Whether your business is just getting started or has been going and growing for years, one of the secrets to success is knowing everything you can about your competitors. Most of us research the competition before we start out, but as you get involved in the day-to-day of running your business, it’s easy to lose track of what they’re doing—and that can hurt your business.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to keep tabs on your competitors. Here are 5 tactics to try:
1. Harness technology. A simple but useful way to know what your competitors are up to is to set up Google alerts on their company names, names of key employees and product names. You’ll get alerted whenever they’re in the news. Sign up for your competition’s newsletters (use an email address that doesn’t reveal your company name, if you’re worried) and set up RSS feeds for their blogs. Voila—everything they’re doing will be delivered directly to your email inbox.
2. Harness social media. Check out your competitors’ Facebook pages and follow them on Twitter. You can often get good insights from social media, since many firms use it to test ideas or survey customers. Read between the lines to suss out new product launches or growth plans.
3. Use industry knowledge. Speaking of reading, you should also be reading your industry’s websites, trade publications or industry journals to see what your competitors are doing that’s in the news.
4. Go to the source. If you own a retail location, restaurant or other business that relies on customers physically coming in to your business, you’ll want to visit your competitors’ locations in person too. There’s no better way to get a feel for what they’re doing.
5. Broaden your scope. In addition to regularly assessing your direct competitors, keep an eye on indirect competitors, too. These are companies that compete for the same dollars as your business, although they may not be in your industry. For instance, restaurants and bars compete for discretionary dollars with movie theaters, skate rinks and other entertainment businesses.
As you monitor your competition, look for new product or service offerings, new marketing tactics or special offers, new partnerships with other businesses and new target customers. How does your competitors’ customer service compare to yours?
Your SCORE Mentor can help you take the measure of your competitors, then compare your business to theirs and see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. The insights you gain will show you where to take advantage of opportunities the competition is ignoring. If you don’t have a Mentor, visit the SCORE website to get matched with one today.