How to Stay Ahead of the Competition

I’m a small business owner.

I don’t have a million dollar budget. And I don’t have cherry conference tables either.

I used to, though. When I worked in the corporate world, I was a Marketing Director for a multi-billion dollar international corporation. It was good, and the perks were even better.

I had a fat expense account that was used to entertain customers. The first time I went to my favorite steakhouse and had to pay with my own greenbacks, I was shocked at the prices. I couldn’t believe it. I immediately became green with envy for the “good old days.”

Such is life.

Today, as a small business owner, I know where my company is, and I know who my customers are. In my industry (print), the competition is everywhere, and the “good old days” are long gone.

Here’s How to Stay Ahead

1) Divide and conquer.

Understand that there are multiple aspects to your business and make each one a functioning profit center.

Most business owners come to know this by their second or third year. It’s important to realize that each of those profit centers will, at some point, be experiencing pressures that they haven’t had before. It could be labor shortages, product pricing, turnaround times, or even the dreaded lowering of margins. For example, ten years ago I sold 500 brochures for $856. Today, I sell those same brochures for $190. Ouch!

2) Pick your sweet spot.

You can’t be everything to everyone.

Know what your company’s strengths are and market them. If your competition has a leg up on you in certain areas, you can either use a frontal approach or outflank them.

Customers buy for a number of reasons, so choose why they should buy from your company carefully. It’s important, and it’ll be your niche, which means it will be critical to your success.

Side note: That differentiation is a moving target and should be evaluated frequently. The economy is great, so people value trust more than price. It’s just how we are. I personally believe that trust is not a differentiator. It’s a constant that all companies big and small need to embrace.

3) Be a secret shopper.

I’m not going to qualify why you need to be a secret shopper with your competition. I’m hoping that it’s obvious.

The question I would like to pose is, “Why wouldn’t you be a secret shopper?” People do it all of the time. It’s natural. Today, you can even do it on your computer with just a click.

Remember it’s not just about prices, it’s also about understanding your competition’s niche.

If you spend a little time researching, evaluating, and executing today, your company won’t be left behind tomorrow.

Written by

Dick Olenych

Owner, Spectrum Printing

Dick Olenych owns Spectrum Printing and Marketing in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and likes to write. He can be reached at