No matter what product or service your business offers, it will always face competition. Understanding your competitors and their business practices is the key to success.
It’s important to know what products or services they offer, how they market their business, the nature of their distribution and delivery system, how they implement new technology and how customers view their brand. Obviously, these factors are not always simple to assess.
Competition comes in many forms. Direct competitors are easy to find because they sell the same product. Indirect competitors – those who are competing for the same market with slightly different products – are sometimes harder to identify. And competitors can come from anywhere; grocery stores didn’t think they would have to compete against Amazon, but in 2017 the online giant purchased the Whole Foods grocery chain.
Understanding competition is vital in business. The following offers some ways to get a handle on how your competitors work and where you stand in relation to them. In other words, are you winning or losing the competitive business battle?
Speak to Your Customers
This is a simple step, but many businesses don’t do enough of it. No one can give you a clearer picture of the competition. If a new customer once got their product or service from another business, ask them why they made the switch. Also, while it might be difficult to hear, it’s also important to reach out to former customers and find out why they stopped using your business and switched to a competitor. You can’t make useful changes without gathering the right information from the right source.
Speak to Your Suppliers
Like an office manager in the corporate world, suppliers know the inside scoop on every business they work with. Getting to know your supplier well is a smart move. While they may not be willing to share detailed information, you may be able to get a general idea of what a competitor is purchasing. They might also provide insight into new products or technology, so you can beat the competition to quality and cost improvements. All information is useful when scouting out the competition.
Speak to Your Competitors
If you use the right approach, you can learn a lot of information about a company by simply contacting them and asking the right questions. While they certainly won’t divulge all of their business strategies, it’s possible to get high-level information such as the size of the company, current product offerings and new markets they may be moving into. Again, even small pieces of information are helpful in putting together the overall puzzle.
Go to Industry Seminars, Conferences and Expos
Whenever those in the same industry meet at a convention, expo or seminar, plenty of valuable information is shared through informational sessions, exhibit booths and networking events. Seeing your competitors in action will give you valuable insight on their business. If there is more than one competitor in your market, you can learn a lot about the differences between competitor A and competitor B, and vice versa.
Conduct Online Research
Of course, competitor research begins by simply searching on Google for their site and then checking out each page in detail. However, there also services such as SpyFu that allow you check up on the keywords and Adwords that competitors purchase, as well as analytics services such as Google Trends and Google Alerts.
Check Social Media
Simply monitoring social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can offer a lot of insight into what customers and competitors are saying. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the internet is that people speak their minds. This is especially true on review sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor. Google also offers users the chance to review businesses, all of which is available for free online.
Watch Who Competitors Hire
It’s easy to ascertain where a company is focused by looking at who they hire. A new social media marketing director? A manager for a branch location? Job listings are packed with information about a company. And on sites such as Indeed and Monster, among many others, you can find job listings from all the competitors in your market.
These ideas can help you gain more detailed insights into what the competition is doing. Use them to improve your position. In a highly competitive business world, you need every advantage you can get.