Companies more than ever want to win business over their competition. Of course, every company that wants to stay in business wants to earn more revenue. But these days, companies are more focused on that—staying in business.
Reports of companies big and small going under happen daily, from beloved main street corner shops to well-known global brands. Company size and years of business no longer impact a buyer’s decision. And companies that do not adapt to this everchanging economy may soon find themselves in the news and out of business.
So, how can your company stay relevant? Stand out? Be top of mind?
To keep your company in business, it’s up to you to know how to stand out in a crowded market. And here’s how you can make that happen for your company.
Not Everything is About Price
You can always drop your price to snag some business in the short term. But this tactic isn’t sustainable if your competition also cuts the cost for consumers. And if you’re not able to lower your production cost without sacrificing quality, you’re only short-changing your profits.
Successful companies that know how to stand out in a crowded market focus on what value they can consistently provide their target buyers. While price holds its weight during the purchasing decision process, it isn’t always the final driving factor.
What Role Does Your Company Play in the Market?
The first step to becoming a company that exemplifies how to stand out in a crowded market is to be truthful. That is, your team must take a hard, honest look at how your business conducts business within the marketplace.
Which of the following personas best matches your team?
- Wishers require both a differentiated strategy and effective operations.
- Doers have established effective operations but need to refine their strategy.
- Dreamers have created a differentiated strategy but fall flat on effective operations.
- Differentiators carry out both a differentiated strategy and effective operations.
Here’s How to Stand Out in a Crowded Market
A company that continues to stay relevant maintains both a differentiated strategy and effective operations to execute this business plan. And this is never a one-and-done solution. Rather, strategy and execution must respond—not react—in real time to the economy and consumer needs in order to preserve relevancy over time.
In other words, businesses that adjust their differentiated strategy and plan of execution are more likely to stand out and stay relevant in today’s crowded and unpredictable market.
But what does that mean for your business? Let’s revisit your current role in today’s market to discover what your plan of action should be.
- Wishers – Start by building a strong differentiated strategy that defines your brand identity, its value to your target consumer and how its value stands out from your competition. Only then can your team know how to move your operation forward.
- Doers – No need to clear the slate. No need to halt operation. Focus on creating a capabilities-driven strategy that identifies and centers around your competitive advantage.
- Dreamers – As visionaries, you have already developed a differentiated strategy. Approach your operations the way you approach your strategy: through creativity and problem-solving. Decide the best way to carry out the operational side of your business so that you effectively allocate resources. The important step for your team is to act on your plans.
- Differentiators – This status can be lost as quickly as it’s earned, so keep your eye on the prize. Stay on top through continuous, strategical growth, from strong relationships and product innovation to compelling marketing and considerate customer service.
How to stand out in a crowded market is easier said than done. So, where do you go from here?
First, Focus on Your Foundation
A differentiated strategy relies on knowing your targets buyers and how your product/service delivers better than the competition. Assumptions can lead to bad decision-making, so establish the basics before creating your strategy. This exercise can reveal key insights so that you know how to stand out in a crowded market.
Differentiate Your Business
What value does your product or service bring that can’t be matched by your competition? Understand the worth your company offers to your target consumer and you’ll find it easier to sell your product/service.
Here are some of the ways you can differentiate your business in today’s crowded market.
- Features – Does your company provide unrivaled benefits that enhances the ease and enjoyment of your product/service?
- Performance – Does your product/service perform faster, more simply and with greater accuracy?
- UX – Does the design of your product provide a more engaging user experience?
- Superior Technology – Does your product/service feature advancements that can’t be duplicated by the competition?
- Customer Service – Do your customer-facing teams provide faster responses, more in-depth support and go the extra mile for your potential customers and loyal buyers?
Please Note: Quality, while always perceived as a benefit, should not be your lead business differentiator. All companies these days claim to sell a quality product or service, so this is not how to stand out in a crowded market. Maintain quality, just don’t make it your elevator pitch.
Define Your Customers
Many companies tend to assume who their target buyer is without looking at their data. Despite having all the answers at their fingertips, they continue to sell to the wrong consumer at the wrong time at the wrong place.
This is not how to stand out in a crowded market.
Do you really know who buys your product or service? Follow this four-step approach to confirm (or discover) who really are your customers.
Step 1: Conduct Buyer Research – Gather customer insights through previous conversations, purchasing history and engagement on social media, website(s) and/or apps. Your research can reveal buyer demographics, buyer’s role, the psychology of the buyer, daily life of the buyer and process of making purchasing decisions.
Step 2: Create the Buyer Persona – Develop a fictional representation of your ideal customer based upon the gathered consumer insights. A strong buyer person should encompass:
- Demographic traits of your buyer
- The role that your buyer plays within an organization (B2B) or social structure (B2C)
- The priorities, objectives and challenges of your buyer
- How your buyer spends their day
- How your buyer decides to make a purchase
Step 3: Create the Buying Process Map – Convey exactly how your customers purchase your products or services within your market. A buying process map includes:
- Data on the buyer’s goals during each phase
- Which activities further engage the buyer across phases
- What kinds of content are consumed during each phase
- How they communicate throughout the process
Step 4: Communicate Consumer Findings – Distribute these findings across your company so that your internal teams can better facilitate your business relationships with your target buyer.
Next, Build a Differentiated Business Strategy
A company with a strong differentiated strategy has defined its vision, prioritized objectives and optimized financial performance within its business model. By following these four steps in order, your business can create a differentiated plan that is logical, honest and likely to succeed.
Step 1: Define Your Business
It’s time to take all that effort you placed in discovering what differentiates your business and the definition of your target consumer. All that exploration can now easily be summarized within these foundational questions that kicks off a strong business strategy:
- Offerings and Value Proposition – What does your company offer its customers? Why would customers buy from your company instead of the competition?
- Industry – In which industry sector does your business operate? Who are your competitors?
- Customers and Market – Who are your consumers? What is your target market?
Step 2: State Your Business Objectives
Your company’s objectives should clearly state the purpose of your business strategy. After all, the reason your team is creating this business strategy is to clarify how you company plans to achieve specific goals.
Start with your top goal of earning a profit. After all, your primary objective is to make, sustain and grow profits so that your company can continue to create, maintain business operations and increase profits.
Are there additional business objectives that should be clarified here? High-level values can also translate as business objectives, especially if they impact your company’s product/service, target market and business industry.
Step 3: Plan of Execution
How does your company plan on achieving your business objectives? In other words, how does your company plan to win against the competition and create consumer demand as well as earn, sustain and grow profits?
If you’re uncertain how to answer this question, consider applying a SWOT analysis to honestly assess where your business stands today so that you know how to move forward tomorrow:
- Strengths – What does your business do well? What do others see as your strengths? Do you have access to unique resources?
- Weaknesses – Where can you improve? What do others see as your weaknesses? Where do your resources fall short?
- Opportunities – How can you turn your strengths into opportunities? What opportunities are currently available to you? Which trends can be most beneficial to your business?
- Threats – What threats can harm your company? What is your competition doing that your business is not?
Step 4: Run the Numbers
Can your business stay in business by following this differentiated business strategy?
Build a quantitative model with profits and margins so that you can receive that answer now in theory and not blindly through experience. A quantitative model examines:
- Target product/service revenues
- Expenses necessary to earn target revenues
- Cost of goods/services sold
- Selling expenses
- Administrative and operational expenses
Then, Drive Operations to Follow Through
Now it’s time to take action on your strategy. And while execution is crucial here in carrying out your action plan, so too is the strategy on how the operations side of your business operates.
Successful business operations take the time to refine their:
The right operational framework in place establishes processes, systems, rhythms and templates for your company to use in order to run the day-to-day business. An operations design focuses on aligning your team with the right set of tools in order to execute the differentiated business strategy and provide useful information to leadership without overloading your internal teams.
This can be achieved by:
- Establishing non-negotiable system objectives that align business standards and drive strategy, initiatives and metrics
- Designing effective systems that benefit all teams by streamlining and automating internal processes
- Keep systems running through training, effective communication and reasonable expectations
Does your business have the right people on your team to drive your business strategy? Do you have the right tools in place to effectively carry out your business objectives? Does everyone on your team understand the role they play within your company and within your differentiated business strategy?
Your strategy depends on how well you execute your initiatives. Successful companies that know how to stand out in a crowded market uphold these values:
- Discipline – Introduce a consistent code of behavior for outcome-focused, on-time and on-budget results
- Transparency – Create an environment where business information is open, available and shared across internal teams.
- Efficiency – Business operations are methodical, well-organized and reduce redundancies across the company through creative problem-solving.
The numbers don’t lie. Assess the success of your business operations through established metrics so that your company can make informed business decisions as well as identify new opportunities for improvement and how future initiatives can impact current processes.
Every business initiative should be measurable and benchmarked against your other initiatives. Your business intelligence should be able to capture updates, modifications and/or redesigns of your business strategy through well-collected data.
If the numbers aren’t what you want them to be, perhaps it’s time to revisit your differentiated business strategy and make adjustments to ensure that you are still standing out in a crowded market.