I hear conflicting things about competitors…some people say they don’t think about them and don’t care and others suffer imposter syndrome, where they don’t think they measure up.
Either way, it’s normal to wonder what other people are doing, and how they work…if you don’t care about your competition, I’d be asking why you don’t care? It’s good to care; businesses who do what you do ARE out there – some are doing well, and some not so well. I’m sure you see these phrases all the time – ‘We’re all on our own journey,’ or ‘we’re all on different chapters of our book.’ I’ve used them myself and this is of course, true, but there are things you can do to be as informed as you can about your competitors, which in turn, can help you stand out in the crowd.
Knowing who they are and what they do, can give you vital information that will help you to make your business successful. It can help you with the pricing of your products/services, so they are competitive and helps to know what kind of marketing campaigns your competitors do.
Again, I’m not saying that you find out the price your competitor charges and undercut them – no, not at all, but it can help you with a ballpark figure. And you don’t want to copy your competitors either, but doing a bit of research can help you find gaps in the market, which your business can then fill.
If you haven’t done a SWOT analysis on your business, now is the time to do it. SWOT simply stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. (Click here to find out how to do a SWOT analysis).
What strengths do you have and what weaknesses can you address and improve on? What opportunities do you have and what threats are there that need to be looked at?
Once you have identified your own, you can make a list of your top competitors and conduct a quick analysis on them. As well as concentrating on your own weaknesses, look at the weaknesses your competitor has – is there a way that you can improve on their weaknesses to make your business stand out? The same applies to threats. What threats do your competitors face that you could turn around or avoid?
What should you know about your competitors?
We all have competitors that do the same or similar to us. Since the Covid pandemic, more people work from home, or have launched their own online business. Consumers are turning increasingly to the internet to find what they want, be it products or services, so it’s even more important to know what other businesses do. Competition from other businesses isn’t just about being up against someone who sells the same as you; they could be offering something that you could also sell, or you might be able to offer a substitute that gives better value.
The best way to find out about your competitors
You will have your own customers and they are a great source of information about your competitors. I don’t mean interrogate your existing customers, but there are ways to ask them. For example, when a new customer buys from you, ask who they bought from before and what made them switch. Or ask them what attracted them to your products or services. You can ask the same of your existing customers.
The same applies when you lose a customer to a competitor – you can ask them what made them go to someone else. It’s sometimes a hard lesson to learn, but it’s best to know because then you can improve.
Look at what your competitors offer
Here are a few ideas of the things you could look at:
- The products or services that they offer
- How much they charge for their products or services
- Their customer service and how they manage delivery/refunds policies
- Do they use any kind of loyalty programme or exclusive offers? Do they send out thank you cards or offer special incentives for customers?
- Do they have an online shop or a website?
- Look at their brand and how it defines what they do. Do they have a logo, a website, branded product information, leaflets, or flyers?
- How does the way they speak to potential customers link to their brand? What tone of voice do they use?
- Their social media pages – how do they manage it and what kind of things do they post?
- Who owns the business and what their values are?
- How do they advertise their business? Do they use print items, such as ads in magazines etc?
How to learn more
Learn as much as you can.
- If they do events, such as fayres or markets, look at the kind of events they attend. Try and get along to one of them if they are close to you to suss out how they display their stall etc. Or, alternatively, go along to a local fayre or market and take note of how the stallholders treat their customers, what they offer and how they interact and set up their tables.
- Do they work in collaboration with other businesses to get more sales themselves?
- Buy from your competitor to see how they manage sales and after sales service. Look at the packaging and any little extras they put in with your order.
- Do an internet search with their business name or personal name to see what comes up. You might be surprised! They might be affiliated to a charity or do something else as well that you wouldn’t know about from their business.
- Join networking events, face to face or online. Here you can talk to people who do similar things to you. This is great, not just from a ‘finding out how other people do things’ angle, but also to make friends and talk to other like-minded people about business problems you may come across. These groups are often very supportive and within the group, there will be loads of different knowledge and experience. Someone always knows the answer to the question you want to ask. You might even find a business you can collaborate with, where your businesses complement each other. For example, if you do hair for weddings, you may collaborate with a make-up artist so you can offer a package or recommend each other.
Looking at your competitors is not about taking business from that person or being underhand in any way…I can’t stress that enough!
It’s just about researching the market and finding out what other people do and how they run their business, so that you are in a better position to compete in the marketplace. It may give you ideas you hadn’t thought of.
Best of all, we are all on a learning curve with our businesses, and we can all learn from each other. Being around other businesses, you can assess what you can improve on, and you can learn from other’s mistakes.
I hope this article gives you food for thought. What is your opinion on competitor analysis?