Competition is present in every aspect of our lives, but it’s not surprising that it’s especially cutthroat in the business world, as entrepreneurs are some of the most competitive people out there. But think about it this way: competition is not only the foundation of the free market, but commerce would be nonexistent without it.
That being said, the stress that comes to dealing with competition is like no other, as your business is on the line. While competition is typically more intense in homogenous industries, the rise of the digital age, democratisation of information, and consumer transparency has made things more challenging for all businesses.
Keep reading as we delve into some important ideas to keep in mind when putting together your growth strategy when facing intense competition.
Don’t be a copycat
This may sound distasteful, but there's an ingrained practice of copying business ideas in many countries in Asia, which has indeed worked for some time. But as the market matures, companies are realising that copying others’ business models simply isn’t sustainable.
On the one hand, it’s not difficult for customers to see through this strategy, but more importantly, copying a successful competitor won’t guarantee your success. In fact, you’re cutting into your competitive advantage of differentiating yourself, which leads to the next point. On the flip side, if a competitor is copying you, accept it as flattery and know that they’ll only be playing catch up.
Dare to be different
Differentiating yourself from your competitors is the most obvious and methodological way to deal with competition. For example, can your product be easier to use? Safer to use? Weather proof? More modern? More edgy? More premium? More environmentally friendly? If you’re offering a service, then can you extend your operation hours? Have better customer service? Have faster delivery? Offer international shipping? Offer better payment options?
While many of these changes are costly, considering these courses one-by-one will elevate your brand and product, allowing you stay ahead of the curve or even edge out your competition. The key is choosing to differentiate yourself in ways that maximise the company’s existing strengths. For instance, if you have a great tech team, then improving website functions should be addressed first.
Learn to play nice
Under no circumstances is it a good idea to trash talk your competition or play dirty, especially when you’re spending PR or Marketing budget to do so. Steering people away from your competitors will not necessarily lead to the success of your business. Not only will it reflect poorly on your company, it’s simply a waste of money in terms of ROI.
Additionally, customers you’ve convinced to leave your competitor will unlikely go to you, as the only way to gain customers and retain their loyalty is by offering a superior product. You were told not to cheat in school, and the same applies here as well.
Keep your enemies (kind of) close
While it’s widely accepted that keeping a close eye on your competitors is wise, being too much of a stalker can negatively impact your growth, and distract you from what’s really important. Observing competitors to learn from their mistakes can greatly benefit your company, but overthinking their Marketing, Branding or client-facing strategy can disrupt your own operations or worse, lead you down the wrong road.
It’s likely that your competitors are also exploring the best ways to grow their business, so learning more about your competition should only go as far as benchmarking and understanding the market landscape, rather than using it formulate action points for your company.
Know who your customers are
Perhaps the most important tip for dealing with competition is to know your own customers. While you may be in the same industry as countless other similar companies, at the end of the day, your customers are unique to you. Polling your current client base, and looking to them for how to improve your business is the best way to retain your business and surpass your competition.
The more you know about your demographic, in this case, the better. Offering incentives for completing surveys and polls is the easiest way to gain valuable data, and then apply them to acquiring new customers.
Author: Ching Lam Ip, Programme & Marketing Lead, Garage Society
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