Don’t knock your competitors. By boosting others, you will boost yourself. A little competition is a good thing and severe competition is a blessing. Thank God for competition.” – Jacob Kindleberger

Competition is a keen threat that keeps many small business owners on their toes, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’ve ever watched TV business makeover shows such as Kitchen Nightmares or Tabitha Takes Over, you’ll know that any turnaround strategy starts with an assessment of the competition. You simply can’t win a battle if you have no idea who you’re up against. In fact, keeping tabs on your competition can work to your advantage and even be a blessing. Follow these tips, and you’ll see why:

Identify Your Competition
Now, you may have several forms of competition – both direct and indirect. A freelancer, for example, may face threats from star employees within his or her client base as well as from other freelancers. While a general contractor may have direct competition from large and small contracting firms in addition to indirect competition from odd-job handymen in certain markets.

A simple online search can help you find your competition. Search for keywords that relate to your business, as well as other definers, like zip code. Focus on 5-10 results and hit them up. Check out their websites. Assess how your products and services stack up. What do you do that’s different or unique? It could be the markets you serve, tools you use, the ultimate value that you deliver (and we don’t mean just price).

Tip: Don’t forget to stay on top of your competition for the long haul – subscribe to their newsletters, LinkedIn pages, become a Facebook fan, read their press releases, talk to their suppliers about their plans, and visit their booths at tradeshows.

What Are People Saying About Them?
Next, educate yourself on what prospects and customers are saying about your competition – check out Google reviews, LinkedIn endorsements, Yelp, and ServiceMagic. Don’t forget local community discussion boards (folks are always seeking and posting recommendations online) as well as Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds.

What does opinion say that your competition is doing well and what are their weaknesses (there may be an opportunity there for your business)?

Finally, talk to your customers. Why did they switch from the competition to you, you’ll get a very clear picture of what it is they do well and not so well and adjust your offerings to beat out the competition.

What are People Saying about Your Business?
What are people saying about your business? If you’re not active on social media or following what people are saying about you, do it. Use surveys to gauge feedback from existing clients. Set-up keyword alerts in Google or Mention and get notified whenever your business is talked about online.

Gauge Where to Make Investments
Is your competition is doing something well that might work for you? This could be a product, service, market strategy or customer service approach. Don’t be afraid to learn from the strides they are making and go about doing it better (and you’ll save $$ on market research and product development). Apple and Samsung do it all the time!

Poach Staff
Good employees are the lifeblood of any business and finding the right personnel, especially in competitive markets such as high-tech fields, can be difficult. Instead of settling for what’s on the market, consider looking at your competition for key hires. Not only will they bring their expertise, insight into your completion, but they’ll also bring their Rolodex.

Networking, events, etc. are all fruitful grounds for meeting potential candidates.

Consider Co-opetition
It’s rare that two businesses are exactly the same and approached deftly your competition can prove to be a valued partner. For example, if you offer something that they don’t or can handle overflow business, could it be worth partnering up and turning your competition into “co-opetition”? The outcome could include referrals and joint business opportunities in the form of a contractor/sub-contractor relationship.

Tip: Join business associations, networking groups, and your local Chambers of Commerce and get to know your competition on neutral ground.

The Bottom Line
Paying attention to who your competitors are can reap dividends for your business. It will help you refine your brand strategy, inform new product or service lines, secure talent a lot more effectively than want ads, and open the doors to new business opportunities. “Thank God for competition.”

 

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Author: Caron Beesley

Published: March 26, 2015

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