It has never been easier to get a business up and running. But equally, it’s arguably never been more difficult to build a successful business. There’s a lot of competition out there, and that’s true regardless of the industry that you operate in. If you’re going to avoid becoming one of the 50% of businesses that close within five years, then you’ll need to gain — and maintain — a competitive advantage.

Easier said than done? You know it. But there are very much things you can do that’ll help to push you in the right direction. In this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to all the steps that businesses can take to push themselves ahead of the businesses they’re competing against. 

Improve Your Products and Services

You might get lucky and become successful if you’re offering substandard products or services. But you’d be making things much more difficult for yourself. After all, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all people all the time. The only way to become successful on a long-term basis is to offer your customers quality. Of course, it’s likely that you’re already providing good products and services. But is it possible that you could refine and improve them even further? In doing so, you’ll be pushing your company’s potential forward. 

Enhance Your Marketing

There’s an audience out there for your goods. But reaching them and bringing them on board? That’s a challenge. Your competitors will have forward-thinking, advanced marketing campaigns, and unless you’re going head-to-head with your own marketing campaigns, then it’s likely that you’ll fall behind. This aspect of business has always been important, but it’s even more important today when marketing is highly complex. If it feels like you’re not getting the results you were hoping for/expecting, then it may be worthwhile recruiting a digital marketing agency to do the task for you. You’ll need to pay for it, but it’ll be worth it, since it should bring a handsome ROI. 

Attract the Top Talent

Think of your business as sports teams. Think of your competitors as other sports teams that compete in the same league. Which team is likely to win — the one that has the best players, or the one that has the leftover players? Except for those highly unlikely, David v Goliath victories, it’s nearly always the team that has the best players that win. The point here is that it’s worthwhile investing in your hiring process to ensure that you’re attracting the best candidates. After all, if they’re not coming in your direction, then they’ll only be going to the other team. If you haven’t been getting the caliber of candidates that you were hoping for, then take a look at your hiring methods. By making a few adjustments, you may find that you’re bringing on board better players — and that, as a result, you shoot up the league table. 

Train Your Team

Hiring great employees gives you the foundations for putting together a great team that will put you ahead of your competitors. But only the foundations. To create the competitive building, you’ll need to invest in their training and development. After all, even though you’ll likely have hired employees with experience in doing the role you’ve brought them on board for, it’s not as if they’ll be experts in your particular way of operating. How could they be? The employee onboarding process is arguably just as important as the hiring process since it will bring your new recruits up to speed and ensure that they can really bring their best to the role. 

Create a Great Work Culture 

And once you’ve got a great team in place, it’ll be in your interests to keep them there. Losing key employees on a regular basis stifles your momentum, and also just costs you money in the long run — it takes a lot of cash to hire and train an employee, after all. You can prevent them from looking elsewhere by creating a great work environment that they very much don’t want to leave. If you pay well, offer flexible working, invest in your team bonding, and solicit employee feedback (and take their points on board), then they’ll have no reason to seek new employment. 

Review Your Customer Experience

Sales and revenue only tell part of the story. A company could have great sales but be doomed to failure. Why? Because the customers weren’t satisfied with their overall experience. As soon as they had the option to give their business to someone else, they took it. It’s not sales that companies should focus on, but retention. That’s the key to long-term success. You can’t always be chasing new customers. You need to have repeated customers. Hopefully, your customer retention rate is already pretty strong, but there are always ways to make it better. The first step is to take a critical look at your customer’s experience, and then see where you could make improvements. Some business leaders say that the customer experience is just as important as the product itself, and it’s easy to agree with them. 

Establish Your Expertise

Customers don’t want to give their money to any old company. They want to give it to the best of the best. Or, at least, they want to have confidence that the business knows what they’re talking about. There are a lot of opportunist businesses out there, after all. The key to developing the trust of your potential customers is to establish yourself as an expert in your industry. Your competitors may also be experts, but if they’re not actively showcasing their expertise to the public, then how will the public know? Give yourself a competitive advantage by developing your authority via blog posts, white papers, how-to videos, and social media commentary. 

Set the Perfect Pricing

It’s a tricky business, getting the pricing right. There’s a temptation to undercut your competitors, but that’s rarely considered a good strategy — you’ll always just be scraping by, and that increases the chance of experiencing burnout that’ll result in you voluntarily ending your business. On the other hand, if you charge too much, then you’ll find it difficult to attract customers. It’s all about hitting the sweet pricing point. You can figure this out yourself, but in this day and age, it’s best to let technology do the job for you. An Amazon Repricer tool will come up with a better pricing strategy than you can on your own, after all. With the perfect pricing in price, you’ll find it easier to win customers and turn a profit. Win-win!

Be Ahead of Industry Trends

It doesn’t matter what industry you operate in. Things will be changing. The rate of change is faster in some industries than others, but it’s always present. New technology, employee trends, and climate change all have a significant impact on a company’s working processes. You’ll have to deal with these shifts at some point in the future, so why not give yourself a head start, and in the process, not only make things easier for yourself but also ensure that you’re one or two steps ahead of your competitors? You can keep up to date with all that’s happening in your industry by attending trade shows and reading trade magazines. You can also keep an eye on what the leading players in your industry are doing; whatever they’re doing today, even if it seems innovative and futuristic, will likely become industry standard within a few years. 

Make Yourself Available 

It’s amazing how, in many cases, it’s the perceived “small things” that end up having the biggest impact. You could do most things on this list, but if you weren’t making yourself available when your customers want or need to speak to you, then it’ll be no surprise if they look to other businesses. There’s nothing that’ll frustrate a customer more than struggling to get through to a customer service representative when they need one. So make sure that doesn’t happen. On your website, include your email, phone number, and a FAQ section that addresses common questions. It’s also recommended to add a live chat feature, so your customers can speak to you in the moment for maximum convenience. 

Make Your Customers Happy 

Finally — this is not going to sound groundbreaking — but focus on making your customers happy. That’s basically the bottom line for keeping them with you, and away from your competitors, including any new ones that pop up. If your customers love your business and everything that you’re doing, then why would they consider moving elsewhere? They wouldn’t. If you have any doubts about what would make your customers happy, then just ask them directly. This doesn’t only show that you care about their experience, but it usually results in some pretty solid answers that can shape the future of your business. It’s an easy solution to a historically complex problem. Just ask, and you will likely receive what you need.