Competition is good and not just for startups. Competitors also keep your startup alive. There is a story about the Japanese fishing industry that wanted to provide fresh fish for their customers. The solution was to install a fish tank with a shark on boats. Read the Japanese fresh fish story here
Your peers help you stay alive in the business just as the shark in the story helped in keeping the fish fresh.
Learn from your Peers
Observe your peers. If you are not the first in the market, then you have the advantage of getting to study your competition closely. Their business, market strategy, branding, customers are all lessons that will help run your business. Watch carefully and learn. Make the changes that you think will make your startup unique. Sometimes a small twist to the existing business model can be the
Learn from the mistakes of your competitors
Failure is normal in any arena but in a startup, it could be the end of the road for your business, so the best option is to learn from the failures of your competitors. Use their mistakes as guiding blocks and avoid making the same follies your peers did. Look out for the opportunity your peers missed out on. Maybe they came in too early and missed out on something that you are just in time for. Always be alert to opportunities that your peers may have missed.
Make products that are way ahead of your competition
Your product has to be way ahead of the competition to be noticed. If your product is slightly better, the customers are likely to stick to your peers. You need to pull them out of their comfort zone and make them want to choose your product. If Facebook wasn't instantly more likable than its competition, chances are social media users would've still preferred its predecessor Orkut.
Customer is King
Ideas may be the basis of a startup but remember ideas are replaceable while customers are forever. Keep your customers happy, building a thriving long-term business relationship with your customers will always hold you in good stead. Satisfied customers also bring in new customers, they become your spokespeople. Treat your customers like they are the be-all and end-all for there is no business without customers. Customer service is as big an investment as the money you put in or the other resources invested.
Identify potential new markets
This is a sure-shot way to go one up on your peers. There is always an unexplored territory, untapped potential markets that if you can identify then you have the first-mover advantage that you can capitalize on. Another strategy that can be used is to identify a niche customer base and cater to them extensively.
Build on what's unique to your startup
Identify what is unique to your business. If there is something that sets your business apart from the rest of the competition, then build on it. It could be the way your business is modeled, the quality of the employees, access to experts or the experience and excellence of these experts. Instead of going head to head with a peer use this uniqueness to build your brand.
How you market your product or service could be the difference needed to push your business into the next league. Try and avoid going into a marketing war with an existing product unless you have no other option like in the case of soft drink rival businesses Coca-cola and Pepsi. Startups are very unlikely to have that level of brand recall or loyalty. So, market your product or service differently, highlighting its unique virtues.
Another strategy is to raise maximum funds for your marketing. The more your marketing budget better the chances of increasing your brand value and brand recall thus improving the chances of your business succeeding provided it delivers as promised. Flooding the market with your ads will make it harder for newer competitors to seep into the market.
If you are the company that is entering an already saturated market, then offering something distinctive is the only way to market yourself.
Planning and Execution
Planning is of utmost importance in any business but in a startup, since you are building something ground up, it becomes even more relevant. Plan every single thing to the last detail brainstorming and analyzing every idea. Sure, things may not always go as per plan but a deviation from the plan is far easier to manage than an absence of one.
Execution of plans is of foremost importance. You need a team that is capable of executing business ideas. Even the best-laid plans fail on inefficient execution. In the case of a startup rapid prototyping, user testing, market validation helps convert ideas into results. This conversion from an idea into a result is possible only if your management team is capable.
People are Important
The quality of your employees can be the make or break for your startup. Employees that share your vision, are constantly motivated and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices without dwelling in negativity and are good at what they do will always be an asset to your startup and be the big difference between you and your peers.
In an ever-changing market, constant innovation is the only way to stay ahead. A recent example is that of social media platforms for sharing pictures - Snapchat and Instagram both of which have managed to survive despite being competitors. However, Instagram managed to get a leg up when it changed things around incorporating some of Snapchat's winning features.
Your product or service may be very successful, but it doesn't take very long to be left behind if you do not observe the market, identify areas for growth and innovate constantly.
However unique your idea, however you position your product, competition is inevitable. Instead of running from your peers, finding ways to outsmart them is the way to go.
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