Whether you own a restaurant in the center of town, a global enterprise, or an online retail outlet, you know competition can be fierce, and may force you to lower prices, increase your cost-per-acquisition, and limit options for future business growth.

So how do you beat the competition and become the most popular bistro in town or the go-to-website for electronics? Here are 10 tips to help you compete in the business jungle.

1. Study the competition.  Research what competitors do, what they sell, what their websites look like, their client care.  Today’s consumers are savvy. They comparison-shop online before visiting a store or website to make a purchase. They compare prices and features – so should you.  Look for ways to deliver more value to prospects at a lower cost. Design a simpler website. Recruit clients and customers away from competitors with incentives they don’t offer.

2. Promote your business’ ethics. Ethical companies create trust in the minds of prospects and demonstrate good corporate citizenship. Examine your business practices and see where you might be able to promote the god things you do.  If you have a “green” energy policy, join a business environment group and display the organization’s logo on your home page and on all printed marketing materials.

Create company guidelines for ethical behavior: locally sourced products only, organic, animal-free tested products, recycled shipping materials, hybrid service vehicles – all of these things can make a statement about your business.

3. Deliver better customer service. Customers hate phone trees. Don’t you? Have your client care phones answered by humans, preferably American-based, and empower these representatives of your company to fix customer complaints.

An unhappy customer who gets satisfaction fast can become an unpaid salesperson who tells others about the quality of your customer care, and this word of mouth advertising is free!

4. Offer free products and services competitors don’t. Free shipping. A little extra gift in the shipping box. A regular-customer discount. Buy five dinners, get one free. Consumers love free, so find ways to give something away. A surprise free dessert from your restaurant kitchen will bring back more customers, and get diners talking about your restaurant.

5. Create a more efficient, faster, simpler website. If you sell products, create a secure website to accept online orders. Provide useful information focused on visitor needs. Add interactivity with calculators or news feeds scrolling links to the latest happenings in your business sector. Enhance the onsite experience, and visitors are more likely to bookmark your website for return visits. The more often visitors return, the more likely they are to make a purchase or call for a consultation.

6. Look good. Employees should be trained to work with customers and clients. They should have the expertise to help clients, or refer customers to the right person in your organization. Set up a dress and grooming code for your place of business.  Employees who visit homes to deliver services should wear uniforms, service trucks should be washed and clean, and the employees should be trained in customer relations to keep your remote-site customers calling for more.

7. Expand your product offerings. Amazon® started as an online bookseller. Today, you can buy just about anything from that one site. Offer more products. Offer unique products only available from your company or store. Restaurant owners should offer daily specials, try new dishes, and change the menu often to keep them coming back.

8. Create numerous payment gateways. Customers can pay by credit or debit card, cash, paper check, electronic funds transfer (EFT), online payment gateways – the easier it is to make a purchase, the more purchases are likely to be made.

9. Create a more pleasant store or restaurant. Can you add an outside dining area? Improve your store’s signage? Offer free coffee to browsers? Create an enjoyable environment that encourages visitors to stay longer and come back more often.

10. Give back. Donate to local charities. Participate in the local job or health fair. Sponsor a town sports team. Help your community to build goodwill and give something back to those who’ve made your small business a big success.

Amazon® is a registered trademark of Amazon, Inc. and Nevada State Bank does not claim any ownership or exclusive right to the use of this trademark.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC