Increasing numbers of small businesses are opening every day. With the economic crash of 2008, the workforce has undergone major changes. More people are leaving traditional jobs to work for themselves, providing more services, products, and opportunities to achieve the American dream. However, small businesses often face fierce competition from larger and more established companies.
If you recently started a business and are facing competition, don’t get discouraged. Competition is vital to a healthy economy, and you can find a niche within it. The key lies in knowing how to make competition work for you, not against you.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Business competition is intimidating. Many business owners think they need to invent entirely new products, services, or advertising to stay ahead of their competitors. Trying to reinvent the wheel will cause frustration and burnout. Instead, think about what your target industry needs that isn’t being done yet. Starbucks, for example, succeeds not because they sell coffee but because they sell an experience. They fill the need for people to buy not only a cup of coffee, but a personalized beverage that makes them feel good about the product, the store, and themselves.
When starting your business, list the factors that make your service or product unique. Maybe you’re not the only novelist who writes Amish books in your area. But maybe you are the only one who writes about Amish people who have had family members leave the faith for the military. Your pet toys may be unique not because they stimulate pets, but because they respond specifically to certain sounds or body language. Once you’ve chosen a few factors, sell those assertively and often.
Focus on Customers
Small businesses succeed and grow because they care about their customers. Business owners routinely ask what their customers want and respond to it. In so doing, the smallest businesses with the most limited budgets get ahead of big business competition. Your business needs several avenues for customers to communicate with you. Offer periodic, information-filled emails or a newsletter. Offer incentives for filling out a survey, or interview customers in a “man on the street” style. Target incentives and new services to a specific audience. If your fitness center serves many senior citizens, play up that you have many machines that are safe and easy for them to use.
Do Your Homework
No matter what industry you are in, the market becomes crowded quickly. If you don’t do research, you may find many businesses in your area are already selling your product. You won’t be able to carve a niche because everyone else already developed several ideas. Before starting your own business, vet companies in your field. See what the competition is doing that you could emulate or put your own spin on. Talk to both managers and employees; find out what they like about working for a certain company. Research similar small businesses along with chain operations. Ask how employers have made themselves distinctive in an ever-changing, competitive, and crowded market.
Engage with Competitors
Many people assume business competition is bad and competitors are the enemy. In reality, everyone’s business improves when competitors compare notes. You might struggle with the financial side of your business while a competitor is comfortable with it. Don’t hesitate to engage him or her. Similarly, you may have an innovative idea a competitor may want to try; collaborate to create something that works for both of you.
The smallest risk often leads to success for your new business. Don’t let bigger businesses and global brands intimidate you. Start with small changes that will set your product or service apart from others. Zach Schau’s Pure Fix bikes found success this way, not because Pure Fix was a global brand, but because of its color palette. The colors and unique designs of Pure Fix bikes caught customers’ eyes, and Pure Fix is now a popular brand. Calculate risks, but enjoy taking them. You may stumble on something no one has seen before.