When you look at your competition, it's easy to be sucked into a vortex of negativity. Even though you're in a competitive industry, you don't want to lose sight of the goal and forget why you're there in the first place. For a while, I thought I was "stuck" because no matter how hard I worked or how much I improved my other services, this one specific service continued to drop my income. Luckily, I found some great advice on transitioning into a new focus. In fact, that new focus completely changed the way my business has been run since then. To make a long story short, it's okay for your industry to experience an evolution within itself. If you can adjust and adapt simultaneously — especially with who is at the top — then that's allowing room for growth both personally and professionally. This remarkable advice inspired me to write this post about staying competitive in your industry and making sure at any point in time that you aren't stuck but rather paddling faster toward the finish line... wherever that might be for you.

Build a culture of experimentation.

Building a culture of experimentation in your organization is one of the best ways to stay on top of changing industry trends. Your business can improve its product, marketing, customer support, packaging, sales, customer acquisition, pricing, and positioning by experimenting.

Successful organizations are obsessed with experimentation in every area of the business. They have developed a culture where everyone from copywriters to logistics coordinators feel empowered to try new things and get feedback from their colleagues about what works and what doesn't. In short: no idea is too crazy.

Don't settle for incremental growth.

  • Don't settle for incremental growth. While it's tempting to be reactive and stick to the tried-and-true, a true innovator never stops innovating. They are always looking for ways to change the way things are being done. When you do something that has been done in the same way for years, ask yourself: is this good enough? Could we do better? And then look for ways to improve it.
  • Get comfortable with failure. Sometimes your ideas won't work out—and that's okay! Just because an idea fails doesn't mean you're a failure, but you'll never grow if you don't try new things, and your business will stagnate.

Keep an eye on your competitors.

Along with knowing your customers, keeping watch over what your competitors are doing is crucial to staying competitive in any industry. Knowing exactly who you're competing with will allow you to make adjustments for what you need to do better or differently. You can use these tips as a guide for how to monitor the competition:

  • Know who they are
  • Identify what they do well
  • Identify what they do poorly
  • Identify the services/products that they offer that you don't
  • Identify the services/products that you offer that they don't
  • Identify the services/products that you and your competition both offer

Be proactive with customer feedback

Collecting feedback can be a tricky business. Customers and employees will think you're annoying if you do it too frequently. Collect it too infrequently, and your competitors might take the lead on you. Knowing when to ask for feedback is an art form, but if the timing is right, gathering this information can be crucial to staying competitive in your industry.

The most important thing to remember with customer feedback is that while some of it may be unsolicited or difficult to hear, you are still better off knowing about it than not knowing about it at all. Each bit of negative feedback you receive is an opportunity for growth and improvement—if only you could turn back time and change that one thing! Try not to drown in regrets over decisions already made; instead, focus on utilizing knowledge gained from today's mistakes when making decisions tomorrow. After all, if you don't act on the insights gleaned from your customers' critiques, then what was the point of collecting feedback in the first place?

Treat hiring as critically as product development.

It is vital to prioritize hiring top talent, as people are crucial for any successful business. You should take the same care in building a team as you do in developing your product. As an example, consider how larger companies like Walmart have relied on the power of their workforce to build their success. Similarly, startups have built organizations by bringing in great talent from day one.

In order to attract and retain top-tier employees, consider several factors: know what you want for your company; understand what motivates employees with similar values; learn about the job market and trends that can help inform your hiring process; and implement effective compensation plans for attracting great talent. When you put these things together correctly, it helps create a positive company culture that feeds into employee satisfaction and productivity.

Invest in better tools

As your business grows, you'll need to invest in better tools to keep up the pace. Don't cut corners when considering your team and the tools they use. For example, a startup that invested in better customer management software saw a 60% increase in productivity—and made more money as a result.

Consider what tools can help you and your team be more effective at communicating with each other and with customers. Using technology wisely will help streamline processes and make everyone's lives easier.

There are so many great business tools out there, like Evernote, Salesforce's Marketing Cloud, Basecamp, Dropbox and Hubspot's Inbound Marketing Suite. Our advice? Do some research before selecting the right ones for your business—it's an investment that will pay off in the long run!

Think holistically about your brand

A brand is not just a logo or a website. A brand is an entire customer experience, and as such it extends to include your customer service, company culture, social media presence, how you answer the phone and more. It's easy to get caught up in just one of those things, but if you want a competitive edge in your industry then consider thinking holistically about your brand instead.

Stay invested in other areas of the business

It's important to not become so invested in the machine that you neglect other areas of the business. It is equally important, however, to not become too focused on other areas of the business and neglect the machine itself. It's a delicate balance, and one that many companies find difficult to maintain. Don't become a one-trick pony!

Focus on self-improvement to stay competitive

This one is for you and your team. If you're looking for ways to stay competitive in your industry, focusing on self-improvement is an excellent way to start. Self-improvement is a journey that requires both being open to other people's views and understanding your own strengths. While you may be strong at some tasks, others may require asking for help when you need it. Whatever the case, maintaining a curious attitude while having a growth mindset will ensure that you're always able to understand what your particular limits are, and have a positive attitude in the process.

Listen to your gut instincts and celebrate small wins.

Being competitive requires you to always be looking for ways to improve yourself and your business, but don't forget to take the time to celebrate even the smallest successes. Celebrating boosts morale, builds camaraderie among team members, and helps everyone stay focused and motivated so they can continue to strive for even bigger wins in the future. A big win is obviously something like landing a huge client or reaching a personal milestone you've been working toward, but a small win could include anything from hitting an important deadline or closing out a project successfully, to getting through a tough workday without pulling your hair out. Take pride in all of your success—both big and small—and make sure everyone feels appreciated for their contributions along the way.

Use these tactics to keep up with the industry.

  • Resist complacency! If you find yourself casually coasting through your work, it's time to shake things up. Have you been doing the same thing the same way for too long? Don't let your industry pass you by and keep you behind; get ahead of the curve and test new methods, try a new approach, or take an extra step to propel yourself forward.
  • Stay flexible! If something isn't working out for you, don't be afraid to change course and try something different. The best people in any field aren't scared to admit that their current way of doing things is no longer relevant or effective. And if a business model isn't working anymore, don't be afraid to scrap it and start over from scratch.
  • Cultivate an open mind! Always look for ways to learn about your industry, even if what you learn seems unrelated at first glance. Maybe it's not—maybe all that time spent studying marine biology will help inspire your latest marketing campaign.