By Lexie Lu, Design Roast
April 2, 2019

If you want to stand out from the competition, think outside the box and pay attention to which ideas create success for your brand.

Attracting new customers is often the result of how you stand out from the competition. No matter what industry you’re in, there are a few techniques that allow you to draw in more clients than you ever thought possible.

Surveys show that small business optimism is at a 10-year high, with some drops in confidence in January of 2019, but steady growth. If you’re in the percentage of those surveyed with strong optimism, then now might be the time to grow as an entrepreneur and expand your operations. You’ll need a robust plan to forge ahead.

Here are 12 key strategies and advice I have used to help you get from where you are to miles ahead of your nearest contender:

  1. Study the Competition

Before changing your business for the better, you must figure out what you’re doing right and what needs improving. Spend time studying your competition. What strategies work well for them? Are there any key elements you’re missing?

For example, I recently lost several clients to a competitor. When asked, these past customers stated it was due to a lack of communication. Look at your customer service and account management teams and see where you might improve on staying in touch with clients.

2. Set SMART Goals

Don’t just set a goal or two but set a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym with each letter representing an action.

  • Specific: Goals should be as accurate as possible, so you know when you reach them.
  • Measurable: Figure out some form of measurement, such as a specific number of sales.
  • Attainable: Set goals you can achieve, so you don’t feel overwhelming defeat.
  • Relevant: The goal should mesh well with your overall mission as a company.
  • Timely: Create a deadline for the goal so you can move forward to the next plan and keep growing.

3. Tap into the Power of Visual Assets

About 90 percent of the information the brain processes is visual. If you aren’t already using visual assets in marketing materials, you’re missing out on social media shares and making an impression through other company materials.

Keep in mind that images should be relevant to your business. Don’t turn to boring stock photos that might also appear on a competitor’s site. Instead, show your product or service in action and from varying angles and locations.

I have found that people share visual assets on social media more often than text alone, so use them to tap into that traffic.

4. Improve Your Customer Service

Quality customer service helps you build your brand and retain the customers you already have. Refine processes by creating a customer service policy and training manuals.

Reach out to current customers and ask how you can improve your service to them. One of the best sources of data on your customer service is complaints. If a customer takes time and complains, then there is likely something to be learned from that situation.

  1. Offer More Employee Training

Well-trained employees know how to meet customer needs and are more productive. Although it might seem counterintuitive to spend time on training, your entire company benefits from the knowledge gained.

Training enables employees to take charge of their careers and is beneficial to your company by creating a well-oiled machine with knowledgeable staff. The better you treat your employees, the more likely you’ll retain top talent.

6. Pool Good Ideas

Ask for ideas from your workers. Because your employees work directly with your customers and your product, they may have ideas for marketing you hadn’t thought of. Looking at the product from a fresh perspective often generates some of the best marketing campaigns.

Reward employees who come up with a new process or idea that improves sales or saves the company money.

7. Develop a Unique Selling Point (USP)

Stand out from the competition by honing-in on your USP. What is it that makes your company unique from others in the marketplace?

Once you know what makes your business uncommon, develop that aspect of your business even more. Show consumers what you offer that no one else does.

8. Expand Your Target Audience

If you’ve been in business any length of time, you’ve likely already figured out who your target audience is. You may even have a buyer persona or two — pretend characters who represent your typical customers. Expand that target audience by growing its range.

I find it helpful to think about related markets where your customers might hang out. What are the complementary businesses that have a tie-in to what you do? Team up with them and advertise one another’s products.

9. Invest in Influencer Marketing

About 39 percent of marketers increased their influencer marketing budget last year. Influencers tap into your target audience and help reach people you otherwise might not.

Influencer marketing is highly effective at reaching both online and local audiences. For online audiences, seek influencers whose audiences are made up of people you most want to reach. Work directly with the influencer on creating a campaign, as they know their audience better than you do and understand what they respond to best.

Local audiences tend to respond best to micro-celebrities, such as a weatherman or radio personality. Think about the influencers in your area and which ones reach the audience you’d like to get your message to.

10. Expand Your Product Line

One way to grow your business is through selling more to the customers you already have. Current happy customers are more likely to buy from you again and spend more than the first time they made a purchase. Expand your product line with new offerings or accessories to what you already sell.

11. Go Green

For those who focus on building a more sustainable world, whether or not your company is green matters. If you want to reach even more potential leads, add a green initiative to your company. Commit to reducing your carbon footprint both in the production process and in your daily operations.

Small changes make a big difference, such as adding motion sensor lights in the bathrooms and swapping out disposable plates and cups for reusable ones.

12. Increase Your Marketing Efforts

Study which marketing efforts offer the most return on investment (ROI) and add a bigger budget in those areas. While it’s okay to try new methods, ramping up the ones that have a good ROI lead to a greater chance of success.

Which methods work best will depend on your target audience and the niche of your business model. For example, if you sell web hosting services, then your target audience is most likely reached through social media and targeted business advertising. If you install fences, your target audience is homeowners better reached through a local festival or door hangers

Blow the Competition Out of the Water

If you want to stand out from the competition, you should institute all the strategies listed above and more. Think outside the box and pay attention to which ideas create success for your brand. Over time, the small efforts you make each day to drive brand recognition will grow your company and your pool of customers.