As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. When you’re a business owner, it’s critically important for you to be aware of what your competition is doing. Of course, this is important when you’re in the startup phase, but even once you’ve been established in business for years it’s still a smart strategic advantage to keep an eye on what others in your industry are up to. The reason is threefold:
- first, so you can continue to articulate to your customers and clients what sets you apart from the competition;
- second, to have a fresh perspective and grasp on what trends might be changing in your industry, and;
- third, to get new ideas of how you could continue improving what you offer.
Doing your own competitive market research isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds. In fact, it really comes down to having an organized approach and knowing the right tools to use.
Get started by establishing what to look for. The basics are business name, location, website, mission, and “elevator pitch.” From there, what are you hoping to find out? Choose what data you want to collect for each competitor. This could range from what their online presence looks like on social media to exactly what services and products they offer to how many employees they have. Whatever area you want to have an edge on the competition in, do your research.
Find out more: How to Conduct Competitive Research
Your second step is knowing where to find your information. Google is great. You can discover just about anything… if you know how to look. Going beyond that, there’s a whole slew of tools to help you scour the internet for the information you want. SpyFu will tell you what keywords your competitors are focusing on. Google Alerts will tell you when anyone talks about your competition, or your own business. Google Trends will give you information about your industry quickly. Utilize government databases to gather facts and stats about these businesses. Social media is also a powerful tool you can use to understand competitors. A few sites that allow you to do this are Topsy, Mention, and Hootsuite. You can compile much of this information on mySyndicaat.
Find out more: How to Google (Infographic)
The third step is talking to people about the competition. While online research is great and vital to getting accurate information, there’s nothing like having a real conversation with real people to learn. Attending a trade show might be just the ticket to getting you a feel for your competitors. Your suppliers might also work with other businesses in your industry; building relationship there and asking a few strategic questions could reveal a lot. Don’t be afraid of talking to your customers, either. It might be scary, but their feedback could be the most valuable opinion you hear. The final place you can have a real life conversation is with your competition. Making friends with your rivals can pay off, big time!
Find out more: How to Write a Customer Survey,
The education you’ll gain from investing the time in solid competitive market research will payoff rich dividends in the long run. By taking these steps to do your research, you’re sure to discover information that will continue to strengthen your business and make your marketing strategy even more powerful.