How well do you know what your competitors are up to?

Are you absolutely sure you know exactly who the competition is?

No business is an island and entrepreneurs need to constantly be in touch with what is happening, not only in their immediate market, but where relevant, in associated markets as well.

One way of achieving this is to keep an eye on what your competition is doing in terms of market penetration, pricing structures, customer capture and industry profile.

Here are 4 suggestions on how to stay ahead of the competition or at least, stay abreast of them.

 

Know who they are

If you are in a very tight niche with minimal competition, it is a whole lot easier to identify them.

However, if you are in a very large market, for example, providing marketing consultancy services, selling Amazon products or own a hardware outlet, there may be hundreds if not thousands of competitors online or dozens within the geographical area of your shop.

In this instance, you can’t track all of the competitors and it becomes necessary to pin point those that are likely to do the most harm to your business.

If your brick and mortar business is right across the road from a company offering the same products as you then they would probably rank pretty high in terms of who to keep a watch on.

In addition to flagging those companies that are a threat to you, it is also worthwhile compiling a list of the industry leaders. The reason being that they are often considered to be the benchmark for how best to operate and so legally nicking a couple of their ideas might go a long way to getting one over on your immediate competition.

If it is obvious that your levels of service or product quality and pricing are superior to a competitor, don’t waste your time benchmarking against them. Look to those that are attracting the larger volumes of customers.

You want to measure yourself against the best.

A merchant who approaches business with the idea of serving the public well has nothing to fear from the competition.

  • – James Cash Penney

How do competitors entice customers to buy from them?

Why do customers buy from your competitors and what are they doing that entices the buyer into their store or onto their website?

Answering these and other similar questions will give you greater insight into what they are doing that you are not, or, what they are doing better than you. Scrutinise their product and service offerings; this may provide some ideas which may even allow you to break into a new product sector.

How does your pricing model stack up against theirs? Are you under or even overpriced?

Examine their discount offers or “specials” and try and ascertain the response to these marketing campaigns – a long queue outside their store is usually a reasonable indicator that they are doing something right.

Media – browse their websites, particularly if the site allows for comments and feedback from customers, which is a good way to establish what they are not doing so well at.

Follow them on social media, another good way to see feedback on their performance.

Remember it is not only the criticisms that you should be looking for. High praise from customers is the best indicator of what the customer expects and is looking for in relation to a particular product or service.

Only make changes that will positively impact the bottom line and qualitatively improve your… Click To Tweet

Can you match up? Are you able to attain the performance levels customers are demanding?

Emulating what the best of your competitors are doing and wherever possible, improving on their service levels could be the trigger that begins to attract new customers to your store or site.

Be careful of the legal pitfalls.

If you are not sure about how legal it is to “borrow” a competitors idea or process, get legal advice. This is especially relevant when it comes to product logo’s, slogans or advertising material.

You don’t want to be publicly accused of plagiarism.

 

Visit their premises.

If you are a brick and mortar establishment, then visiting the competitions premises is, for me, one of the best ways to assess the competition.

Buy their products, assess the service levels and product support available.

Complain about the product or service and gauge the reaction to your complaint. Do they have a refund or replacement policy?

Do you?

Talk to employees about the company (but be careful about what you ask).

Request a product you know they don’t sell, but you do and ask if they would be prepared to suggest an alternative supplier – interesting to see if your company name comes up.

Strike up a conversation with a customer and ask their opinion of the company but also try and get input into why they buy from this particular supplier and not others.

Ask them if they have heard of your company; obviously without revealing who you are.

 

What are your customers saying about the market?

We all know that getting feedback and assessments from our customers is a good way to measure the success of our efforts.

But do you talk to your customers about the competition?

What do they think of other providers and suppliers?

It may be worth asking them. Be prepared for some hesitancy with their responses, but with the right coaxing and assurances, you should be able to get them to, constructively, provide you with comparisons.

The sole purpose of this exercise, be it face to face in your store or by email questionnaires to your email list, is to improve your overall service to your customers.

Logically assess the feedback.

  • Look for petty complaints and eliminate them;
  • Be aware of the bargain grabber – they may be derogatory about your company in the hope of being offered a “freebie” to change their already dishonest opinion;
  • Ignore abusive or unfair attacks on any of your competitors;
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and delve deeper into both criticisms and compliments.

 

In conclusion

The more you know about what is going on in your market place the better.

However a word of caution particularly if you are a new start-up – if your initial impression is that your business is not up to scratch in comparison to some of your competitors, don’t panic.

You will get there.

But only make changes that will positively impact the bottom line and qualitatively improve your customers experience.

And finally, remember, that what is good for the goose is equally so for the gander, so don’t get too miffed if you recognise a competitor in your store chatting to one of your customers.

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