Most business owners start their businesses with dreams of becoming financially independent, spending lots of free time on tropical islands, and being their own boss. However, unexpected business problems and fierce competition are challenges that must be overcome to make your dreams a reality. But how do you successfully dominate the competition and achieve the results necessary to live the life you’ve dreamed of?

Sure, you have a great team, and you work hard—but so does the competition. Yes, you have great ideas—wonderful, so do most of your competitors. To truly dominate the competition, you want to put distance between you and them, with you firmly in the lead. Here’s your three-step guide to do just that.

Step 1. Take Stock of Your Business

The first step to dominate the competition is to do an analysis of your business, your competition, your budget and potential opportunities.

Your Target Market

A target market is a group of people — individuals, groups, or organizations — who demand products or services that your business provides. Your focus may be business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B), or a combination of both.

Know your market on two levels: through demographics and on a more personal level. You can compile demographic information through your interaction with customers, through analyzing information that your customers provide, and through surveys. To get from demographic to personal, engage your customers to learn their individual stories, preferences, aspirations, etc.  

Your Strengths

At this stage, get a good overview of the strengths of your business. Having this information early on can help you see other factors with a more analytical frame of mind.

Your Competition

What type of competition do you need to pass and stay ahead of to convert and keep your target market? Which businesses are having spectacular success, and which ones are having trouble? You’ll want to learn from both. 

Your Budget

This clarifies what’s possible regarding any moves you want to make to get ahead of the competition. Try to reach a healthy balance between daring (preferably backed by research) and cautious. 

Market Opportunities

Choose the most strategic opportunity to pursue. You have four types to choose from:

  1. Market penetration: You try to increase existing product sales in its present market by developing an aggressive marketing mix (e.g., low price + additional features + faster delivery/newly opened highly accessible store), winning competitors’ customers, targeting non-users, etc.
  2. Market development: You attempt to sell your products and/or services to new markets, for example by opening in a new geographic area or leveraging different media to attract new customers.
  3. Product development: You offer new or improved products to existing customers, which is what many businesses do. You need not look farther than smartphone manufacturers for an example. But then again, there’s Doritos, who can’t seem to stop coming up with new, limited edition flavors.
  4. Diversification: You move into a different line of business, where you will offer products that are completely different from those you currently offer in your original business, target different markets, or adapt different levels of production. Think 3M: It started in 1901 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company and then grew into a giant conglomerate whose products range from Post-It notes to semiconductors.

Step 2. Hone Your Competitive Edge

What is a competitive edge? Also known as competitive advantage; it refers to an attribute or a set of attributes that facilitates a business’s rise above the competition. To sharpen your competitive edge on your path to dominate the competition, take a good look at your strengths and take things from there. Here are seven ways to make your business highly competitive.

Always Deliver Top-Quality Products and/or Services

While this is a staple in most businesses’ strategy in writing, it may not always be successfully realized. This involves a concerted effort from everyone in your organization. Your consistency will keep your existing customers happy (and loyal); it will earn the trust of prospective ones and convince them to use your products and/or services.     

Keep the Right People, and Keep the Training and Motivation Coming

Make sure that the people you hire have the right skills and attributes for your industry; then make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as your main goals go, and that they are rightly invested in the success of the business. Which means you must invest in your people to keep them motivated and keep overall morale up.

Keep communication lines open and solicit feedback and ideas. Provide a great physical working environment, offer good benefits and meaningful rewards, cultivate leadership qualities, and so on. Be sure to empower your employees by providing them opportunities to stay updated on research and innovation. This will improve their knowledge and skills. It’s easy to ask for quality from employees who know they are valued as individuals in your organization.     

Create a Sound Marketing Strategy

The modern world is busy and noisy, and often downright chaotic—which means a lot of times, a top-quality product and/or service is not enough to get people’s attention. This is why you need a marketing strategy that’s nothing short of brilliant, developed with or solely by an excellent marketing team.

Your marketing strategy will need to resonate well with your target audience. Promotional marketing, such as branded caps, can be a creative and effective way to increase brand awareness.

Your marketing team can be in-house or outsourced (depending on the size of your business and the time and level of skill that’s available in-house).

Reduce Costs

Savings are crucial for a small business, so be sure to identify all the areas in your operation where you can cut back on expenses—without sacrificing quality. Leveraging modern technology allows you to streamline your processes where you need to, which results in time and money saved.

Outsourcing is also another way to increase your savings and keep your in-house team focused on your core tasks and processes. Small businesses benefit hugely from outsourcing tasks like marketing, payroll, IT, etc.      

Invest In Your Website

A well-designed and efficiently run website will do wonders for your business. Modern consumers do most of their shopping online, so you need a website that offers seamless navigation and an overall great user experience to encourage prospective customers to explore.  

Modern consumers also value content that is useful, which is why most websites for modern businesses include a blog that’s regularly updated with helpful, engaging content, which means your marketing team should have an excellent content production team.

Implement SEO

According to Think with Google, 63 percent of shopping activities occur online, regardless of where people eventually make the purchase, online or in a physical store. You can’t afford not to have a strong online presence.

Implementing SEO ensures that your website is rich with relevant keywords that make you highly visible. Reinforce an excellent website with relevant traffic so you don’t miss out on your target market (and so your target market doesn’t miss out on you!)

Forge Alliances with Non-Competitors

This move will yield lasting relationships and other benefits like savings, exposure to more prospects, and valuable help in your operations. For example, if you’re strictly a cakes and pastries business, you can supply a local eatery that offers limited dessert choices. In exchange, you get more exposure for your own business.

Step 3. Maintain Your Competitive Edge

Every industry has its own share of businesses that were at the top of their game, only to either lose steam and eventually fall back in the race or, worse, flame out. So how do you dominate the competition and stay on top once you get there? Here are five ways you can start with.

Create an Economic Moat

Just like its medieval literal counterpart, this moat protects those inside the fortress (i.e., your business assets in all forms) from outsiders. Something that you can do with, say, a hard-to-guess technique that you developed to deliver even faster service to your customers. Because your competitors can’t figure it out, they can’t advance and beat you in the race.

Keep Innovating with Your Marketing Mix

This means every team/department in your business should be on top of their research to be able to provide crucial data that facilitate your mix strategizing efforts. In particular, always be competitive in your pricing, product/service features, and marketing campaigns.  

Keep a Close Eye on Your Competitors

Because they’re behind you, they will likely be doubly driven to strategize their way past you. After all, as skilled and experienced as your people are, your competitors will also eventually figure out the best composition of their workforce and partners and just as efficiently hack their own growth and profitability. 

Know What Your Customers Need and Want

With the modern market flooded with choices, consumers can quickly rethink their choices, especially those that are closely tied with their day-to-day activities. This is why you need a highly engaging marketing strategy that allows honest customer reviews and feedback. But don’t stop there: Learn what your customers think about specific events and situations that can influence how they use your products or services and work how you can improve their experience.

Monitoring industry trends as well as your competitors helps you learn more about your industry and your target market, so don’t just watch them to be prepared in case they do something truly revolutionary that threatens your survival.

Stay in touch with industry and overall business experts and pick their brains, or follow them on social media to get helpful updates and ideas. Learn all you can about your industry, as well as other industry that relate to yours, to get a good gauge of the life span of current trends and predict where the shifts will take place. Strategize in advance. This will help you dominate the competition.