By Rieva Lesonsky
How is your competition affording that new ad campaign? Did they get take out a small business loan or open a new business line of credit? Do you think the competition’s new marketing idea will help them bring in new business? To keep your business competitive, you must continually assess your competition.
To find your competitors, make sure you are reading trade magazines and websites that target your industry. You can also contact your trade association. Remember to look at big competitors as well as smaller businesses. Finally, be sure you’re looking at all your competitors, even ones who are not in your local community.
Now that you know what you’re up against, read as much as you can about those companies. Set up Google alerts on your competitors so you’ll get notified when news about them appears online. Watch for articles in the business press, local newspapers or industry publications. For those competitors that are publicly traded, get their annual reports.
Try to figure out what your competitors’ long-term plans are. What tactics do they use that you admire and can duplicate? What do you think they are doing wrong? Are they expanding to new geographic regions, targeting new demographic markets or adding new product lines?
Determine who your indirect competitors are—those businesses that aren’t in your specific industry, but are competing for the same dollars. Smart use of indirect competitors can benefit your business, such as when a bar locates near a restaurant to attract their customers after dinner.
Finally, where possible, get out and do some first-hand market research. Visit your competitors’ locations or purchase something from their Web sites. Note what type of service you receive and what you like and don’t like about the experience. Also note what kind of advertising and marketing they’re using to attract customers.
Throughout your research, analyze your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. You might discover opportunities to set yourself apart and above. Continue to keep on top of your competitors as your business grows so you can stay ahead of the pack.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports