A Startup’s Guide to Outsmarting Its Competition

It’s not unusual for a new startup to face steep competition from large, well-established brands. You may be strapped for cash, have limited business contacts and compete with businesses that can outspend and out-network your company.

To stay afloat when breaking into a new market, you must make full use of the resources at your disposal — and the unique advantages a startup can have.

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1. Know What Makes Your Business Different

Whenever you’re planning a new move or marketing campaign, remember why you’re in business in the first place. What made you decide to start a company in a crowded market?

A good place to start any new branding venture is by identifying the business’s unique selling proposition, or USP. Keeping your USP in mind can help you structure your marketing strategy. It can ensure you make a strong and compelling argument when asked why a customer should shop with you and not the competition.

2. Make Your Branding Distinct

The second a customer sees your product packaging or website, they should already have an idea of what your brand stands for and why you’re worth choosing.

This can be a combination of values like a commitment to quality customer service, technical expertise, innovation or handcrafted products. This works best if you make sure no one else is doing it, or you do it better than anyone out there.

Keeping your branding distinct will help communicate these values — and help you stand out from your competitors on a shelf or digital storefront.

3. Take Advantage of Startup Status

If you’re trying to break into a developed market, your competitors may be able to outspend you at every turn. 

However, being a startup does have its advantages. As a much smaller company, you often have more opportunities to move quickly, specialize, pay close attention to your customers and respond to new industry developments. These opportunities can provide you with a chance to disrupt the market — or, at least, find a niche your competitors aren’t fully serving.

Acting in ways that a larger, slower and more complex business can’t may offer some serious benefits — like the customer loyalty needed to keep your company going.

  1. 4. Build a Strong Base

Repeat customers are essential to the success of most modern businesses. Not only do they tend to spend more — with their money accounting for up to 60% of the revenue for a well-established company — they also typically cost less to acquire.

Of course, you don’t want to neglect growth and marketing that attracts new customers. Putting time and resources into relationship-building can help you develop a reliable source of income, support, feedback and word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Deliver Value to Your Customers

High-quality experiences can be a USP. Any business can benefit from delivering excellent customer encounters. 

Going the extra mile for your clients can demonstrate that you’re thinking about their needs. Over time, this can encourage brand loyalty. Because repeat customers will be key to your business’s success, the trust you build will be extremely valuable.

6. Find Out Where the Competition Is

In the same way you can use sales mapping tech to visualize where your customers are, you can use maps to identify where your competition is at their strongest — and weakest. A map of your audience and competitors’ service or sales areas may give you a good idea of where potential customers may be underserved. You can also find places where competition may be especially difficult because many grands seek consumer attention. 

7. Learn Why Customers Choose Competitors

In the same way your brand has a unique selling point, successful competitors are also thinking about their business’s unique qualities. 

For example, there will only ever be one price leader in a given market. If you try to stand out by making your products extremely low-cost for the value they provide, but can’t beat the competition’s prices, you’ll have a hard time attracting customers.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to beat a competitor at their own game. However, it is good to evaluate the competition’s marketing when building your business’s ad strategy and ensure you don’t try to offer something consumers can already get.

8. Optimize Your Marketing

Make every dollar count. Optimize your pages for web search, invest in low-cost marketing strategies and encourage customers to spread the word about your brand. 

For example, experimentation with a new ad strategy before you scale can help you save money and avoid marketing flops. Aligning your marketing and branding across channels can help you build a consistent brand and avoid confusing your customers.

Upgrading your social media strategy by adopting tips for platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can also help you stand out online.

9. Monitor the Competition

Observing your competition’s behavior — especially if they’re a well-established brand — can give you a good idea of how others are marketing to a similar audience. Keeping tabs on your competitors will help you learn how they’re targeting their audience. That allows you to identify what works, what doesn’t and what your brand can do to stand out.

10. Strengthen Business Relationships

Your relationships with other companies — especially suppliers and vendors — can be just as important as those with your customers. If a supplier believes your success means better business for them, they’ll be more invested in helping your brand grow. 

The right relationship can provide you access to resources you’d never be able to get otherwise — like discounts, technical advice and valuable market info.

Startups Can Beat the Competition

In a crowded market, startups can face well-established companies with deep pockets and valuable industry contacts. With the right planning and strategy, startups can still carve out a niche and find success.

Simple techniques — like identifying your USP, building relationships with repeat customers and mapping the competition — can help solidify your branding and give you the base your business needs to succeed.

Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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