The business world is universally competitive. Especially if you run a small business. The competition can be cut throat. They’re out there and they’re hungry for your customers. While it might seem unfair given everything else you need to keep on top of in building up your business, you might want to consider devoting the time and energy into keeping tabs on your competition. The more knowledge you have on your competition, and the different industries and businesses, the better prepared you are to jump on potential opportunities. Here are a few ways to know your competitors and to know how to use them to your advantage. But first..
The difference between direct and indirect competition:
Your direct competitors are companies or entities who sell or market the same products as your business. Your customers will often evaluate both you and your direct competitors before making a purchase decision or converting. In contrast, your indirect competitors are those companies or publishers that don’t sell or market similar products, but are in competition with your business digitally. They may write the same type of content as you and be competing for the same keywords. In short, they are competing for your customers’ attention.
In this post, we’re addressing mainly the ordeal with direct competitors. Here are a few ways of find them and using them to your advantage:
1) Market research
Do your research. Take a look at the market for your product and evaluate which other companies are selling products that would compete with yours. Talk to your sales team and find out which competitors they see come up often in their sales process. From there, you’ll be able to take a closer look at those companies, their product and marketing efforts, and create strategies to outperform them.
2) Make a list of the competition.
A very useful step is to make a detailed list of all your competitors. They should be clear direct competitors that you know are doing well in your space. Create a folder on your computer labeling that company with subfolders for ad creatives, front-end landing pages and back-end landing pages. Start taking screenshots of those ads and landing pages. You may even want to buy your competitor’s products so you can find out if they are offering an upsell or a downsell. Remember, if your competitor is successful then they have probably spent a lot of money A/B testing every element of its website, ads and landing pages. There’s so much you can get out of it when you know your competitors and their strategies.
3) Get customer feedback
Your customers are the key to unlocking your direct competitors. Once they’ve decided on your business and product, you can ask them which other businesses/products they were evaluating. Customers often reveal unexpected competitors that aren’t even on your radar. In addition, during the sales process your sales team can also ask your potential customers which businesses they are considering. If they haven’t decided on your product yet, your team will be able to speak to their needs better if you know which businesses or products they are considering.
4) Check online communities on social media
In this day and age, your potential customers will often seek out advice and recommendations on social media sites and apps, or on community forums like Quora or Reddit. By investigating the conversations your customers have on these websites, you’ll be able to further identify your competitors. This is especially true for any marketers speaking to millennial audiences. Research by Deloitte shows that 50% of millennials report that a recommendation from a friend or family member has a high influence on their buying decision. And 27% of both millennials and Gen Z feel an online recommendation from someone in their social media circle has a high influence on their buying decisions.
5) Speak with former employees of your competitors
Learn more about your direct competitors by speaking with their former employees. Employee turnover is at an all-time high and people tend to bounce around to different industries. Search LinkedIn for people who used to work at the company. As long as they don’t have a non-compete or confidentiality agreement in place, this is an amazing strategy. Offer to pay a former employee for an hour of their time and ask them questions to learn about your competitor’s marketing and sales strategy. You will learn the ins-and-outs of the biggest companies in your space.
6) Go beyond a Google search
There’s no doubt that any research project these days should begin with a simple Google search or visiting your competitor’s web page. But there are also a variety of tools either supplied by Google or that relate to Google’s search results and AdWords campaigns that might give you interesting insights into your competition. For example: SpyFu, Google Trends, and Google Alerts.
7) Go old school, call them up
Once you have done enough research to identify who your competitors are, you might want to try an old school tactic to take it from there: Just call them up and ask away. “One of the best ways to research competition is to call them and ask whatever you’d like,” says Jordan Harbinger, the co-founder of The Art of Charm. “You’d be surprised how often companies will tell you everything you’d like to learn over the phone, especially if the question is phrased in a context that makes sense.”
Knowing your competitors is one part of the game, a whole other is to one-up them. You can learn from research and know what changes are to be made to outdo your competitors’ strategies so that you rise above them and stand out. You’ll know what works for them, what your customers or potential customers want and play it to your advantage. It’s a jungle out there, make sure you claim your seat as the king of the jungle.