As the owner of a digital marketing firm, I’ve seen many businesses get caught up in the weeds of SEO and other marketing strategies, tweaking minute details or pouring large amounts of time andmoney into creating content in order to out-rank their competitors on search results pages. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a believer in the power of SEO to skyrocket your business. However, you cannot rely on digital marketing alone to beat your competitors, because no matter what you do to your website, they can copy it.
When I build an SEO strategy, one of the first steps I take is to carefully study the competing business’s website and the top-ranking pages for search terms I want to rank for. I try to determine why they’ve reached that top spot. If they’re doing something particularly well, it tells you that you should be doing the same thing, only better. A common SEO strategy to rank high on search results pages is called the skyscraper strategy, where you examine the pages at the top of the search results for a term you want to rank for, then create a better, longer, and more informative or useful page. Done well, you can outrank top-ranking posts this way, even for more competitive keywords.
As you can see, stealing from competitors is a big part of the game of SEO. That means if you’re doing something creative in your digital marketing strategy, chances are your competitors will eventually catch on and do the same thing, or even improve on your idea. This is an unavoidable reality. However, the good news is that there’s a way to get an edge on your competitors that they can’t steal.
Your best tool against your competitors is the thing that makes your business unique, the one thing they cannot steal: your team.
Digital marketing is an excellent way to bring in new leads, but in order to translate those leads into profitable business, you need more than good marketing. You need an excellent team to deliver an exceptional product or service and create happy customers or clients who will not only do business with you again and again, but also refer their friends. Creating loyal clients is much more profitable than bringing in new clients who don’t stick around.
Your team is what makes your business unique. The people who operate your business control the experience your clients will receive when working with your company. Happy employees who feel fulfilled in their roles and are driven to perform excellent work will create unparalleled client experiences. But creating a strong team requires a fantastic workplace culture.
Here are a few ways to improve your team culture to create the best experiences for your clients or customers that will keep them returning for your business and sending their contacts your way.
- Hire for soft skills.
When you’re considering a group of candidates for a position, often many of them will be able to perform the job at a similar level even if their qualifications differ slightly. What truly makes an excellent job candidate is not their experience, but their personality, clear communication, positive attitude, critical thinking, and teamwork. While skills certainly play a role, it’s often better to prioritize soft skills when choosing a candidate, especially if the role is client-facing. Hard skills can be trained, but personality cannot. It’s much better to have someone who is enthusiastic, friendly, and eager to learn than someone who can perform the job flawlessly but has a bad attitude, which will ultimately affect clients and their other team members.
- Invest in team training.
The best investment you can make in your business is an investment in your employees. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is to cut costs on training expenses. But training your team well will improve their productivity, create better results for clients, increase client satisfaction, and even help you retain your employees longer. A poorly trained team leads to employee frustration as some team members pick up the slack for others, new hires flounder, and there is little opportunity for continued learning or advancement to encourage employees to stick around. Even beyond initial training of new hires, investing in employee education will help you stay ahead of the competition by helping your team remain up-to-date on new advancements and allowing team members to grow their skills to perform their jobs at a higher level.
- Have a client experience strategy.
One aspect of your team training it’s vital not to overlook is client or customer experience. It’s easy to assume employees have the skills necessary to interact with clients, but even if they do, you can always improve those skills through training and implementing a standardized strategy. A strategy will help create a reliable positive client experience your team can replicate every time, and it will empower employees to handle unexpected situations when they arise the way you want them to.
- Create a positive work environment
Having a fantastic workplace culture is key to creating excellent client experiences because you need happy team members to create happy clients. Your employees are just as human as your clients, and it’s difficult to be cheerful and perform your job to the best of your ability in a working environment that isn’t supportive. There are many resources out there about creating excellent team culture, but a couple important points are providing vision, creating positivity through good leadership, and fostering a collaborative environment in which team members support each other rather than compete with each other. While fun things like sitting on exercise balls during work, offering snacks in the breakroom, and hosting after-work parties can be good additions to an excellent culture, they won’t make a positive difference on their own. Changing your team culture begins with leadership.
- Put team members first.
If a client is rude to your team members, it’s better to fire the client than lose your employee. This is vital to creating a supportive and positive work environment. If you allow your clients to abuse your employees, it will wear them down over time. But by showing your employees that you have their backs, that you care about them as people as not just as workers, you’ll create loyal team members who are motivated to work for you and interact confidently with clients knowing that they won’t have to suffer any kind of abuse. (Besides, clients who are rude or mean to your employees are not the kind of clients you want to keep around. They will never be satisfied with what you provide them.)
- Harness the power of referrals.
The best aspect of prioritizing your team in order to create exceptional client experiences is that your happy clients will tell their friends and business contacts about their great experience with your company. Referrals are much more powerful leads than any traffic you get from web searches, because they already have a personal recommendation for your company, which means their level of trust is much higher. Referrals often aren’t shopping around—they want the same results you gave their friend, and they expect to pay a similar price. You can set your company up to gain the best results from referrals by creating programs or processes that make it easy for satisfied clients to tell their friends about you, and having a strong system in place to receive those new leads and convert them into new revenue.
By investing in what makes your business unique—your team—you’ll create a strong business tool that your competitors can’t steal. Whether or not you’re ranking at the top of search results pages, your team can help you create an edge that will make leads choose your company over your competitors and win you repeat business, which will improve your digital marketing in the long run as your company gains a positive reputation.