My six-year-old son said to me the other day: “Mommy, I want to be the absolute best at everything I do.”
It’s a noble sentiment, but one that’s not necessarily realistic as we grow older and compete with everyone else trying to do the same things. Sometimes, when we can’t be on top, all we can do is work to get better.
It takes money, resources, time, and a degree of luck to be a market leader. Whether your business is large or small, there will be lots of times you’re coming from behind. Here are six simple strategies to give your product a boost in a tough marketplace.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon when someone else has already spotted a workable trend. But it’s much more impressive when you are able to spot a development coming down the pike and offer your customers a solution before anyone else does. Become an effective trend-spotter by picking out themes in the news and talking to everyone about needs that pertain to your business. Before you know it, you’ll have competitors hopping on YOUR bandwagon, and it will be nearly impossible for them to catch you.
Crowdsource New Ideas
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the minutiae of the business that we lose critical perspective. In the innovation game, 1000 brains are better than 1 or 10, so don’t rely on the highest-ranking execs or even a formal R&D division to hit it out of the park every time. Instead, devise methods for both employees and customers to contribute product-related ideas. For a terrific example of this, check out Dreamworks’ intrapreneurship practices.
Act Like a Start-up
Even if you aren’t one, adopting the behaviors and policies of startup organizations can help you attract and retain the talent needed to take your product to the next level. Pay attention to the benefits provided by your top competitors, and best them. Perhaps you can entice people with more flexibility, access to more efficient technology, or unusual perks. The more nimble your operations, the more out-of-the-box things you can try to gain a foothold.
Buy a Start-up
Let’s say one of the market leaders has a great roster of employees and customers. Rather than trying to poach them one by one, why not look into purchasing the whole operation? If you have the means, keep your eyes open to competitors that might be for sale or are in dire straits. There could be potential to create a win/win for everyone.
Keep the Customers You Have
Remember the old adage: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? It’s much easier to keep your current customers happy and satisfied than it is to sell to new ones. Always be on top of what your most valuable customers need and look to provide it before they think to ask. Look for ways to improve your customers’ return-on-investment and give them special deals and first dibs on your latest offerings. Reward them for referring you to their friends. And finally, be responsive. When customers call, route them to a real person, and make an effort to get all issues resolved within 24 hours.
Find Out What They Have That You Don’t
If your customers are leaving you for a market leader or other competitor, you should understand why. Whether it’s a service issue, a price issue, or a product issue, you need to know where your competitors are getting it right and you’re getting it wrong. So ask your average customer why he/she left, and then take immediate action to improve. Maybe some will be so impressed they’ll come back!