All things aside, you need to have a competitive edge to survive and thrive in business today.
While I will be working my way through the best ways to think about gaining a competitive advantage this year (amongst your competitive strategy), I will also give you links to the fundamentals of defining potential advantages and marketing with them. Then you can take them to the bank ie. have sales results… the point!
The case we put forward is that of differentiation. Putting this unique thing(s) that you have identified in the marketing strategy is the way to start transforming your business. A great online presence is a good place to start. We’ve written an article here, which helps you to understand why this is so critically important and how easy it is to get there… because hardly anyone is doing it well!
The main point here is to harness the most important and powerful platforms for your business to leverage at the same time as actually having something unique to offer. There is so much that companies can do – to better their position in the market. Unfortunately not enough people take the time to investigate how.
Why is having a good marketing mix so important?
Most potential customers won’t even talk to you about buying until the 3rd-6th interaction… what if the first and second majors channels of communication you use doesn’t work?
We use tools to understand what is working and also what your competition are doing. If we cannot find a companies competition with our tools… it means that their online presence is not doing anything to help them win business. Because most people do their initial searching for information about their problems and the solutions to those problems… if you are not invested in getting noticed / found – you are not even in the mix to sell these people anything = 90% of the market. This is also why we understand what a HUGE opportunity there is ONLINE for most companies to shine… because these are tools that we use for digital marketing everyday.
I am constantly amazed at the seemingly low priority online presence and online brand reputation management is given.
We are more than happy to work with companies that do NOT want to enhance their online presence. There are indeed plenty of other ways to have a competitive advantage.
Making sure you have a diverse marketing mix to ensure penetration into the market with your promotional efforts is a good start. You really want effectiveness long term – with all efforts – so that your brand can stand the test of the waining trends that come and go.
1. Competitive Analysis
2. Have a marketing strategy before you start
3. Impact of Online Reputation
Competitor Analysis & Market Research
In simple form, a competitive advantage is derived from analysing the market, your business and the competitors of your business. The purpose of these analysis and research pieces is for understanding and developing a differentiator which will allow your company to have a competitive advantage. The market research is foundational to realising where to fit a product or service into a different spot, as opposed to that of the competitors. This should be a fundamental part of any company’s strategic business planning efforts or competitive strategy (where-ever the company is up to). Market research can also turn up new opportunities and other gaps from which more competitive advantages can be developed.
Online, you will find exactly who is ranking for what, which is basically google telling you that the companies who are ranking know what they are talking about with authority on a certain issue. Keywords are very specific to knowledge about specific topics.
Competitive Advantage Examples
Thinking about what type of competitive advantages there are, is also important. Obviously, these examples are broad and not a complete list, however they will prompt you in think about what types of things are competitive advantages.
Some Examples are:
Lower cost, larger delivery volume capacity, shorter delivery times, better customer service, higher quality product, more technologically advanced, more innovative (current and future aware), more user friendly and online dominance.
To find out more about overarching competitive advantage strategies that companies employ, please follow this link to our Competitive Advantage Explained page.
How does your business present its value to the potential customers?
Differentiation is one of those funny things that everyone thinks they have, but hardly any companies actually attain.
All companies have uniqueness, however it is not just uniqueness that allows a competitive advantage… it is more the perceived and actual value that you bring to the potential customer – that will give you “that edge” in the sales process.
A differentiation strategy is key to the success of any angling for any extra competitiveness. This is normally part and parcel of a competitive advantage analysis, however not many companies get there… so a differentiation strategy is a good start – if you cannot get a full analysis done!
Your online reputation should be part of your differentiation solution and strategy. Online touch points normally come first, before they get to look at what you think is your solution. This is a very large differentiator that alot of businesses overlook… and is very easily identified amongst the competitors of your products and services. Basically if you don’t come up in search results for your products and services when someone is looking into your industry and doesn’t necessarily know anything about it – you lose straight up!
This narrative needs to be driven through and around where you want to do business. Obviously not only your online presence, but multiple ways of getting touch points – is one of the keys to great Lead Generation and Brand Positioning. All of these touch points need to be managed well for your online reputation to make you stand out from your competitors… because people will still jump on Google to check you out – even if they have met you in person or been recommended by someone else.
Planning and Strategy
The start of planning any project is to have a good understanding of the current state and how you got there. From there we find it is most helpful to write a strategic business plan which lays out the goals, kpi’s and a framework from which all responsible parties can be managed in order to achieve the desired results. This might sound like a way to micro manage people, however this is also used to manage the outputs and inputs of stakeholders such as the CEO, CFO, COO and so on.
The gaps in the market are where the competitive advantages of your business need to be developed. Therefore the strategies that are employed need to be capable of being the delivery vehicle for the desired results.
We have found that putting together specific frameworks like a competitive advantage framework, sales enablement framework or even a marketing mix framework makes it easier to identify great strategies. These strategies need to be chosen to employ for a specific time or purpose like a seasonal marketing campaign.
Strategy must be flexible and tested all the time with data that has only just been collected, and is more meaningful if it can be benchmarked from a previous iteration of testing.
Once a potential competitive advantage has been identified it needs to be developed and tested for effectiveness. Once this is proven to be a gap and profitable exercise because there is a need and people willing to pay good money for the product or service difference – it’s on!
The next step is to focus all marketing efforts on the edge you have found over your competition, without bad mouthing the competition. It’s alright to tease them and play the game… just not OK to get into war as our politicians do on a daily basis with their political games.
A competitive advantage for today…
As mentioned above hardly any businesses are paying attention to their online presence and reputation. Therefore the competition is low and ripe for leveraging your online listings, as another channel of marketing and also sales.
Ranking in google searches for your industry and product or service is relatively easy for a lot of businesses. We wrote a guide for you to start out… The Definitive 1st Step to online marketing.
Hence this is just one example of the competitive advantages that you are potentially missing out on and are fairly quick, reasonable cheap and relatively easy in a lot of cases.
You NEED to “work the system” and employ someone who knows how to help you get noticed in the crowd!
Google is where over 90% of people do their searching, and is where 75% of all discovery sessions are held before making any further enquiries about potentially buying anything.
The percentage of not doing business with your company increases significantly because google brings in “authoritative sites” such as trip advisor, true local, google my business listing, Yelp reviews etc… as part of the search results – about your business.
Market your business effectively in the places that the majority of your potential customers are looking for your type of product or service. Most people will be using google as a first port of call for most industries!
Have a Marketing Strategy before you start
Trillions of dollars a year, are wasted because of poor analysis and planning. Marketing is no different, you need to have a plan and then put a strategy together. The strategy is the vehicle to take the plan to completion ie. the end of the plan and achievement of the goals.
What does a strategy look like?
A strategy is simply an action plan. For example a plan is – we are going to the park this afternoon, in order to get the cabin fever out of the kids and need to be home by 5pm. The strategy to get that plan successfully completed is – take the kids out for a 20 minute ride on their bikes, to the park, while carrying a backpack with a ball. We must remember to set our watch alarm for 4:30pm, so that we can pack up and get home by 5pm. The KPI’s are important to get in there so that the results are attainable, because we are hitting the right stats. KPI’s are also valuable, because they can be measured and changed for the next stage of the plan, if they didn’t achieve the first stage results. ie. the bike ride didn’t ware the kids out, so we’ll need to lengthen the soccer pitch so the kids have to run further while playing soccer – so that they are really worn out and get rid of their cabin fever!
Plans and Strategies go hand in hand.
A marketing strategy is a part of the overall strategy of a business, with the specific purpose of detailing HOW the business will connect with the existing customers and reach the potential customers and turn them into warm leads and opportunities for the product or service that the business provides.
You may not have heard this expression as it is not necessarily common. A marketing mix should be part of your overall business strategy and the centre of your marketing strategy. It is more frequently heard of in the development of a go-to-market strategy or development of a branding and positioning project.
Time, money and not understanding where to start are the real killers of successful marketing, for most business owners.
Making even a single page plan and strategy document or brand positioning statement, will allow you to have the basis for a solid online reputation management system if none exists at the moment. This will also allow you to share and instil these principles of management into your business practices. Therefore automation and systemisation will take hold and help you to become more successful with the implementation of the brand positioning strategy and plan.
The ‘customer journey’ must be developed into all aspects of the 7p’s of marketing. All research and development must focus on how the customer perceives their problem and how your solution actually fits into the way they perceive their problem being solved.
I love this quote from my Great, great uncle Henry Ford
Part of effective marketing is advertising, in order to enhance the perception of your brand. If your online reputation helps people to think that another vendor is better by the lack of good opinions about your offering – you are already in a difficult position online.
Why is online so this important?
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
- Businesses risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find one negative article on the first page of their search results
With the way that Google has setup their search algorithm, it is even more likely that people will go elsewhere if you are not managing your online reputation well.
The first step of the strategy should be to create a system from which to not only put the right messages out, but also to manage the online reputation of the business.
Businesses looking for your services and or products will allow you to discuss their problems with you if they trust you to start with. The essential problem to start with solving is “how will you be seen as a trusted authority in your industry?”
As illustrated above, people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!
Consumer reviews and business review platforms such as trip advisor and trust-pilot continue to gain influence in search engines like Google. A good review is an easy way to get that bump over your competition. Likewise, a negative review will stay online forever.
Google has a very strict policy on what they will remove. So, consider the fact that a bad review might be seen once a day for 10 years. That’s 3,650 potential customers who will be scared away by that complaint.
Using a $10 product as an example, that’s $36,500 in potential business lost from a single bad review that ranks highly in Google. With a higher value item the odds are worse, because people take a lot more time with investigating larger purchases… with fewer vendors.
Employers, clients, colleges and customers are increasingly using Google as their sidekick before making important decisions. What shows up in your search results could mean the difference between a job and the unemployment line, a new customer and a lost opportunity, an investor meeting and an unanswered email.
There’s no excuse for being unaware of your online footprint. In fact, it’s downright irresponsible.
Here are some hard hitting statistics (and a few years old now – hence they will be even higher now), that prove the value of online reputation management.
The Power Of Online Reviews
- 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. (2016)
- Online reviews have been shown to impact 7% of purchasing decisions. (2015)
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. (2016)
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. (2016)
- Every one star increase in a Yelp rating means a 5 to 9% increase in revenue. (2016)
- 82% of Yelp users said they typically visit Yelp because they intend to buy a product or service. (2013)
We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability.
The Power Of Search Results
- 91% of online adults use search engines to find information on the web. (2012)
- 65 percent of people see online search as the most trusted source of information about people and companies. That’s a higher level of trust than any other online or offline source. (2014)
- Nearly 50% of US adults who Google themselves say the results aren’t positive. (2012)
- 93% of searchers never go past the first page, instead using only the first 10 search results to form their impression. (2014)
Impact On Sales Results
- Businesses risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find one negative article on the first page of their search results. (2015)
- Businesses with two negatives on the first page of search results risk losing 44% of its customers.
- If three negative articles pop up in a search query, the potential for lost customers increases to 59.2%. (2015)
- Have four or more negative articles about your company or product appearing in Google search results? You’re likely to lose 70% of potential customers. (2015)
- Nearly half of U.S. adults said they have Googled someone before doing business with them. (2012)
- 45% said they have found something in an online search that made them decide not to do business with the person.
- 56% have found something that solidified their decision to do business with the person.
The Effect On Hiring And Firing
- A bad reputation costs a company at least 10% more per hire. (2016)
- 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates, up from 11% in 2006. (2017)
- Of all recruiters, 95%believe that the job market will remain or become more competitive. If you don’t stand out online, your competition will. (2015)
- Seventy-five percent of HR departments are required to search job applicants online. (2010)
- Eighty-five percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals say that an employee’s online reputation influences their hiring decisions at least to some extent. Nearly half say that a strong online reputation influences their decisions to a great extent. (2010)
- Seventy percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals have rejected candidates based on information they found online. (2010)
- 57% of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online (2017)
We believe in partnering with and helping people. If you orient your business around being helpful and putting the customers needs before yours (as long as those customers are your target market) you will actually do better business and be able to charge more for it – in most cases.
We are in business to partner with people to properly diagnose the root cause of the roadblock to their business growth – from a sales and marketing perspective. Online Reputation management is a serious problem that we are keen to help people understand by guiding them through the reasons, areas to look at and solutions to this big problem.
Our aim is to lead businesses into growth, through the growth cycle and out into continuously growth outcomes.
Wrapping it all together
Wrapping it all up… without knowing your business it is nigh on impossible to advise where and how best to start… accept – start with google and work your way out from there.
Every business is slightly different. Following these points above as an initial guide will start to get you and your business further down the path of getting more benefit from your marketing efforts.
Yes we do have packages – like every other marketing company, however they all need to be modified for your business, your budget and your goals.
Give us a call if you would like some help to start or ramp up your journey of growth.
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About the Author
Matthew Benn is the founding partner of Alongside Business Consulting. He has been a senior Marketing and Sales leader for over 12 years, as well as being a small business owner for more than 8 years.
He really enjoys the challenges and successes that come with developing people and growing businesses, hence has taken these passions and put Alongside Business Consulting on the map.
Our aim is to curb the frustrations business owners have, with sales and marketing; therefore helping them take control of their destinies to build their businesses successfully… Business Growth Simplified.