Seven Tips to Outlast, Outsell and Beat Your Competition

To outlast rivals, you have to outsell them. Use these tips to expand sales and leave competitors in the dust.

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By Kim T. Gordon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs nationwide are feeling the squeeze of encroachingcompetition. With the internet explosion came an enormousproliferation of new small businesses in every market niche. Now,we can buy anything and everything for our homes or businesseseither offline, online or via direct mail 24/7. And while this isgreat news for consumers, I can't think of a single client ofours for whom marketing competitively isn't a top priority.

As a business owner, your greatest achievement lies in trumpingthe competition in order to expand sales. So here are seven ways togive your company a leg up:

1. Know your enemy. In the ancient words of Chinesegeneral Sun Tzu, you must "know your enemy as you knowyourself and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger ofdefeat." Today, we may look upon our competitors in afriendlier light, but it's essential to understand all we canabout them. If you don't already have copies of yourcompetitors' advertising and brochures-and can't recitefrom rote their key selling points and messages-how can you hope tosuccessfully position against them?

2. Market your specialty. Once you know everything youcan about your chief competitors, you can identify what yourcompany offers its customers or clients that's unique orspecial. Take a long, hard look at your current offering. Ifnecessary, alter your product or service itself, bundle inadditional features or find a way to deliver the same core productor service in a way that uniquely meets the needs of yourprospects. Then, build your marketing campaigns around this centraltheme.

3. Tackle new audiences. If you've reached themaximum market share in a particular niche, why not try a new one?You may be able to add line extensions (variations of your product)that will stimulate sales from a whole new set of customers. Or youcan launch a new media campaign targeting ethnic audiences, who mayembrace your product or service with a minimum amount ofalteration.

4. Offer more value. Some product and service providerstraditionally compete based on discount pricing, but for many othertypes of businesses, cutting prices is often detrimental. If youoffer a service, for example, and charge the same rates as yourchief competitors, cutting your prices may make you looksuspiciously cheap and inspire customers to wonder what's"wrong" with your company or the services it provides. Abetter idea is to offer something of additional value that yourcustomers will find tempting.

5. Add a sales channel. Are you presently selling via onechannel alone, such as exclusively through a brick-and-mortar storeor by catalog only? Adding another channel, such as online sales,gives your customers more choices and allows them to shop moreoften and at their convenience. It's likely that most of yourcompetitors offer sales through multiple channels. What's more,studies show that customers who shop via more than one channelspend more (often as much as three times more) than customers whoshop through one alone.

6. Tune into your customers. To remain highlycompetitive, you must understand what your customers want.Unfortunately, your customers' needs and preferences can changeon a dime, so you should have systems in place to regularly solicittheir feedback. As a business owner, you're in the enviableposition of being closer to your customers than some of yourbig-business competitors. You may know many of your customers orclients by name and have the advantage of being able to contactthem periodically to check in. In addition, be sure to initiateregular surveys as well as solicit ongoing feedback via yourwebsite.

7. Ask for the business. Complacency is the enemy ofsmall-business success. If you're not continually asking yourbest prospects and customers for their business, you can be sureyour competitors are. Set up and monitor an ongoing marketingprogram that reaches out to your past customers and new prospectsyear-round. The key to success is to have a consistent marketingmessage and select a mix of media and tactics that"touch" prospects and customers with sufficientfrequency. This will help you drive your message home and stand outfrom your toughest competitors.

Kim T. Gordon
Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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