We’re living in the times of the most crowded marketplace ever known. Thanks to the Internet everything local fast becomes global, and small business owners don’t necessarily compete anymore just with other businesses in the area. It doesn’t take long for global multi-nationals to pick up on small, but great ideas. Copy cats abound, in every shape and size and space, and it’s all too easy for your competitive edge to become blunt.
So, what do you do to stay ahead of competitors? One of the best ways is to know who they are, understand how they operate and discover what it is that they do that makes customers happy. This kind of information can empower you to get in front of them, and stay there.
It all comes down to actively gathering and analysing competitive intelligence. Two good sources of information about your competitors are really close at hand and relatively cheap to access – what your competitors say about themselves and what their customers say about them.
What your competitors say about themselves –
It is valuable to understand well how your competitors sell themselves and their products. You can find out a lot by making yourself familiar with their outlets, website, advertisements and other marketing collateral. You can explore their social media channels and sign up for their e-newsletter and email campaigns. You can even place an order with your competitor so that you can compare their product and packaging, customer service and support quality to your own. From this you will be able to get clear insights into how they position themselves and what they promote as their strengths, as well as the details of their product range and features. This enables you to discern your strengths and weaknesses in competition to them. It also empowers you to differentiate and enhance your offering.
What customers say about your competitors –
Setting up a consumer focus group with an independent presenter will also reveal valuable insights. Frank consumer opinions about your products and services as compared to your competitors are probably the richest source of information you can access. Because it brings to light customers’ individual preferences and priorities, it exposes you to variables you might not have considered. For instance you may be convinced you have the superior product, and they may agree, but customers still choose a competitor over you because they offer free, easy parking and a customer loyalty programme that you don’t. This insight into what customers actually value most can help you to more objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses, compare your performance against your competitors and come up with innovations that win you more business.
It’s a given that you’re always going to have competition in business. It’s up to you as to whether you’re going to be lost in the pack, or the one up front. An excellent product is not enough if everyone else has excellent products too, you have to have something unique that customers value as much. If you are going to get in front and stay there, understand your competition, work out how to outsmart them and keep steadfastly focused on delivering what customers really want.