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It’s easy to feel swallowed up by big business when they’re joining forces and gaining a foothold in the marketplace. According to reporting from The Economist, the annual number of mergers and acquisitions is more than twice what it was in the 1990s. Their article suggests we should also be worried about the share of GDP generated by America’s 100 biggest companies. It rose from about 33 percent in 1994 to 46 percent in 2013.

But even in a marketplace of mergers and acquisitions, businesses can still stay ahead in a highly competitive market. Here are five tips to get started.

Know the Factors

There is plenty of age-old advice about knowing your competitors inside and out, what motivates your clients and how they measure up against their own competitors. In reality, there’s more at play than deep research on clients and competitors. You also need to know the factors impacting your business.

Your own industry’s factors might include legal regulations, technology or manufacturing. Take the time to understand how these factors impact your bottom line including their own vulnerabilities. For example, a technology healthcare company must consider the ramifications of new hacks, legal regulations for both responding to hacking and protecting client data.

Practice Hyper-Connectivity

According to a poll of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. Retail Multichannel Customer Experience Study, 64 percent of people who use Twitter expect an answer within an hour, and 85 percent of Facebook users expect a reply in six hours. But even if your client base isn’t active on social media, they still want a response. The study found 77 percent of people won’t wait longer than six hours for an email reply.

Staying hyperconnected is key to competing whether on the road or in the sky. For the road, Zubie In-Car Wi-Fi creates a mobile hotspot in your car and connects up to ten devices so you can work while someone else drives. Getting in-air Wi-Fi is also crucial to answer client emails. But instead of relying on the airline’s unpredictable wireless, use T-Mobile’s free Wi-Fi with unlimited in-flight texting.

Stay Innovative

It’s easy to get caught up with the status quo and expect the success you’ve struck to keep continuing without constantly adapting. But successful companies stay innovative and focused on their evolution.

Being innovative isn’t just a spontaneous process and requires an innovation strategy. You need a clear understanding of your strategy whether you’re investing in research to be the foremost expert in your field, consulting with social media influencers to understand what motivates people to engage online or how trends are shaping new products.

Add Additional Value

Big companies may be able to slash prices or offer more inventory, but they can’t always offer the value that small businesses can. Add additional value to your products and services whether an extended warranty, free coaching call to your clients or limited time bonuses. Just make sure to wrap the value around the value they get from your products, to begin with. Throwing in freebies just to snag their attention only trains your customers to expect ongoing deals.

Use IT as a Strategy

An overlooked and highly underrated strategy in staying ahead of your market could be right under your nose. According to a study by Deloitte, small businesses that invest in IT saw a 45 percent growth over the prior 12 months. Investing in IT as a business strategy can help propel your growth and make sure you’re always a step ahead of the competition.

The real takeaway in staying ahead of your competition is to take action. You won’t get anywhere just by thinking and plotting your next month. Stay proactive and focus on your best tactics before slowly adopting new techniques.

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