COMPETITION/ COMPETITOR/ “THEM”
It’s a company/business/person close to you and/or your target market who offers the same or very similar service/product. You should know who your competition is and you should look to be familiar with their current offerings, marketing, advertising, promotions etc. You can scope out the competition online OR in person.
Depending on the size of your/their company – in person can be tricky. If you feel comfortable walking into their store then by all means go ahead and take note of everything from their customer service; their sales peoples knowledge, their sales; their POP displays (point of purchase) and their overall branding and consistency. You want to take a look at their promotions and how they push them and what they are sold out of (so you know what a popular sell is for them). Bring a notepad and paper and leave it in the car if you have to so you can jot down your “findings” as soon as you are finished. Now if you are a small business and they are a small business? Walking onto their territory in person may be too obvious and you don’t want to stir up any conflict…. I recommend getting your information online.
In the current age of transparency- it isn’t hard to see what you’re up against. With websites, blogs and social media- you can easily stay up to date with the information they choose to make public. “They choose to make public” are key words- you won’t know what is happening internally so it’s crucial that you follow them on a semi-regular basis. I recommend visiting their sites a minimum of every three months- you don’t have to break down a thorough competitive analysis every time! You can draw up a quick S.W.O.T analysis for each company based on your findings. (Click here for a previous blog post on S.W.O.T and a free template download.)
So you have their site(s) on your screen. What should you be looking for?
- How cohesive all of their channels are (branding)
- How they are similar and how they are different from you
- What are they doing better than you (be honest with yourself)
- What current promotion they are offering/ what have the offered in the past
- Price comparisons (ecommerce- be sure to check shipping rates)
- If you want to test their customer service? Send them an anonymous question and see how long it takes for a reply and judge the quality of the response
- Read online reviews. What is the public saying?
You probably have a good idea of who your top competitors are. If not? A search engine check using business keywords similar to yours (along with your city) will bring their information up for you. A trick is to save a file with your competition’s internet addresses (website URL, social media handles, blog sites) so you can re-visit them with a quick click of the link. You can also save them in your browsers ‘favorites’ and bookmark them. I recommend setting up ‘Google Alerts’ for your industry regardless of whether it’s for your competition or not so that you are getting updates from all over as they happen.
CAUTION: Don’t become so enthralled with what everyone else is doing that you lose sight of yourself and your business. Frequenting their online resources will give you an advantage but at the end of the day you need to ensure that your brand is on point and that you are doing the best you can with the resources available to you. Don’t select your “competition” based on what aspire to become because that will set you up with unrealistic expectations which could lead to failure. It’s great to have goals and be inspired by industry leaders- but when it comes to comparing competition? Keep apples to apples.