Skip to main content
woman using cellphone while shopping
7 min read

10 ways to stay ahead of the competition

Every business faces competition of some sort. In order to be successful, it’s imperative that you understand who your competitors are and take steps to set yourself apart – giving customers a clear reason to buy from your business. This article will look at how you can gather those competitor insights and implement a marketing strategy that will enable you to beat the competition.

Why is competitor analysis important?

No matter how niche your business, you will have competitors. Even if you’re the only restaurant in town that serves food from Tuvalu, Tonga or Turkmenistan, you’ll still face competition from other restaurants, whether they sell French, Italian, Indian cuisine or even takeaway.

Competition is an unavoidable fact of being in business. But rather than being scared of it or letting it limit your ambitions, competition can inspire you to become better and more successful.

Spending some time researching your competitors will reveal insights that will help you to:

How do I conduct competitor research?

Before we get on to the topic of beating your competitors, you first need to do a bit of work understanding who your competitors are. In the simplest terms, a competitor is a business like yours – e.g. a shop selling the same products or a service provider offering similar services.

However, sometimes it’s not so clear cut. A competitor might be an existing business moving into your product space or a large-multinational like Amazon that provide a wide range of products and services. In the latter case, whilst you’re not going to compete at their level, it’s worthwhile to consider how you can differentiate from their offering (i.e being home-crafted or offering a personalised service). 

You can start to find out where your competitors could be by:

  • walking around the area in which your business operates
  • looking through local directories
  • reading industry magazines and press advertising 
  • talking to customers
  • attending exhibitions and trade fairs
  • searching on the internet
  • collecting flyers, brochures and marketing literature
  • checking information on Companies House’s website.

Once you’ve got your list of competitors, collate notes on the following details:

  • What do they offer?
  • Where are they based?
  • Who are their customers?
  • What are their prices?
  • What promotional activity are they doing?
  • What do they do well and not-so-well?

Clearly, there’s a lot of detail you can go in to but at the very least you need to have top line info on their customer profile, pricing, and marketing activity. 

How to get ahead of the competition

Competition is nothing to fear, as long as you find ways to set yourself apart and stay ahead of your competitors, then you give customers a clear reason to buy from you and not one of your competitors. So, what can you do to stay ahead of your competitors?   

  • 1. Be you

    Being a copycat of another brand or business can leave you looking silly. Trying to be a clone of one of your competitors or a larger more successful business is pointless. It lacks imagination and you’re not giving customers a good reason to choose you. Keep it real. Be yourself. Customers prefer authenticity because it encourages trust, which underpins all good relationships.

  • 2. Be special

    Anyone can be run of the mill, it’s easy. Being special can be difficult and it can take effort, but it’s worth it, because it sets you apart from the rest. Being something that others cannot match can provide considerable competitive advantage. Special is memorable. It’s attractive. It’s engaging. Customers must come to you, because they cannot get what you offer elsewhere.  

  • 3. Have integrity

    Customers need to know that you always act with honesty and in good faith. Who wants to buy from a business that lacks integrity? Integrity should permeate everything you do as a business. When you act with integrity it helps to build and protect your reputation, which also encourages trust. Having integrity means delivering on your promises, being consistently fair and honest. Having integrity means admitting when you get it wrong, apologising and making amends.   

  • 4. Be fearless

    Staying ahead of your competitors can take guts. Dare to be different. Without being reckless, have the courage to go where your competitors fear to tread and do what they won’t do. That might mean totally rebranding, launching a groundbreaking new product or service, targeting new customers or diversifying by doing something totally unexpected. Being prepared to take calculated risks can enable you to win big and leave competitors in your wake.

  • 5. Offer unbeatable value

    Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But offering unbeatable value isn’t simply a question of lowering your prices so that you’re the cheapest option. Price and value are different things. In fact, you can charge more than your competitors and still offer unbeatable value if you provide superior products or services. You should always be looking for ways to add value to your customer relationships in ways your competitors can’t or won’t match.

  • 6. Stay close to your customers

    That’s the best way to continue to be able to know what your customers need or want. Lose touch with that and you risk being left behind. Staying close to customers can enable you to change what you do, so that you continue to appeal to customers. Aim to establish a better relationship with your customers than your competitors have with theirs.

  • 7. Provide exceptional customer service

    Always go the extra mile when it comes to customer service. Whether pre, during or post sale, provide world-class customer service. Seek to exceed not merely meet customer expectations. Always deliver on your promises and commitments to your customers. Having superior customer service can enable you to attract customers, even if what you sell is the same or similar to your competitors.

  • 8. Embrace technology

    It can save you time and money, while enabling you to provide superior customer experience and service. No matter what you sell, investing in technology and making sure you know how to maximise the benefits it brings can enable you to outperform your competitors – especially those who don’t embrace technology.

  • 9. Attract and retain the best talent

    Having the best people working for you can ensure that your products and services are the best customers can get. People must want to come and work for you, that means creating the right culture in your business, training your staff to a high level and investing in their skills, while rewarding them for their commitment and hard work, because that can help you to retain them.

  • 10. Play to your strengths

    You need to ensure that you safeguard the things you’re known for and excel at. Success isn’t always about change, due priority must be given to the things your business already does well. These are valuable and worth protecting because they’ve already helped you to attract and retain customers (and possibly staff). Make it hard for competitors to muscle in and steel your customers.

Download: free marketing strategy template

Competitor research and analysis will inform your marketing strategy. Our downloadable marketing strategy template provides a simple format for you to follow and covers key areas such as competitor analysis, target customers, and setting measurable objectives. 

Download: Please login or register to get your download.

Login or Register

End of Article
Share this content

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 20,000 like-minded business professionals
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section

or

I’ve been working through the how to start a business in 20 days ebook and so many of the things I’d done are now nicely tied together and some gaps now filled. I love the simplicity. Thank you.

Sarah Gosling – Gosling Charity Consulting

I love receiving my Informi emails. They’re always well written and engaging.

Jennifer Hobson – JEH Bookkeeping

Coronavirus (Covid-19)The latest business guidance and support