The secret sauce to beating your business competition

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Before you run out and hire that new-fangled life coach to set up your funnels and show you how to run Facebook ads and “change your money mindset”, here’s some unbeatable advice — for free.

As it turns out, doing well enough in business that you actually beat your competition comes down to one big thing and three smaller things.

The bad news is that there are no shortcuts.

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The good news is that these steps are time-tested and are still just as relevant in the digital age as ever. In fact, many of these actually become easier to do in our ‘tech-enhanced’ era.

Now, while I may not be able to help you with that One Big Thing — build a better product or create the perfect service — read on when you’re ready to learn how to reach out to your potential clients and keep the momentum of being the “Shiny New Thing On the Block” going.

1. Get found online

Many businesses put an emphasis on hiring social media managers: people who will ramp up the social shares, write the copy, find links and keep the Hootsuite/Buffer/Edgar apps up to date.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But it shouldn’t be your only strategy — nor should it be the first part to your strategy. Social is window dressings and finishes. But SEO…well, that’s the bare bones.

What you should focus on, smart business owner, is hiring a Jedi of SEO— and nothing less. Even if you have the best product or service in town, the truth is that your clients/customers are going online to find what they need.

Google now processes over 40,000+ search queries every second on average. This means two things: that Google basically holds your product’s future in its vice grip and, secondly, that you need to make sure that you’re following SEO best practices to getting found online.

More details on our piece about a creative freelancer’s guide to personal branding.

2. Data & surveys

Before you can actually create a product or define a service, you need to make sure you’re actually building something people want, need and will buy.

The best way to do this is to create a survey and offer an incentive for filling it out.

Getting that perfect product/service up comes down to this initial stage of market research. And it needs to be robust.

But once you’ve spotted a gap in the market (aka, you have observed a clear frustration of your survey-takers), and work to respond to it with your offering, how do you figure out how to market it?

The answer is data.

To build a business that will beat your competition, data should be your main driver of direction.

As a business of any size, you should be looking at certain key metrics — such as engagement, shares, customer feedback, Amazon reviews, purchases, conversions and click-throughs and A/B testing, to name a few — to understand what gets your client excited about your offer — and, even more telling, where in the buying process they’re dropping off. This of course also stands true for creative freelancers as well. It’s all about how you position your personal branding and how you analyze your freelance business.

To reiterate, data is important because using it in your decisions stops you from just shooting in the dark and guessing.

Reading the numbers may not sound sexy but the results it gets you — read, real profits, dolla-dolla-bills-yo! — are real. You will have real time information to work with while crafting marketing language that speaks to your ideal clients and customers in their own voice.

It’ll be like you’re reading their mind. Freaky yet effective.

3. Go above & beyond for your customers/clients

Growing his father’s business from three to 60 million in sales didn’t go to Gary Vaynerchuk’s head.

The then-head of what would soon become Wine Library, a huge wine and liquor venture in New Jersey was still humble enough to carry your cases and caskets of libations to your car on December 9th, 2009.

Going above and beyond for your customer/clients — each and every single one — is one of the most “unscalable” gestures, says Vaynerchuk. And yet, he credits this “strategy” — which is just his default setting — to the massive growth his company experienced — and was then also able to sustain long-term.

This is pure wisdom, and holds true for all types of businesses, offline as well as freelancers. Just completed a project for your client? Offer extra service within the same package. Reach out, ask them what was missing.

Take some time to think through your service or product. Walk through your buyer’s journey — and automate what needs to be automated while adding the personal and human touch where it’s sorely lacking.

What going above and beyond doesn’t look like: serving every single client with a freebie post-project. That’s a bit foolish. With time, you learn which clients and customers have the potential for more business.

What going above and beyond does look like: reaching out, with a handwritten note, to a disgruntled client, apologizing for their experiencing, and then following up, with a free of charge fix as per requirements.

Unscalable? Maybe. Effective in beating your competition? Absolutely.

These three simple things are anything but new — in fact, they’re as old as business itself. They work amazingly well for online endeavors. Maybe even dating back to the old Silk Road through Asia. In other words, the wares may be different but the practices are still the same.

Sharing is caring, friends, so tell us: is there a competition-beating, business-boosting idea I missed? Can you see yourself implement at least one of these three ideas? And what’s a winning hack you’ve used to blow your competitors out of the water?

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About Anka Ania

Ania Zielinska is a business consultant and online marketing expert. She started her career as a business analyst in banking, but decided to follow her passion for new technologies and business, and moved to the cloud. She currently works remotely with teams all over the world. She is also a co-founder of Silverlining Technologies a company that provides Atlassian products consultancy and apps development services. In her spare time she is a dedicated triathlete and board games’ geek.

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