Dealing with Competition When Starting a Business

Making first steps in business may come as a big turn in life for you and of course it may cause quite a lot of stress. Well, it is a universal fact: starting up a business is always painful.

Suppose you have come up with a great business idea, developed a business plan, built up the website and set up a whole business platform for it, spent time and money on advertisement and general arrangements and finally, when you already have your leg in the doorway, you realize that there are thousands of other companies like yours in the market doing the same business as yours!

Quite upsetting, eh? Well, it is always so. Moreover, there will be dozens of real business monsters that are successful simply because they are large and are covering 80% of your potential clientele, and there are smaller units — just next door — which have been in this market for quite a while and are doing successfully.

How can you overcome this period of uncertainty? What should you do to survive and beat the fierce competition? Well, I have developed a few simple rules for myself; keeping to them has always been very helpful, so let me share them with you here.

Know the competition. Find out what they are offering, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. This will identify the areas you need to compete in, and give you a platform for differentiating yourself.

Know your customers.  Their expectations change all the time, at some moments the change may be quite dramatic. Find out what matters to them at this particular moment – it may be a lower price, a change in a product or service, or deficit of particular products – just take time to analyze the situation in the market.

Use individual approach. This rule is as old as the world, but still, only the smartest business people can use it well and with every client they face. First of all, you need to give your customers good reasons to come to you rather than your next door competitor. To attract customers to your business, you need to know very well what they want at this moment. It should be clear and obvious – no-one should have to ask what makes you different.

Never put marketing aside. Make continuous effort to tell people who you are, what you sell and why they should buy from you. It doesn’t have to be expensive – promotional ideas can range from a poster in your window to photos of your products on Instagram and big social media campaigns.

Create an image for yourself and keep it looking nice. Simple steps such as creating a good header for your blog can make your business look more attractive and inviting. Look at your business cards, social media presence, your website layout, packaging of your goods, clothing and so on. How does your business look in your clients’ eyes?

Continuously improve customer services. Think about your customers and try to be more responsive to their needs and expectations. Consider offering little extras such as discounts or loyalty schemes. It is always easier to keep existing customers than to find new ones.

Target new markets. Expanding your markets can do more than just increasing your customer base: it can spread (and therefore minimize) your risk. You may want to reach a wider audience by selling online, you can expand your advertising to sending emails to potential clients overseas, well there may be many ideas, you only need to start thinking in that direction.

Finally, you need to always look to the future. A business that is planned for growth is more successful than those that remain still. Keep up following consumer trends, invest time and funds in new technology, develop a clear idea of where you want to be in one, two and five years’ time. Even if you cannot be absolutely sure, planning for the future helps.

Putting it short, simply set up your mind on development and success. Love your business and your product/service, and never stop studying it. Also, learn to inspire people to buy your products and services, and success will come soon, I am sure. I have been living with this motto: Share love. Educate, Inspire. It works. It works really well.

On Starting an Online Business with Minimum Investment

The world is full of people who were told time and time again that their dream was impossible. They chose not to listen.

There is a saying that every successful enterprise needs three people: a dreamer, a businessman and a son-of-a-bitch. The dreamer would use his boldness and creativity to come up with ideas (read: goals) that do not seem doable; the business person would turn them into plans and strategy, and the third guy would apply his expertise and perseverance to making all of that stuff come true.

If you believe that you have a little drop of each of the three in your character, you should give it a try: start a business of your own. The 21-st century is a perfect time to do this.

I made my first steps in doing business remotely around the year 2000; I was a poor teacher with a family to take care of, and I lived in a country that had just shaken off the burden of the USSR’s ideology and lifestyle, where even the word ‘business’ had somewhat different meaning from the one we are accustomed to now.

No need to say, I had absolutely no money to invest into it: I did not even have a bank account! But I was lucky to have a few friends — the people I could trust, who were very reliable and, like me, had no money — so we decided to invest our energy, time and talents into ‘starting up something (this was how we used to call our business then) that would work with minimum investment’.

A year later, our Something was working in full swing, providing services to dozens of people, growing fast, expanding and generating some income — a modest income, but sufficient for us to live on and continue developing the services. On the day of its first anniversary, we gave our Something a name.

Now, when I look back, I realize that it was successful because we started it wisely:

  • we did a good work of planning it at the very beginning;
  • as we had no money, we had to invest our time and effort: we shared responsibilities between us, so each of us knew what expertise and how much effort they had to contribute into the business;
  • we agreed to spend all income generated during the first 6 months from the day of the first sale into the development of the business (and it worked!)
  • we continued keeping initial pace of the business even after we started generating some income.

Today, if I had to start it all over, I would probably do most of the things the same way. I would only add a few things in order to shorten the setting up phase:

  • I would buy my first website with a simple shopping basket (in my case, we had to build the website, add the shopping module and do all the SEO part by ourselves);
  • I would start a wiser marketing policy (there are many ways to market a business for free before you start investing into marketing);
  • I would start developing useful connections a lot sooner than I did, so by the time my website is up and running, I would have a list of potential clients to come to with my services.

When you start a business online, the only thing you need to invest into is the website — or even a web page — that would have some space to announce about your business and a tool that would allow your visitors to make payments for your goods or services from this web page directly into your bank account. This is a way easier to setup than having to prepare a whole office or a store for accepting customers. This is why I believe that the 21-st century is a perfect time for doing business. If you have some money to invest, you may go to a web-studio and request to have your website (web page) developed. Then, if you really want your business to work, you will be learning a lot every day. So, running the site and developing the online business will be the same thing as doing it in real time but with minimum initial investment.

In my following post, I will share about the things which you need to know before you request the development of a website which is supposed to become your online store or office. Here, I just wanted to say that it is possible. Even if you have very modest funds to start with.

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