A business has always been, at least in one sense, about creating an edge to distinguish yourself from the competition. As today’s markets become arguably more competitive than they have ever been, instilling that edge into your brand, your marketing techniques, your value proposition, your product, and your process is vital to your success.
Here are five ways you can create that edge and distance yourself from your competitors.
Write a Corporate Sustainability Plan
Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, you have a customer base that purchases from you over your competitors for some reason. Never before in history has the average customer, across a wide range of demographics and interests, cared more about the conduct of the businesses from which they buy. Corporate sustainability refers to the ways businesses intentionally craft their practices with regard to how those practices affect the world. Corporate sustainability is usually divided into three main areas: environmental, economic, and social (or societal) impact.
The average consumer today cares about how companies leverage their operations, influence, and profits to make positive impacts in one or more of those areas. And increasingly, consumers will avoid working with businesses that do not expend the effort to create some kind of positive contribution in those areas.
By investing the time necessary to design your corporate sustainability plan and spending a bit of effort improving the way your company affects the world, you can make a positive impression not only with current customers who are likely to treat your brand with more loyalty, but become a more attractive option to customers who may currently work with competitors but are looking for a reason to choose your business instead.
Engage with Your Community
Businesses that make even small efforts to engage with their local, regional, or large-scale communities can see a long-lasting positive ROI from those actions. This can be done in countless ways and doesn’t require large investments of time or resources. Sponsoring a local event, volunteering an hour once a quarter to work with a local nonprofit or school, congratulating or showcasing local figures on your website or social media, and more can all amass tremendous goodwill and brand loyalty. A little bit goes a long way.
Starting this process can be simple. If you’re not sure what kind of engagement would be beneficial for your community (or your brand), one of the best ways to start is by asking. Depending on your business and the way you market, you might opt for engaging with your local community, your social media followers, or your current customers. Whatever you deem your “community,” start by simply asking them how they might envision your company engaging with them well or providing value in a meaningful way. This can often provide huge insight and helpful ideas that often prove more catalyzing than things you would have come up with on your own.
Optimize Your Supply Chain
Especially in today’s climate, supply chain debacles are everywhere. The advent of COVID-19 and its long-lasting effects have wreaked havoc on supply chains across virtually every industry. Returning to normal will take months or even years. But even in more “normal” circumstances when a global pandemic hasn’t thrown practically every economic sector into chaos, supply chains aren’t nearly as straightforward as many businesses seem to think.
One hiccup can cause backups, shortages, delays, and a variety of other frustrating issues for your business. This matters because those problems often get passed directly to your customers or prospective customers. Customers who work with your business will go elsewhere if you are often out of stock or can’t deliver on time.
If your business has a supply chain, the time to optimize it is now (not when you encounter a problem). There are a number of strategies you can employ to fortify your business’s supply chain and mitigate the chances of experiencing costly problems or delays. These include diversifying your suppliers, optimizing your inventory practices, identifying bottlenecks or weaknesses before they become issues, training your workforce on the specifics of your supply chain so that your entire team can make informed decisions, and more.
Not Just for Retail: Optimize Your Process Flow
Perhaps your business doesn’t have a supply chain. Obviously, many businesses do not deal with physical products, retail, or manufacturing. However, an important and separate lesson exists outside supply chain management that can be applied to every type of business (including those with supply chains that already completed the previous step). To optimize your business and make it stand out, optimize your process flow.
To do this, think about (or diagram with your team) what processes your company relies on in order to do business. They will probably be both internal and external. After you’ve drawn out or thought through every step and player involved in providing your customer with the value they purchase from you, assess each element. Can it be optimized? Minimized? Changed to be more efficient? Removed altogether? Replaced with a more efficient option? Businesses that do this well can often free up huge resources, make their processes much more efficient, and remove costly holdups in their workflows. This allows them to deliver a superior product to their customers.
Incorporate Strong Leadership Characteristics Into Your Brand
Though “leadership” is a buzzword in HR or entrepreneurship or corporate training, it’s not often thought about in conjunction with your business’s brand. However, leadership qualities can provide a hugely valuable template for not only you and the way you conduct yourself as a leader of your business or company but for how your company engages with its customer. In other words, it’s useful to consider how leadership traits could be incorporated into your brand.
Depending on the nature of your business, this could be employed in a number of different ways. It might look like sponsoring leadership training for all of your employees. It could look like developing a leadership training curriculum for your sales representatives, customer service representatives, marketing team, or implementation staff. Perhaps it might involve incorporating acknowledgement of staff that demonstrate strong leadership characteristics as a part of your internal operations.
Leadership manifests in deep, noticeable ways that will transform your business from the inside out. Helping every member of your team or workforce develop their leadership skills will pay dividends in the long run through your company’s increased effectiveness, internal efficiency, and external brand.
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of ways you can improve your business and help it attain a competitive edge. But these five tips can be a starting point as you invest in your company and give it the tools it needs to stand out in the crowd. Start with one or two of these strategies and watch the effects they have on your bottom line over time.