By Francois Bondiguel 

You need an edge in business. Most of the time, you’re flying blind. You wonder how it is that everyone around you is doing so well while you feel like you’re on shaky ground. The truth is that your competitors aren’t really all that well off either. They’re just keeping up appearances. Here’s how to ditch the status quo, stay one step ahead, and actually be confident in your company.

Establish a Killer Email Marketing System

You have to up your marketing game. Most companies that are successful use a sophisticated system to send out weekly or monthly reminder emails, but there’s a better way. Companies like GetResponse, Aweber, and Infusionsoft have built email autoresponder systems that let you tailor your marketing message to your email list.

You can segment users based on interests, generate emails based on user action (i.e. if a user opens an email, it can trigger other emails to be sent), and companies like Infusionsoft even allow you to plug their email marketing system into your POS system so you can trigger emails based on sales and other goals.

That means that you can sell a product to a customer and then kick them over to a special email list that introduces them to another offer related to whatever they just purchased from you – or you can remove them from your primary sales list and put them on a list that pampers them and gives them incentives for doing business with you again in the future.

Do More Press Releases

Press releases are how companies like Pizza Fusion, Conversion Pipeline, and ResortQuest got started. They’re also a great way to boost traffic both in the short and long-term. Unlike many  other traffic-generation methods, press releases encourage merit-based linked that are spontaneously given to the target site based on the strength of the content alone.

This means that you pay less for your traffic overall, gain much-needed popularity, and you also get free publicity from news outlets and private bloggers.

Buy A New POS System

Many businesses are stuck in the past. They’re using outdated POS systems that are hardwired. Wireless or cloud-based systems are not only cheaper, they can do much more. Consider the cost of a traditional system. After the lines have been installed, you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 or more. And, that doesn’t even include licensing.

A cloud-based POS system, on the other hand, can cost you just a few thousand dollars. A Vend iPad POS won’t cost anywhere near that – it has free options for small businesses and modest monthly fees for larger companies.

These systems track inventory, can do advanced analytics so you can track marketing and sales initiatives, sync with all devices on your network and even allow you to take your company on the road if you want to do trade shows or special events.

Purchase New Products Before Your Competition

If you’re in the retail business, your biggest threat is your competitors’ ability to scoop you on new product releases. So, stay up to date in your industry and buy the latest release of products as soon as possible.

For example, if you sell cell phone cases for smartphones, you’ll want to keep tabs on release dates (or expected release dates) for iPhones, Android devices, and other manufacturers. Having an “inside source” in the industry will probably help too. Leaked information is somewhat common in the tech industry even though it’s often frowned upon publicly. Don’t do anything illegal – just make sure you’re being as aggressive as you can so that you get products before your competitors. You could even consider preselling something if you have intel showing that a particular product will be available by a certain date.

Spy On Your Competition And Outcompete Them

Services like AdGooRoo let you spy on your competition, find out how much they’re paying for ads, what their keywords are, and give you inside intel on a company’s marketing and sales system – what’s working, what’s not.

Ever wanted to know why a competitor ranks for a particular keyword? This service gives you that information. Not only that, it will show you gaps in the marketplace so you can uncover new traffic opportunities, track and chart PPC campaigns, and improve your own ad copy response rate.

The basic idea with a service like this is to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry so that you’re never left behind. There’s nothing worse than not understanding what’s moving your industry and what’s motivating your competition.

Francois Bondiguel is from Vend, a point-of-sale, inventory, and customer loyalty software that helps over 10,000 retailers manage and grow their business. Connect with Francois on Google+ and LinkedIn.