Unless you’re business or service really is one of a kind – genuinely and completely unique – then somewhere out there you’ve got competition, whether it’s online, round the corner or both.
While it might be tempting to spend your time snarling at them under your breath, you shouldn’t. Bad-mouthing your competitors says more about your failings than it does theirs and your time would be better spent learning from their successes and failures.
- Know Them
Spend some time checking out the competition and gathering some facts, figures and quotes: start-up dates, size and number of premises, staff numbers, range of services, quotes for similar services to yours… anything you can find out about them is useful.
- Assess Their Market Share
Try to get some idea of their market share and compare it to yours. If there’s a significant disparity, ask yourself why your business – or theirs – is more successful at attracting and retaining customers. What do they do differently?
- Study Their Promotional Activities
How and where do they advertise their services and reinforce their brand? Locally, nationally, online, in print? Have they changed their advertising strategy recently? They’re unlikely to have abandoned a campaign that’s successful and cost-effective, so if they’ve stopped advertising in a local directory or a trade magazine, think before you rush into the space they’ve left behind and sign up for a 2-year campaign. Why did your competitor abandon it?
- Visit Their Website
Is it user-friendly, attractive and easy to navigate? Is it mobile enabled and how well does it work on a tablet? Is the text clear and the language error-free and easy to read? Is there an easy-to-find ‘contact us’ page with a choice of contact options? Does the website include testimonials and up-to-date information on their services, offers and prices? Are there links to their social media profiles?
- Study Their Use of Social Media
What social media sites are they active on and what do they post? Do they share or retweet material, and how much of what they post is shared and liked? Are all their posts aggressively promotional? Are some posts humorous, using social media to show a human side? How quickly do they respond to queries or complaints via social media? What additional information, documents, links and photos have they added? Do they answer customer queries via social media or refer them to email or phone contacts?
- Investigate Their Place in the Community
Do they donate time or staff hours to a nominated charity or local projects? Do they sponsor a club or local sports team, offer work experience or donate/hire out their premises? Have they got partnerships with other businesses or organisations? What kind of benefits do these associations bring – public awareness, promotion, perhaps an enhanced reputation?
- Study how they gather and Use Feedback
Is there a pop-up survey on their website? Are all customers invited to leave feedback when they use a service or buy a product? Does you competitor use a blog or social media to gather opinions and respond to feedback? Do they share the results of surveys via email or a blog post, and make customers feel valued by clearly stating what they learned from them and what changes they’re going to make?
By studying what your competitors do and digging a little deeper to gauge how successful they are, you can learn some valuable lessons that you can apply to your own business. So be grateful for the chance to learn from your competitors’ mistakes, and don’t begrudge them their successes – try to emulate them!