For many small business owners, keeping tabs on the competition is a task that gets pushed to the back burner. After all, there are more pressing matters that owners must take care of on a daily basis. Researching your competitors, however, is a strategic business move that allows owners to gain competitive intelligence. Remember: your competitors are hungry for your customers, so keeping yourself informed is not only smart– it’s necessary for growing your business. Below are four easy steps to consider when researching your competitors.
Surf the web. Of course, the no-brainer place to start your research is at your competitor’s website. When checking out their site, look for the following information: what key words are they using to optimize their copy for searches? What products or services are they featuring? What’s their key message to consumers? What demographic are they targeting? After you’ve collected the necessary information from their website, conduct a simple Google search to see where else they’re mentioned on the internet. Additionally, consider using tools like Google Trends and Google Alerts to keep tabs on your competition.
Utilize social networks. Today, almost all businesses use some type of social networking–LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs– to promote their brand. Tap into these resources as often as possible. Check out customer comments and feedback on the company Facebook page. Read competitors’ blog posts to determine what discounts and deals they’re currently offering. Scour through review sites like Yelp and Citysearch to keep an eye on how customers are rating your competition. If your competition offers a newsletter, sign up for a copy to stay on top of their latest news.
Check out a trade show. Industry trade shows and conferences are a great way to gather valuable information about competitors. Don’t hesitate to visit competitors’ booths at these events. Doing so will allow you to collect literature, check out products, and watch the interactions between your competitors and their customers.
Ask for customers’ opinions. Customers are often able to provide a wealth of information about your competitors, but it’s up to you to ask the right questions. When you gain a new customer, ask them who they used before switching to your company, and why they made the switch. Do the same when you lose a customer. Once you gather several customer stories, you’ll be able to look for trends: what did your competitor offer that customers found desirable? What turned them away from your competitor?
Are you ready to start researching your competitors? Contact us today for more tips.
Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin Marketing + Public Relations, which helps purpose-driven businesses increase awareness and attract clients and partners. She has worked with organizations of all sizes across myriad sectors to develop memorable and effective communications programs that generate awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for those that are making a meaningful impact.