For the past ten years or so, there has been a lot of talk that the Internet has become the great leveler of the playing field, allowing smaller, more agile companies to successfully compete with their big competitors. But, while that may have been true a few years ago, today your competitive advantage as a small business owner completely depends on how you actually use the technology that is currently available.
Big Businesses Are In the Game… Sort of
Most bigger businesses have caught on to the fact that they can use the Internet to extend their reach and increase revenues. But since these resource-rich companies are administration-heavy and can afford to make mistakes, many don’t always go into their digital marketing efforts in a structured or logical way. They just throw a lot of money and resources into various digital marketing campaigns to see what sticks. I call it the spaghetti on the wall approach. Often, the HYPERLINK “http://oursocialtimes.com/when-big-companies-get-social-media-wrong/”resulting campaigns are out of touch with, and at times even insulting to, the very people they are trying to reach.
This creates a big opening for smaller, more nimble, and well-informed companies to grab some serious market share.
3 Ways the Internet Can Be Used to Gain a Competitive Advantage
So, how can you use the Internet like a ninja to get a leg up on the competition? Here are three key areas to focus on:
1. Research the competition. By analyzing their digital footprint, you can glean valuable information on your competitors, such as their brand, their customer experience, and the way current and potential customers think about the company. Not only can you scope out their website, social media accounts, and local listings, but you can figure out things like their Adwords profile and do a full SEO analysis on their online presence. You may also have access to online customer satisfaction surveys and reviews. All of this information will help you to figure out what your competition is doing as well as what your target audience does and does not respond to.
2. Offer a personal touch. One of the biggest benefits to being a small business is that you can develop a more personal connection to your customers. Many of the front line people working at bigger corporations these days are doing “generic jobs,” and they offer customers generic experiences. Plus, many of these employees may not even be in the same country as the customers reaching out to them- an element that furthers the sense of disconnect.
In case you didn’t realize, customer experience a is big driver of sales. In fact, according to a study by the Office of Consumer Affairs, 80% of U.S. consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure superior customer experience.
But, here’s an important point to keep in mind: whatever digital technology you use for customer outreach and sales, make sure you are focusing on the things that are truly important to your customer base and that make the most impact. For example, instead of investing in a fancy CRM tool, it may make more sense for your business to invest in a mobile-based loyalty program.
3. Stay in touch with customer trends. While many big corporations may be sitting on a goldmine of big data, and they have sophisticated tools to analyze it all, they can often end up missing the forest for the trees. By keeping close tabs on things like your customers’ buying behaviors, customer satisfaction surveys, and trending issues related to your niche, you will be in the best position to create offers that convert into sales. Plus, as I mentioned above, since your customer experience is vital, you’ll have the information you need to customize and enhance your customer interactions in the most positive way.
The Internet and the digital technology that supports it can really be a game changer for your venture. But, just like most things in life, it all depends on how you use it.