Staying one step (or several steps) ahead of the competition can be a daunting task, especially if the economy takes a turn for the worse.
As any business owner knows, it just takes a slip up here or there to send one’s business spiraling downward, be it not getting your brand’s message out there, not taking advantage of all social media has to offer, making the right hires, and more.
Still yet, not keeping pace and for that matter surpassing the competition, well that can really be the start of the downfall.

In order to avoid that possible scenario, here are a few ways you can keep your competitors on their toes:
Remember: It’s About the Customer, Not You
Keep this golden rule in mind: It’s ALL about the customer.
Take a good look at your current marketing efforts when it comes to promoting your brand.
Do your customer communications (including advertising, your company website, etc.) talk mostly about you, instead of telling your customer what’s in it for her? Does your website provide plenty of helpful tips and information…or is it full of corporate jargon and dry product descriptions?
On that note…
Assess What You’re Doing Now
The next step in figuring out how to stay ahead of competitors is to take the time to assess what you’re doing now. What forms of marketing are you using? Where do most of your customers come from — TV or print ads, walk-ins, internet searches? How’s your website doing in terms of bringing in prospects?
Fully defining your current marketing efforts and taking note of what’s working and what’s not will give you a clear picture of what you need to work on. If your website is full of lackluster copy, or your weekly newspaper ad just isn’t pulling for you anymore, it’s time to change things up.
Do a Little Recon
Visit your competitors. Get a feel for their company atmosphere, how they treat their customers, and what they’re doing to draw in business. Take note of what’s working for them — but, more importantly, look at areas where they fall short. Work hard to excel at those areas in your own company.
Don’t Cut the Ad Budget if the Economy Dips
Stats from two different recessions should provide convincing proof that your advertising budget needs to stay, even if you have to make other cuts:

  • In the 1974 to 1975 recession, a survey of close to 150 companies of all sizes showed that those that kept advertising through the economic downturn maintained the biggest growth.
  • During the 1981 to 1982 recession, McGraw-Hill conducted a study that found that companies that kept up their advertising budgets got a huge bump in sales after the recession — some by 275%.

The reason you should maintain your ad budget during a slow economy is simple: many businesses won’t.
For a lot of companies, the ad budget is one of the first cuts when times get tough, leaving you to easily stand out from the crowd.
Keep the Conversation Going
Social media presents one of the greatest opportunities for businesses. In this age of tweeting, Facebooking, and pinning, more than 80% of Americans are now using at least one social media site. Make sure your business has a presence on these sites, and post content that will keep your audience (buyers or simply followers) engaged — this will keep your brand in front of the people who want to buy from you.
Yes, it seems at times like a tall order keeping your business out in front, but would you have it any other way?
About the Author
Angie Mansfield writes on a variety of business topics, working to answer the question, Why is small business management important?”