Thinking of launching a startup? Have an ecommerce business that is very “flat” in terms of sales growth and profits? The stark reality is that, whether you are just starting out of whether you have been around a while, you have or will have competition.
To get more customers, you have to beat the competition – you know this. And you know you have to have a plan for doing this. That competitive strategy plan should include the following 7 steps:
1. Expand your market
You do this by either adding to your product or service line to attract new customers or by going to a wholly new market – perhaps overseas. With that in mind, here is what one really innovative group of guys did recently. A London-based design company makes accessories exclusively for Apple products. Even though the launch date for the new iPhone 6S has yet to be announced, these guys designed a line of cases for it that can be pre-ordered right now. Talk about taking a huge leap and crossing that finish line way ahead of everyone else – they just did it.
2. Act like a spy
The competition’s product may be as good as or better than yours, but there are weaknesses somewhere. Find those weaknesses and capitalize on them in your own marketing plan. Offer a better guarantee; if they offer a 30-day free trial, you offer 60. If you know their shipping costs, can you undercut them?
Surely, you shouldn’t overdo it on a price war and definitely, don’t try to outprice your competitors by compromising the quality. Instead, keep your “ear to the ground”. Watch for changes in leadership or a buyout. There’s usually uncertainty and a bit of chaos – you can “move in” with a marketing campaign about stability and trust.
3. Stay as lean as possible
If you keep in constant communication with your current customers, you can discover what they really like and what they don’t want or need. Dump that stuff. With the savings, you can fight the competition with lower prices or some extra perks.
4. Expand what you offer
This may sound counterintuitive to #3, but here’s the thing: If you can find products or services that are related to your niche that there seems to be a market for, add them. Your current and future customers will be able to buy more at one place – your site.
5. Build alliances with related businesses
You can promote each another all over the place. Their customers become yours and yours become theirs too – a great match!
Alternatively, launch an affiliate program to share the profits with online influencers, bloggers and solonopreneurs promoting your product to their readers.
6. Be a secret customer
Order product from your competitor’s site(s) and order from your own site. Compare the experiences and the product/service received. This is also a great way to pinpoint your competitor’s weak spots and it is definitely the way to fix yours. Can you improve your product, even in a minor way? Can UX be improved in any way?
Staying ahead of the competition means that you get creative and you never let up. Beating that competition today does not mean that they won’t beat you next month!
Image Credit: Flickr/Giang Hồ Thị Hoàng