You vs. Them (How to Scope Out The Competition)

Competitive Analysis

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.

How to Be a Better Networker

networking

Love it or hate it? You should do it.

Networking events are a great opportunity to mingle with likeminded people and industry professionals. Everyone is there for the same reason which takes that pressure off but you need to understand that the little details matter and don’t go unnoticed.

Here are my top ten networking tips:

1) Attend the right networking events

You can’t expect to meet the right people in the wrong places. Make sure that the networking event that you choose to attend meshes with your product/service/goals in some way. You don’t want to waste your time and other people’s time.

2) Have business cards on you

Simple. Always carry cards! (Or keep them in your car)

Also- When you are given a card, make a note on the back to help you remember the connection and conversation. I even write personal details such as family mentions or an upcoming move. Why? So that when I follow up with the connection they will appreciate my memory (they don’t have to know about my notes- it’s the thought that counts).

3) Dress the part

Dress for the event but always lean towards a professional appearance. Use your common sense and feel out the venue and invitation. Some networking hosts will write the dress code on the invite/ in the events details. Wear something that you feel comfortable in and reflects who you are- just look put together a.k.a professional.

4) Have your elevator speech ready

An elevator speech is a two minute breakdown of what it is you do/ can offer. You want to be able to sum it up quickly so you don’t miss any important points and you keep the persons attention long enough to finish what you want to say.

5) Don’t be afraid to go alone

It’s not a party at a stranger’s house where everyone knows each other and you’re the outsider- everyone in the networking room is the outsider. Most of the people that you will be interacting with throughout the event will be attending solo as well. If you are shy, I assure you that with practice and proper preparation you will gain confidence.

6) CONFIDENCE

Some people can smell fear a mile away and aren’t attracted to it. So lift up your head, have good posture a firm handshake, practice good eye contact and welcoming body language. Introduce yourself using your first and last name and be sure to ask theirs. Remember that you are just as deserving as everyone else in that room! You need to believe that because it will shine through.

7) Smile

This could have been placed under confidence but I believe it needs its own heading. Research has reported that smiling releases endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, along with serotonin, which is also associated with feel good properties.

All in all- Smiles are contagious and welcoming!

Practice right now- BIG SMILE…………………………………………….feels good, right?

8) You don’t have to have all of the answers

You can say “I am not sure; let me follow up with you on that”. It is a lot better than BS’ing your way through the conversation (most times, the person you are feeding the lies to? Knows you are lying.) Keep in mind that arrogance is not an attractive characteristic. Be an expert not a know-it-all and remember to LISTEN twice as much as you talk.

9) Be positive

No bad mouthing. No gossip. No swear words and no bullying. Keep everything on the up and up. When people ask how your day was? Say “GREAT!” because they don’t need to hear otherwise… They were only asking to be polite. They are strangers and don’t need to hear about all the bad things that happened to you before you showed up. Call a friend for that.

10) Follow Up

Send a short note to the individuals that you connected with at the event. If you said that you would send information- then send it. Use the notes that you wrote on the back of your cards to keep track of who and what.

Not every networking event is going to run smoothly. You aren’t always going to connect with the nicest people and not everyone will believe in you or your ideas AND THAT IS OK. Please don’t take it to heart. Even the most genius of entrepreneurs will tell you countless stories of being shunned and it will happen to you too… but you can’t let it stop you.

You pick up, dust off and you take their criticism in one of two ways. One being constructive- can you learn something from it? And the second being of a malicious nature- that you can disregard.

If someone simply said “No” they have no need for your service/product? That isn’t a reflection of you as a person, don’t look too much into it. It is most times THAT straight forward- they just don’t need your service/product.

Do you have any networking tips to share? Please do in the comment section below!

-Crystal Lengua-