For a newly-minted startup, competitors can seem intimidating at first. Many young entrepreneurs and startup founders often feel confident in their work, but they may feel it’s impossible to go outside of their network and go up against the big guys.

But, thanks to the digital economy, record numbers showing that consumers are more willing to explore alternative business models have been reported. In addition to startups leveraging the power of the digital economy, getting the word out about your business through social media and targeted advertising has been a windfall for small companies.

Yes, it takes time and patience to learn how to stand up on your own two feet as a business and subsequently to stand out from the competition. But whether you’re a novice in the startup world, or have been running your own business for several years and are ready to expand, here are four ways that you can set your business model up to help you stand out from the crowd, no matter how big the competition may be.

1. Get to know your competition

Getting to know your competitors should be one of the first steps that every startup takes while still in the pre-launch phase. Setting aside time and resources to research direct competitors in your industry, as well as those that share parallels with your company’s vision is an excellent way for you to gauge what your ideal target market should be, in addition to what types of marketing and sales tactics they used to generate consumer engagement.

Once you have done this, it’s time to focus on what you’re offering and what sets you apart from the competition. It’s wise to focus on what makes you unique as a business and put the effort in strengthening these skills so as to avoid copying another business model.

2. Build strong social networks

One thing that startups do really well that more traditional businesses struggle with is social networking. As the startup model is all about innovation, the majority tend to work in flexible workspaces, such as coworking and hacker spaces, which regularly host networking events. While corporations are tuning into the value of social capital, they are more likely to invest in sales and marketing, rather than in the community. By attending meetups and networking events, startups can get the word out there, while building an identity that shows that they are willing to invest in people.

3. Carve out a strong and efficient budget

Just because you are a startup doesn’t mean you can’t build a strong and successful business that can’t achieve corporate level success. Yet in order to do that, you’ll need a solid plan. A lot of startups are at risk of going over budget, especially when funding is involved. Startups can greatly benefit from an expert opinion as they start to scale, and when it comes to managing finances, taking on a financial consultant is an effective way to learn how large-scale companies budget.

Of course, you will need to work with someone who is well-versed in the startup scene, but many consultants often have corporate experience, which is valuable knowledge to have for when you’re ready to throw your hat in the ring.

4. Embrace new technologies

Technology has been a major driver of innovation and has democratized the business world in many ways. From personalized websites (i.e Wix, Weebly, WordPress) that can help startups gain exposure to crowdfunding platforms that help small businesses raise funds without having to rely on an investor, workplace technology is constantly evolving. Companies of all sizes are currently turning their attention towards automation, as it can help streamline daily tasks, and basic customer services while creating space for employees to focus their attention on communicating with customers and boosting innovation.

While becoming as big as your competitors shouldn’t be your only goal, it’s good to not feel intimidated by big name companies that have long dominated the business landscape. Learning from those that came before us is a great way to establish effective business practices, while also creating a more diversified professional landscape which is good for both business and consumers.

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