Up to the Challenge: How to Research Competitors
It’s sad but true: somewhere, somebody is doing exactly what you do. They might even be doing it better. If you want to command top dollar for your services, delight and surpass the expectations of your clientele and bolster your strategy, it’s time to come to terms with this fact, and use it to your advantage.
Identify the Culprits
Identify those companies who are strategically opposed to yours. They might offer a similar product or service, and impact directly or indirectly on your target market. Make a list of the top five direct competitors to monitor, and scope out their websites, branding and services with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. With this information in hand, set to work honing your competitive edge, whether it’s undercutting their costs, improving on their offer with a new promotion, or reassessing your business to fill a niche in the market.
Socialize, and Often
Social media offers a vast window into the world of your competition, and abundant opportunities for prospecting. Follow your rival’s Twitter account and fan their Facebook. Subscribe to all their feeds, newsletters and blogs. It’s likely that those who follow your competitors have some investment in their offer, so try to get them to follow you, too. You might just find out what it is that makes them love your competitor more than you. Is it sparkly, witty copy, a weekly promotion or giveaway, or beautiful brand presentation and edgy photography? Learn to master your brand in 140 characters, and you can conquer the (business) world.
Know Your Enemy
Gaining some intelligence on the individual behind your competition is a great way to scope out an advantage. A simple director search can reveal their previous enterprises, successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses. There are plenty of reputable, reliable business information services online that are only too willing to fill you in on such gleaming nuggets of intel as net worth, credit scores, and even CCJs.
Read All about It
If you have a PR-hungry competitor, add a Google alerts subscription for their business name, or keywords related to your industry to reveal new businesses on the scene. It might not be pleasant to read about their latest $30,000 investment or glittering new product launch, but at least it won’t come as a shock, and it could help you appraise your own investment potential.
Analyze Their Online Presence
Beyond the surface benefits of snooping around your competitor’s website, you might reveal some juicy intelligence if you look a little deeper. There are some great online services that can show you the pages that link to your competitor’s website. This is a terrific way to identify lucrative collaborations and potentially reveal a little more about their online advertising strategy.
Large companies invest millions of dollars, and devote entire departments to Strategic and Competitive Intelligence; it’s simply a necessary evil of striking out on your own in business. Don’t let your customer base be chipped away by your competition. Arm yourself with every scrap of information that you could possibly need to realize your own potential. After all, business is a dog eat dog world.
Jamie Aldrin is an SEO and social media expert and has helped numerous businesses, great and small, to boost their online presence (and their profits).