Marketing in today’s highly competitive world can be difficult.

It is challenging to stand out amongst your competitors. If you think you aren’t making a dent, then you need to ask yourself some tough questions – are you simply following the marketing trends and trying anything and everything or are you actually researching your competitors and seeing what they are doing and what is working?

If your answer is no, then that is your first mistake on the road to standing out and setting yourself apart from your competitors. It’s hard to compete in the digital realm with all the big brands and names that you see. How can a small business compete, efficiently and effectively, with the major brands?

You simply can’t be complacent and hope you become number one in your market. Your success is dependent on the research and marketing plans you come up with to implement.

Back to Basics with 5 Small Business Marketing Tips

You would probably expect this to mostly be about your online presence and content marketing dos and don’ts. However, sometimes you just need to get back to the basics when you think about marketing and ways to stand out. If you don’t do the basics well, you will never succeed with the advanced tools now available.

#1: Actually Look at Your Competition

I know it may seem like an obvious point to make, but I need to be clear. In order to stand out in your market, you need to know who your competition is and what they are doing vs. what you are doing.

Knowing your competition like the back of your hand should be a priority and if you don’t know, start learning today.

As a small business, you have many competitors. You likely have local, or semi-local, competitors. You may independent contractors or freelancers that compete with you. And on the internet, you have thousands of businesses that your customers can reach. It’s a big world, but don’t let that intimidate you. Start by knowing the basics about your competitors.

Things to Know about Your Competition:

Who are they?

Take in your surroundings and know who your competitors are, both near and far.

It is important to know who offers the same products and services, who is cheaper, who is more expensive and how they fill their client’s needs.

What’s the Corporate Culture?

Every company, no matter their size, has some sort of corporate culture. Do they participate in community events, host charity events, or promote wellness with their employees? These are all things to know about.

Positive corporate culture not only gives a company good PR, but it also usually means a happier work environment for employees.
As we all know, happy employees are more productive.

What Do They Offer?

Knowing your competitor’s products and services isn’t about stealing their ideas, but instead knowing what you are up against. It is important to pay attention to what is working for them – and what isn’t You can gain some insight and ideas of how to improve upon your own product or service by looking at what they provide and how popular it is.

Know Their Reputation

Reputation is everything. What better way to learn how you can improve upon yours than to research your competitors?

Look from the Customer Point of View

One of the best ways to get to know your competition is to become a customer, or at least act like one. Putting yourself in the shoes of a customer is a great research tool and will help you learn more about your product and your competitions.

#2: Research & Analyze Your Industry

Even more so than researching your competition, you also need to research and analyze your industry. Be up to date on the trends and what is coming up for the next 6 months to a year. Be proactive and know these things before they happen.

There are many industry newsletters, news trackers/tickers and subscriptions you can sign up for to keep you in the loop. Look at what others in the industry are doing and see if there are profitable actions you could be taking as well.

Who is your competition?

Competition online can be very different from competition offline. The shop that you’ve always compared yourself to offline might have an extremely poor web presence – while someone you’ve never heard of dominates the search results.

Don’t assume your competition is the same in any realm. You might have a different main competitor on the streets, on the web, and in social media. Do the research!.

#3: Be Unique

Your value proposition must include at least one aspect that is different than your competitors.

You can call it your “it factor.”

Look closely at your current value proposition, if yours doesn’t do this already you are at a disadvantage – and need to re-think it.
The goal is to offer something that sets you apart and can be seen as better than your competitors in at least one way.

Maybe you are cheaper, or you offer more value, or you provide a different service. Either way, you need to have that one thing that sets you apart.

You can also be unique in how you market yourself. You have to be if your product or service is exactly the same as your main competitors. Think about ways to market differently and stand out that way as well.

#4: Develop Your Online Brand & Image

It is not enough in today’s competitive market to have some business cards, pamphlets and a generic website. You need to develop your online brand and image in a way to make yourself stand out above your competition. There are many ways to do this:

  • Spend the necessary time and money to have a killer website. Even if this means hiring the work out, do it.
  • Invest in Content Marketing and SEO Services.
  • Promote yourself and create a corporate culture that will promote you as well.
  • Develop a strategic business and marketing plan; implement and track. (This leads me to my final point…)