Competition is healthy for businesses – it will force you to innovate, staying ahead of the curve. Yet that rivalry can also be intimidating. You don’t want to back down, but you aren’t sure how to combat competition. Every company deals with this problem, and what success comes down to here is developing a plan that helps you better serve your customers, accurate branding, and supporting your team.

Learn How to Handle Competition in Business

You know you will encounter competition in business. So how do you develop a strategy to compete with competitors? Read on for 10 real-world ideas of strategies you can use to learn how to beat your competition in business.

Know Your Customers

Did you know 80% of companies don’t have enough customer data to build effective marketing campaigns? Most marketers know their customers’ purchasing patterns, which is certainly helpful to track. But there is so much more information you can be using to continue refining your marketing plans. By knowing your customers, you can build a relationship between them and your company, extending the customer lifecycle beyond only a couple of purchases.

According to YesMail Interactive’s president, using data right in front of you is something many marketers overlook. Specifically, data regarding customers’ social activity lends marketers critical insight into timing of purchases and related searches. Using these online tools, like Facebook analytics, your company will be able to better understand what ultimately triggers your customer to make a purchase.

Understand the Competition

To understand your competition, it is most important to begin by examining the marketplace. First, take a hard look at the things your competitor does. Does that company have intimate conversations with customers that lead to conversions? Do they have a unique angle to tell their story from? Second, look to see what your competitor doesn’t do, and then try to fill in that part of the market.

In the 1980s, Canon and Xerox were competing in the market for copiers. Xerox thought Canon’s prices were ridiculously low, based on their assumptions of the cost to create a copier. Through examining the market, they found there were cheaper ways to make a copier. Through Xerox’s market research, they found that Canon eked into the market with a new innovation, leading to a better market for consumers.

Highlight Your Difference

You can use your differences to learn how to handle competition in business. After completing market research, understand what makes you different from the competition. Do you have more ethical sourcing for products? Or maybe your prices are cheaper. Perhaps you have an angle to your company’s story that could push you above the competition.

In the case of IKEA’s 2011 catalogue, IKEA knew they had the resources to do something extra special with their publication. In 2011, IKEA’s print catalogue had more competition but the company decided simply moving to a digital platform was not sufficient. So they used their marketing resources to create an augmented reality version. IKEA’s design overhaul doubled the amount of time customers spent browsing the catalogue, just by knowing what they could do differently than others.

Clarify Your Message

To attract customers, your company needs to have a clear message. Customers want to know what you can do for them that no one else can, and that is how you will win their business. It is not enough to throw a message into the void and hope it sticks with someone. Instead, clearly craft a narrative to bring customers to you.

The car rental service Enterprise clarifies its messaging every time it communicates with customers. With each communication, Enterprise takes into consideration the specific audience it is trying to reach, and then considers what tone or message will be the most effective to extend the customer lifecycle. By consciously considering your audience with each message, you too will be able to communicate more clearly with consumers.

Ensure Your Branding Reinforces Your Messaging

Branding and messaging are two peas in a pod. Your branding should support all messaging, leaving no question your company is linked to the message. Accurate branding contributes to a clearer message, which is important to communicating with customers.

LIVESTRONG, known for the iconic yellow bracelets bringing awareness to cancer, was forced to rebrand years after the bracelets emerged on the scene. Worried that the brand was too closely tied to one person, LIVESTRONG refocused on cancer awareness and distanced the business from its spokesperson. Upon an assessment of their new branding, LIVESTRONG asked if it supported their message, and ultimately it was a successful rebrand.

Target New Markets

When you have one market locked down, feel free to expand to new markets. This is important in learning how to handle competition in business. Perhaps your most consistent demographic is women ages 35-50. Test the waters with other age groups: would your product make sense for teenagers or elderly women? New markets can lead to faster and better growth, but be sure your company is ready for a new market first.

Fun and Function is a company selling items for special needs children. The company typically sold primarily to individuals, though a chunk of sales came from institutions like schools or clinics. They decided to diversify and try to snag more sales from institutions since they had selling individually comfortably under control. Though the founders were hesitant, they felt ready to take on a new market and began changing their marketing to reflect market changes.

Look After Your Existing Customers

New markets are exciting to enter, and when your company is ready, new markets can lead to a big payoff. However, don’t forget the customers who are already loyal to your company. When you diversify your market options, maintain some current aspects of your marketing to keep performing well with your existing customers.

One option you have to continue supporting existing customers is product development. Introduce new or better products to existing markets. Continue development on your existing products, like your bestsellers, in order to renew your commitment to current customers to the best of your abilities. Through product development, you can expect to outperform competitors and keep your customers happy.

Explore Partnership Opportunities

For businesses, partnership opportunities are very popular right now. Most businesses are reaching out to others in the hopes of reaching a new market or demographic. These symbiotic relationships help both partners by providing some sort of opportunity that was not otherwise attainable. When considering partnerships, think of what your company needs to succeed more and then act on that opportunity.

Starbucks has partnered with Earthwatch since 2001. One of the goals of this partnership was to introduce Starbucks employees to the scientific research behind coffee beans – benefitting Earthwatch’s goals. Additionally, Starbucks was able to increase employee engagement through this partnership. This partnership helped Starbucks develop its ethical approach to coffee, while assisting Earthwatch in spreading sustainable and scientific practices.

Keep Innovating

In today’s world, it is crucial to iterate, iterate, and iterate. That should be your marketing team’s mantra in today’s constantly shifting world of online media. As pointed out earlier, your new and old markets benefit from innovation as well. By constantly innovating, your team will stay focused on the goal while keeping your customers interested in your company.

Older companies are great to look to for leadership in innovation. How have they managed to keep up with the times? What company polices allow them to continue to innovate and change while functioning well for their customer base? These questions will help you see the logic of innovation, even when it seems it is out of reach.

Look After Your Team

Your products are only as good as your team. In learning how to handle competition in business, this may not seem like the most obvious tactic. However, you can keep your team productive by keeping them happy as well. It may not be necessary to get everyone a beanbag chair, or to have some kegs on tap, like many companies think. Listen to your team when they tell you what they need to be happy, not what trends think they need.

Case studies from Snack Nation can teach you how to retain your best employees. Most employees only really ask for trust, professional development, collaboration, and the opportunity to take ownership of their work. Allow your employees these opportunities, and you may find that you have happier employees and lower turnover. Helping your employees find happiness in their work will lead to dedication from employees – and this is where you can beat your competition.

Equipped for Competition

There are a million ways to combat competition in business, but which are right for your company? Following these 10 strategies to handle competition in your business will help you develop a better idea of what your customer needs. With these ideas in hand, you can be sure that your customers will keep coming back again and again. Remember, an unsuccessful idea is only failure if you stop trying.