We live in a super connected world, where new businesses can come and go in the blink of an eye. In such a crowded marketplace, how do you make sure your products or services stand out from the hundreds of other companies out there? Being different to the competition is critical to your company’s success and, while most people understand that concept, far too many fail to put it into practice.
Making your product or business stand out from the crowd can therefore seem like a complicated and time consuming process. But it really doesn't have to be. Below, we highlight three areas to focus on so that your SME will stand head and shoulders above the competition.
1. Hire staff you can trust
If you're going to go above and beyond what your customers expect, then you need a team of staff you can rely on, and that reliability must start at the bottom and go all the way to the top. Your employees are the mechanism that connects your customers with your business proposition, so it's wise to be very particular about who you choose to represent your company and how much time and money you invest into training them.
You either want to hire staff that are knowledgeable in their field with years of credible experience or hire new staff that are hardworking and eager to learn and invest in their future. Staff that you can trust will, in turn, trust you back, and this shines through in how they deal with customers. If you make a promise to your customers, it is your duty to make sure your staff can deliver it. This is important because, if you fail to deliver on a promise, you'll have lost that customer's trust. And, once trust has been lost, you'll have to work even harder to win it back.
2. Focus on the customer
Customer trust and loyalty are key to long-term business success, and the only way to build a real relationship is to go above and beyond simply providing your product or service. The way you treat your customers, whether in person or online, must be tailored to impress them. This is something that should be at the forefront of your mind and present in everything you do.
The best way to do this is to be fully customer-focused. Think about the journey that your customer takes from hearing about your business, to making contact, to successfully receiving their product or service. Think about what you can offer your customers and build a process that gets them exactly what they want, quicker and easier than anyone else.
Ask yourself the following:
- What can you do to go the extra mile?
- Where might your customers need support?
- What are your customers' needs at each stage of the process?
- What can you do differently from your competitors?
- What added benefits can you bring to your customers that no one else is?
If you can answer these questions, you will begin to focus on the needs of the customer and stand out from competitors who don't put user needs first.
If you still struggle to get in the mindset of the customer, or feel you and your staff are too close to your product to think like the customer, it may well be worth doing some external user testing and gathering customer feedback. There are many ways to do this. For example, if you want to create a user-focused website or improve your current customer journey online, look into session recording or session replay software which can show you how real users are working their way through your website. Similarly, you can send out a simple feedback survey with every online order or through your social media channels asking customers to give their thoughts on how you can improve your service. There are many ways to approach the customer-first mentality, so start small and go with whatever best works for your business.
3. Build a strong online presence
Whether you sell products directly online, or simply use online channels for brand awareness and customer interaction, establishing a strong and memorable online presence is essential. Improving visibility starts with having a strong brand that is echoed through your website, social channels, and online directories. But it isn’t just enough to be present online - you need to be active too. You have to invest the necessary time if you want to be successful in building a strong digital presence.
Studying what your competitors are doing online is key to giving you an edge but, if you're new to the digital space, you could have a lot of catching up to do. It's not about copying your competitors, it's about keeping an eye out for those big win opportunities. Is there something your competitors are missing? It's worth dedicating some time to this task each week. Even better, invest money into building an online presence through the use of web development, content marketing and search engine optimisation. This presence should be dynamic and constantly honed to improve your clients' experience and make their journey as smooth as possible.
About the Author
Matt Stevens has been working in the financial industry for over 8 years and is the managing director of The Mortgage Genie. He's a father of two and studied Business Management and Spanish Linguistics at Northumbria University and the University of Cadiz.