Image credit: DSW & Kari Geha Photography

Guide to Sustain Competitive Advantage for 8(a) Certified Businesses

Competitive advantage refers to a business's ability to attract new customers at a faster rate than its competitors are able to. Therefore, a business will achieve success when having outperformed competitive advantage.
By Linda Au | 10 min read
on December 10, 2019
Image credit: DSW & Kari Geha Photography

There seems to be no doubt that large companies and multinational groups overtake small businesses both physically and in the digital world. There will be challenges that small businesses also have to keep up with big players. Thus, small businesses must identify strengths and weaknesses by themselves to issue plans and strategies accordingly for long-term development. The same type of problem exists for the 8(a) certified businesses. "How do small businesses sustain competitive advantage?" is the only pebble on the beach right now. These businesses need to know these answers.

Difficulties Which Small or 8(A) Certified Businesses Must Know before Answering " How Do Small Businesses Sustain Competitive Advantage?"

Although the 8(a) certified business is offered a number of advantages to compete in the marketplace by The Small Business Administration, it still has challenges. In common with small business owners, 8(a) certified business owners are socially and economically disadvantaged. They always want to gain a foothold in the market. Therefore, in order to access to the economic mainstream of American society, they must also face unexpected problems in business like small businesses. Which problems in particular?

Limited capital

If large corporations want to expand the scale operation such as hiring new workers or build a new factory, they will sell bonds or issue stock to the public. However, in dire financial straits, small businesses, as well as 8(a) certified business cannot be flexible like that because they are much more dependent on bank loans. Therefore, they lack the capital to research, develop and advertise that large businesses do.

Pricing disadvantage

Big corporations benefit from economies of scale more than smaller businesses do, namely the cost for each product they produce is lower. The more the quantity of produced products, the lower the total expense for each piece is. The key supporting factor is high customer demand which allows it to produce goods in bulk and reduce the cost of overheads.

For example, investing in tools and purchasing the raw materials to produce a product that costs a lot of money and time. However, producing the second product is cheaper than the first because you bought all the materials from the start. Then the third one is still cheaper because you depreciate the cost of the equipment.

Bargaining power

Large corporations are able to negotiate for a lower price from the supplier to keep costs down easily. It is difficult for much smaller or 8(a) certified businesses to get the same deal. These businesses must be almost under the influence of many costs by the lack of purchasing power, from fixed costs to variable costs. Therefore, they can't reduce the costs of their products and services, they must charge higher prices. That is why customers don't choose them instead of another popular brand.

The talent gaps

One of the conditions for that a business could excel is the best staff available. However, it is hard for small or 8(a) certified businesses to attract high-level employees because big players can afford to pay them more. Instead, these businesses can make up for in non-financial perks such as the ability to move up the ladder more quickly, flexible working and more to attract who want a bigger paycheck elsewhere.

Weak brand recognition

One of the easy ways to get a sale is to make sure the customer already has your brand in their mind when the need arises. That’s often the case with big corporations such as Dell, Apple, IBMs or AECOM because they have a larger budget for marketing activities to promote products more widely and open branches in more locations than smaller competitors.

On the contrary, 8(a) certified businesses cannot have brand recognition to attract new leads gain more customers and expand their operations because they haven't had years of exposure in the marketplace. Therefore, the company reputation should be built and developed from scratch and go through a long time to reach the level of a large business.

14 Ways to Improve the Business Image for a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

You will not win in the competitive market if your business image is not right even your products are very great. Because brand image presents the credit-worthiness of businesses that make the biggest difference. Therefore, to improve the image is also one of the ways to sustain the competition.

#1. Define the audience's needs

Your first step in enhancing a business image is to comprehend how you want to be seen by your audience. Then you start building and improving your business image which you want to achieve. Your brand is different from others so you should think about how your audience wants to see your brand and move on.

#2. Build a thought-leader online presence

Your website is really just a part of the whole business, it will show a lot about your brand. As a rule, before purchasing, most potential customers will research your business information, the first thing potential customers see when they search Google is your website.

To not make your site messy, difficult to navigate, you need to build a professional, informative easy to use the website and use marketing tools to direct traffic to your website. Besides, website content must be towards customer demand instead of focusing too much on your brand. Let's just have it as your 24/7 storefront and make sure that your website is up to scratch in terms of aesthetics, usability, and search engine performance.

#3. Share your expertise

Let's be a guru in your niche by sharing your expertise for free. Setting up a blog to attract your target audience when they want help and advice. Your blog content includes answers to popular questions, quick tips and more but doesn’t forget the main goal is to help your audience. When your content is consistent, helpful, the image you’re creating will be tough to beat.

#4. Develop social media presence

A strong social media presence plays an important role in the digital era. You will miss out on several things if you do not take advantage of it in your business while many people are using social media every day. It does not matter what your business buy, you need to build a strong social media presence so that people remember you.

This tool helps you not only advertise what you’re selling but also offer customer service, reply quickly to questions, and share helpful hints and tips. However, advertising noise can be counter-productive because advertisement is not the reason people come to social media.

Social media has multiple channels which you must take a lot of time to keep up so hiring a social media manager is necessary to keep in track in particular problems. It is hard to directly account for the money social media brings in, so you should trust that it’ll be worth the investment because it makes customers happier. When your social media accounts do not work, people will wonder whether you’re still in business or not.

#5. Create a persuasive marketing campaign

The advertisement campaign has to focus on customer need like your website. You want your advertisement to drive people to your website where your message is shown, you must create the difference from other competitors.

#6. Engage with influencers

You should build relationships with influencers such as reviewers, bloggers or leading experts in your field because they can affect your target audience. Furthermore, you can also support them with tools and materials which they can use directly with your customers. Their actions will influence leads positively toward using your business.

#7. Get one-on-one meeting with customers.

The key to boosting your brand image is contacting your target audience directly to invite them to a special event, offer free trials of product or service which they will have one-on-one experience. Then you get involved in social media or your local community such as charities or other events that your target audience can take part in.

In fact, customers like businesses that engage with them, extra specially the owners can write blog posts, respond to reviews, or comment back on social media posts. This is also a great way to discover the new needs of consumers fast.

#8. Offer incentives for loyal customers

Show your customers how important they are to your business is one of the ways to build a great business image. This is performed by offering discounts, loyalty cards, or something free in their order. They are little touches or surprises which can give customers a good experience inducing customers to go back to your business again.

#9. Know what makes your brand unique

Every brand needs to be different from competitors so knowing what makes your brand unique is extremely important for each business owner. Your business needn't be completely different, but a few unique elements that will help to outdo competitors if you identify and play up whatever it is that makes you unique.

#10. Improve product quality

It is difficult for your product to do well if there is no great image to go with it. However, focusing on creating the best possible product, or the highest quality service is a core factor to maintain your business. This does not only retain your customers but also get great feedback, namely the words spread that your product or service is the best. Word of mouth from satisfied customers is an extremely powerful marketing tool that you cannot apply as usual. On the contrary, word of mouth from unhappy customers is just as powerful.

#11. Strengthen your brand

Everything is certainly not perfect, you should take a look at your brand and identify elements which you can strengthen it. These elements are not only font, logo, and colors used but also your content. Has your content been truly helpful yet? How are you responsive, and even how do you handle problems for the customer? Let's check every aspect of your brand to improve and make sure it is operating as smoothly as possible.

#12. Tell your story

Your competitive angle is an element in helping customers solve their problems. It has been presented through product stories such as product value, the difference between your products, the reason for business, etc. in your marketing campaigns and website.

In summary, the list of stories is endless so you should list all the differences between you and your competitors and convey to your consumers through business stories.

#13. Make sure your staff act and look the part

Your staff must represent your business in the right way through uniform, behavior, working style and more. Except for making sure that your staff is polished and professional, everybody is wearing safe and comfortable clothing that allows them to get the work done to a high standard. When your staffs leave to meet with customers, visit the client’s office, or do anything work-related like this, they must obey guidelines which you laid down.

#14. Treat your staff well

There are two things which can ruin your business image fast are unhappy customers and disgruntled staff. Your staff is as important as customers to your company. If your staff are disgruntled, there will be more sick days and many other issues to boot. You should appreciate, care your staff that makes these great advocates happy, stay engaged, and likely stay with you longer.

#15. Become more eco-friendly

Becoming more eco-friendly is one of the best things you can do to improve your business image. However, it is all you can to care for the environment not a last-ditch attempt to make more money. Let's consider everything from the tiniest details such as how much paper your employees use, and more. A small business can also make a negative impact on the environment if it is not operated in the right way.

Apply Marketing Mix to Sustain Competitive Advantage

Large companies apply the marketing mix to improve competitive advantage. Elements in the marketing mix (7P) include price, product, place, promotion, people, process, physical evidence. However, in this particular case, small or 8(a) certified businesses can also employ the same strategies big businesses use to develop a competitive advantage effectively, but only by "price, product, place, promotion, people".

Price

Price is a factor controlled by the entrepreneur who can find the greatest likelihood for business success by competing with a higher price. That sounds unreasonable but there is a common mistake that marketers often make that is to focus on underpricing in some high-value products and services.

Customers will not always purchase on the basis of lower prices. As an alternative, your business can offer customers better value with increased levels of customer service, superior product knowledge and more. They will often pay significantly higher prices for better quality, preferred brand or image, and customer convenience.

Product/Service

Small businesses can offer unavailable products or services through competitors such as a broader selection of products, specialty brands, etc. In addition, product differentiation strategies should be also applied. For instance, small or 8(a) certified businesses offer products and services that other larger businesses may not offer or provide effectively.

Place

Place in the marketing mix means a channel where your products or services can be traded, displayed, introduced such as brick and mortar stores or e-commerce websites, etc. Small business owners can also take advantage of this factor by diversifying distribution channels. Your channel must be positioned and distributed in a place that is accessible to potential buyers. If businesses do not invest or develop distribution channels in the right way, that may waste time and effort on marketing, production and more.

Promotion

Various promotional programs will make small or 8(a) certified businesses different from other businesses. Some promotional strategies should be applied such as offering more promotional programs, or promotions more visible to potential customers. There are a lot of sales promotions that are unnoticed to the public because of poor timing, poor promotion choices, or not linking the promotion to other marketing activities.

Promotion is important as part of an integrated marketing campaign since it links public relations, advertising, direct marketing, and other marketing activities in a coordinated fashion. Besides, smart small business owners can seek opportunities to partner with other businesses and events such as Christmas, holiday, the state or county fair, the rodeo, a film festival, etc to get the highest effectiveness.

Furthermore, according to Microsoft's study, the average attention span of humans has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, so your potential customers are only persuaded within 8 seconds by your products or service on the website or other channels. Your customers need to see your products which bring a new valuable promise and experience entirely immediately. The important thing is something revolutionary and at the same time valuable to your customers.

People

Employees not only produce the products but also usually role representatives of your business such as salespeople, technicians, delivery personnel, cashiers, etc. They usually come into contact with customers and affect customer satisfaction significantly. Thus, these representatives play an important role in the development of the business strategy.

On the other hand, the costs of seeking new customers, are more expensive than costs to retain current customers. So employees throughout the organization should be responsible for customer satisfaction and managers must take advantage of employees to have a competitive advantage.

In fact, the better the staff you have, the more successful your business will be. You may have not as many staff as large businesses, but you can have talented people who willing to work for boss directly involved in the business as well.

Process

This element in marketing means the delivery of service is done with the customers. Great customer service and relationships are factors that help small or 8(a) certified businesses wanting to beat competitors and get more new customers over because how the service is delivered is a part of what the consumer is paying for.

This may be an advantage in helping you stand out from the larger competition. Small businesses often interact with customers directly such as the ability to respond to emails and inquiries, develop a deeper, stronger, more personal relationship as well as resolve complaints without a hitch. That supplies better experiences exceeding customer expectations to a certain extent that they ready to pay a little extra because things they cannot get at that large business.

Two Core Elements of Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Niche down

In order to sustain the competition, small and 8(a) certified businesses need to focus on a particular market segment. After identifying the specific target audience, marketers will develop strategies accordingly for quick sales. Instead of investing in purchasing based on national sales trends as multinational corporations, owners should pay attention to local customer's demand.

In short, if you set up a business in a market that has many competitors, you must research untapped subcategories and niche down to strive then win it.

Passion

Small or 8(a) certified business owners can start their business because of a passion. They realize enormous matters which have not been solved in the market. There are much high chance as well as challenge, they still stay motivated and ignite emotion to bring their businesses to success. For this reason, people even customers will be organically attracted because of their passion and take heart in their business.

Conclusion

Small and 8(a) certified business owners have heard many small-business marketing strategies to sustain the competition, but have these owners applied them in the right way? In view of the above, they may be useful to sustain competitiveness and beating competitors everywhere. These strategies are nothing new, but many businesses come up against difficulties. Therefore, if you are an owner, you can contact us to be helped. We are always ready to support at all times.

This article is also credited to Investopedia, Nicky LaMarco, Nichole L. Torres, Ryan Kh, Pius Boachie, ThriveHive

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