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Keep your friends close and your competition even closer

Keep your friends close and your competition even closer

Last week we spoke about differentiating your business in a crowded market. We got a great response and particularly some discussion around researching competitors beyond visiting their website.

The fact is your competitors are out there and they’re hungry for your customers. If you monitor your competitors on a regular basis, you can get to know their strengths and weaknesses and you can even anticipate what they are likely to do next. This information is valuable when planning your own strategies so you can keep your customers and win new customers away from your competitors.

Looking past the website: How to dig deeper into your competition

Supercharge your Google search
There’s no doubt that any research project begins with a Google search or visiting your competitor’s web page. But there are more Google tools that will give you greater insight into your competition. Here are two K.I.S.S favourites:

  • Google Trends: helpful to stay on top of the latest trends in your in industry, comparing your company to others and seeing where people who come to your site go.
  • Google Alerts: keep alerts for your own business but also for all competitors. That way you will be able to keep tabs on what they are up to and any major announcements.

Industry research
Track at least twice a year what industry analyst firms like Gartner and Neilson are reporting about your industry, as well as trade associations and advocacy groups. These organisations research and evaluate your competitors. What are they telling you about your industry? Where are the unmet market needs that you can fill that your competitors can’t?

Tap into social
Social media has a plethora of data on you, your customers and your competition: just waiting to be mined. The concept of big data can be overwhelming and often not relevant to small business, so start small:

  • Monitor your competitors social networks (tweets, Facebook posts, blogs) and other new media mentions of your competition to stay in the know about the public’s sentiment about your competition
  • Track our competition on review sites
  • Sign up to their newsletters—either e-mail or print varieties—and get the latest and greatest news and updates on new products or services and what events they might be attending.

Ask your customers
When you win a new customer, find out who they used before, and why they switched to you (i.e. the reason they weren’t satisfied with their previous supplier). Do the same when you lose a customer—identify what they preferred about your competitor. As you gather your intelligence you’ll get a clear idea on what competitors are offering that customers are responding to. Then adjust your own offering to compete.

Attend a conference.
Attending industry trade shows and conferences—as well as joining industry associations—can be a great way to learn about who your competitors are, what they’re offering and their strengths and weaknesses. Observe their interactions with customers, pick up their literature, and check out the quality of their products.

Scared of a little competition?
Don’t be scared!  Some healthy competition is good for business. Not only does it keep you on your toes it helps keep the standards in your industry high. Open your eyes to what’s happening in your industry with the above tips and never compromise your quality or brand values to compete.

See you next week

Darnelle

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Next week: We’ll be talking about Facebook for business and how to get the best out of the your page.

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