Four ways to gain & maintain the competitive edge for your small business

Kat WhiteBusiness Planning, Business Support, Market Research, MarketingLeave a Comment

Four ways to gain & maintain competitive advantage for your small business

Coca Cola CEO, James Quincey, recently commented that innovation applied to the organisation’s products, packaging and processes last year has enabled competitive advantage this year and contributed to approximately 30% of Coca Cola’s gross profit growth, which was up 9% in the year1.

Undeniably, Coca Cola has vast resources, but the principle of adopting innovation translates to even the smallest of businesses. And it doesn’t need to cost the Earth.

In this article, we look at four ways in which you can gain competitive advantage and grow your small business.

Lightbulb drawing on a pink sticky note
Competitor analysis

Being clear about what sets your business apart from the rest is the first essential step in gaining competitive advantage. The only way to gain that clarity is to perform competitor analysis which involves closely looking at your competitors’ business practices, strategies, products, marketing, manufacturing choices, location, past mistakes and successes, news, communications, partnerships with others, and any trends that they may collectively be using.

Once you’ve run your analysis, look at what you offer that your competitors don’t. If you can’t find any differences, you may need to adapt your business in certain areas to create some. Look for where you could make improvements – perhaps in your product quality, customer service, delivery times, or customer retention strategy. If you regularly assess where you sit in relation to your competitors and establish best practices for increasing your business quality, you’ll have a better chance of maintaining a competitive advantage.

Small business owner doing competitor analysis on his laptop

Marketing consultant and founder of Oxford Digital Communications, Hugo Lesser, wrote in an article for Forbes: “Success in business is about obtaining a competitive advantage, and innovation is the key to achieving it.”

Innovation doesn’t have to mean radical, sweeping changes to your business. The smallest of adjustments to your operations could make a significant impact. It’s about being vigilant as to where you can make those changes. Can you use technology to streamline processes and save resources? Can you enhance the relationship with your suppliers so you can synchronise operations and speed up delivery times? Or can you use tools to better educate your customers about your offering or deliver a more personalised experience?

In the short-term, innovative thinking could boost your bottom line, and in the long-term it will equip you with the ability to react to the challenges and opportunities you will inevitably meet. Innovation isn’t a one hit wonder. You constantly need to evaluate your processes and search for areas of improvement. Innovative thinking should be ingrained in your business’ DNA.

Cafe owners using technology in their business

Keeping up to date with marketing tools and trends will give you the competitive edge. Digital advertising, smart email marketing, a well-designed website and using social media appropriately for your audience are essential tools for any successful business in today’s world.

Are you spending money on printed marketing materials, the success of which you can’t measure? Switch to cheaper, highly targeted digital marketing that you can directly attribute revenue to. Is your website out of date and broken? Create a new website that provides a better user experience and pushes you up those search engine pages. Does your branding really reflect who you are and the value you bring? Invest in a re-brand that communicates what you’re all about; one you’ll be proud to promote.

Business owners filming themselves for digital marketing use

Sustainability is fast becoming one of the leading factors in ensuring you maintain competitive advantage. For B2B businesses, your clients are going to start reviewing how eco-friendly their supply chain is – if they haven’t started already. They will be putting every step of that supply chain under the microscope to see how it shapes up in terms of sustainability. If your own green credentials are lacking, you could lose that client to a competitor. For B2C businesses, consumers are becoming increasingly eco-savvy. 70% of consumers say they would pay an extra 5% for a greener product2. And in a separate survey conducted by KPMG, 54% said they would stop buying from a company if they were found to have been misleading in their sustainability claims3.

Making business greener is becoming inescapable. There will come a time when the UK government will make it mandatory for businesses to hit green targets in order to comply with the wider Net Zero objective. So why not get on the front foot now by making small changes at a pace that suits you? A carbon audit that shows you where you can begin to change practices is a great place to start.

Business owners discussing logistics in warehouse
Ultimately, however you choose to do it, setting your business apart will help you attract new customers and retain existing ones. Done properly, it could be what helps future-proof your business.

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1  Marketing Week, 13 February 2024  
2  McKinsey Quarterly Review  
3  KPMG  

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