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Stay ahead of the competition: Give your startup the edge it needs

It’s often said that business is a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world – but how do you ensure that you’re not the one getting eaten?

As a business, the battle to stay ahead of your competitors never ends. Stand still and allow yourself to become complacent, and you risk becoming just the latest name to fail.

This is especially tough when you’re a startup. More than half of all new businesses don’t make it beyond four years, after all. This ‘competition’ is, in reality, a fight for survival. So, what can you do to give yourself a decent chance of surviving and then thriving?

Free yourself up to do the ‘important stuff’

Running a business involves a lot of tasks that aren’t directly related to the important money-making work that you’re good at – and passionate about. The paperwork and red tape is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t necessarily have to take up all of your time. Use the latest software and technology to handle your accounts in a way that’s as quick and pain-free as possible. For example, you can make sure you handle everything from your balance sheets to payroll and 1099 forms smoothly and seamlessly with accounting software – and you should find that this eases the burden on your mind and workload.

Market yourself better

Don’t rely on anyone else to shout up on your behalf. If you can’t say why your products and services are better than the rest, then how can you expect anyone else to do it for you? These days, you can use your website and social media channels to deliver a fairly comprehensive package of marketing methods – from paid ads to blogs, videos and imagery – and you need to harness this so that it works best for you. Your rivals will be using all of this – but they might not be doing it too well. Analyse what they’re up to and find ways that you can stand out as different or just plain better.

Listen to your customers

When you consider how to market yourself, you need to be thinking about the best way to talk to your customers. Yet, it’s also important to listen to these customers too. Send out surveys and feedback forms – maybe with a discount incentive – and keep a record of what they tell you when they get in touch. You need to get a good feel for what your customers do and don’t like about your business. Keep them happy and they’ll come back for more (and tell their friends how great you are hopefully!). But leave issues unfixed and they’ll flock to your rivals.

Be prepared to change

Finally, don’t get stuck in your ways. New technology is changing the way we work all the time and you should be a proactive business that embraces rather than fears change. Consider ways in which you can train yourself up to boost your own skill set too. You can steal a march on your rivals by tapping into the latest practices when it comes to production, delivery or marketing before they do. Be brave and you might well reap the rewards.

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