’s breathing down your neck. Do what you do, and do it well. When you have a strong identity, you will find your competition isn’t nearly as competitive as you thought.
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