Above All Things: Know Thy Competitors

Business is a competition. No matter what product or service you sell, you have several—perhaps dozens of—competitors. You may be happy with your market share: you have loyal customers, and business is good. Why worry? There’s enough business for everyone, right?

Business is good for you today, but it may not be tomorrow. Your competitors are scheming to increase their share of the market. By decreasing your share. Here are six things you can do to ensure your business not only survives, but thrives.

Who is Your Competition?

Know who you’re competing against. Don’t assume, if you own a small business, your only competitors are small businesses. You may have competitors of every size.

In addition, research your competitors:

  • Follow them on social media.
  • Get added to their mailing lists.
  • Read their marketing materials.
  • Search for Internet articles about them.
  • Visit their locations if possible.
  • Visit their websites.

What Do They Sell?

Know how your competitors’ products or services compare to yours. Are they offering something you’re not … but should? What are you offering that they’re not?

What Are They Good At?

Know what your competitors do better. If, for example, a competitor has exclusive access to the lowest-cost supplier and will always be able to undercut your price, you need to know. Instead of wasting time trying to compete with their price, you can change your strategy and focus on producing a higher-quality product or service.

What Are They Not Good At?

If you do something well and your competitors don’t, let people know. It’ll increase your market share. If you don’t remember anything else I’ve said, remember this: Tell everyone what you do better than your competitors. Don’t assume they know. They probably don’t.

What Do You Offer That’s Different?

Know what you offer that no one else offers. Your sports drink is made entirely of organic fruit grown by local farmers. This is your Unique Selling Proposition. If someone asks, “How’s your drink different?” this is what you tell them. In fact, tell them before they ask.

Who Knows?

Marketing your business is like interviewing for a job: put modesty aside, and tell whoever will listen how great you are. You’ve conducted your research, so you’re the market expert. Don’t assume the general public knows your industry or knows your product or service is better than the others. They probably don’t. So tell them.

Get Started

If you want to research the competition, you can do it yourself or hire a professional. A consultant, who has likely conducted hundreds or even thousands of competitive analyses, will do things it won’t occur to you to do. And it will save you time. But they’re expensive.

Conducting the research yourself allows you to track only those areas you’re interested in. You’ll know what your competitors are doing and how they’re doing it. But conducting sound research is an acquired skill that takes time. Time you could be using to run your business.

You may want to start by hiring a consultant to conduct the initial analysis, so you can see what they do, then conduct it yourself going forward. In the meantime, it takes little time getting added to a competitor’s mailing list or following them on social media.

It doesn’t matter which route you take as long as you take one. Why leave your success to chance? And consider this: Your competitors may be researching you.