If you’re not analyzing and studying your competition, then you’re probably giving away a powerful strategic weapon, because odds are they’re analyzing and studying you.
You’d be amazed at how few small to mid-sized companies actually do rigorous competitor analysis. It’s well worth the effort, but the reality is that many smaller businesses can’t readily articulate who their chief competitors even are, and that is a very dangerous position to be in. What follows is by no means an exhaustive treatment of the subject, but is at least sufficient to get your feet wet. Here’s how to go about analyzing your competition and what specifically to look for.
Who Are They?
The very best way to find out who your competitors are is to ask your sales team. Don’t bother with Google Alerts or Amazon searches for related products, just ask. The reason it’s so simple to get this information is that your sales team interacts with customers all the time. Some of those customers ultimately opt not to work with you, selecting a competitor instead. When that happens your sales people usually know who was selected in your place and have a pretty good understanding of why. In short, they are a goldmine of information, and you need to be harvesting what they know on a regular basis.
Keep On Checking
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a one time thing, either. Your competitors can and will change over the course of time, so you’ll need to revisit the question with your people at least once or twice a year to make sure that no new competition has suddenly appeared on the horizon.
For example, in the very early days of courier services, Post Office sales staff kept on hearing about Fedex and DHL. Equally, when faxes started to replace telexes, courier companies kept hearing about this new fangled way to send documents around the world by telephone. Your competition may not be a company, it may be a ground breaking new technology.
What Are They Saying?
Every business is made of brands, and every brand has a story. What is the story of the various brands you are in competition with? How similar or different are their stories to the story that you’re trying to tell with your own brand.
These are critical questions for a number of reasons. First, if you know precisely how your competition is positioning their products, you’ve got a much better chance of being able to counter them. Second, you can assess how well or poorly they are telling the story of their brand, especially as it relates to how well you are telling your story.
In a related vein, you can easily assess whether or not your message bears some, or even a significant level of similarity to the messages of your competition. Harmonic messages like this are boring, and boring messages don’t net you sales. If you find similarities between the way you and your competition are positioning your products, then find a way to be different. Find a way change your message to make yourself stand apart from the competition.
Which Channels Are Working For Them?
Maybe your competitors are using radically different social media channels than you are. If they are, and those channels are netting them sales, then this information could well prompt you to open up a new avenue of attack with your own marketing efforts.
A Note Of Warning
Never become so obsessed with the competition that you lose sight of the customer. Your competitors are unlikely to ever have netted you a penny of revenue, but you can’t say the same about your customers.