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5 Tips for Getting to Know Your Competition and using it to Your Advantage

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5 Tips for Getting to Know Your Competition and using it to Your Advantage

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: August 19, 2010 Updated: November 28, 2011

There are many reasons why a business needs to keep an eye on the competition. From pricing your products competitively, to gauging how similar businesses are reacting to market forces, to understanding where you stand in the highly competitive space of online search rankings.

But how do you effectively sneak a peek at the competition, or even snuggle up to it? Here are five tips for researching and getting to know your competition.

1. Use the Web to Your Advantage

    The easiest way to check out the competition, as well as what custome;s think of them, is to go online.

    A surefire way of doing this is to conduct a search on popular local online business listings such as *Yahoo Local, *Google Maps, and *Yelp. Enter keywords about your business together with the zip code of the area you serve, e.g.-landscape services, 22182

    Focus on the top 10 businesses from each search engine result and start your competitive research by checking out their Web sites for information on products, pricing, service areas, etc. Assess how your offerings stack up' what do you offer that is unique, and how can you work that into your marketing plan to set you apart from the competition?

    2. Gauge Customer Opinion

      Going back to your search engine results, take a look at the customer reviews posted against your competito's business listing. This information can provide valuable insight into why a customer chooses one business over another (even yours).

      In addition to standard Web search tools, industry-specific sites such as *ServiceMagic, *Angie's List, *Dine.com, and *OpenTable, among others, can help you narrow down your opinion-based research.

      3. Get to Know Your Competition

        I's very rare that any two businesses are exactly the same, which makes it a good idea to get to know, and even network with, your competition' in person.

        The rewards can include referrals (if you offer something that they do't, or they are simply unable to take on additional customers for whatever reason' very common in the freelance/consulting world), as well as potential joint business opportunities. Sometimes going after the same clients can prove more fruitful if you tag team with or outsource to a sub-contractor or partner who can round out your offering.

        It's best to meet and get to know your competition on neutral turf. Associations, chambers of commerce, and other local business networking groups are a great place to do this.

        4. Don't Get Hung Up on Price

          While you do want to make sure that your pricing is in line with the market, don't run the risk of selling your offerings short by focusing on price as your main differentiator - you'll never win and you'll end up destroying all your margins in an effort to stay ahead. Instead focus on value - and selling that value effectively. This often comes down to customer service, read Get the Customer Service Edge from small business professional, Rieva Lesonsky, for tips on competing and winning business through great customer service.

          5. Keep it Up

            Staying on top of the competitive landscape is an ongoing effort; however, there are many online tools that can help you automate the process. Sign up for your competitor's newsletters and use *Google Alerts to track what's said about your competition on the Web.

            It's a good idea to monitor social media sites too. Follow your closest competitors on Twitter and Facebook, or if you wish to be more discreet, monitor them using tools such as *Hootsuite.

            Related Articles

            • Forget Competition”it's Time for Co-opetition - Small business author, Rieva Lesonsky sheds light on the gentle art of cooperating with companies that might traditionally be considered your competition and ways you can introduce co-opetition to your marketing mix

            *Note: This link directs readers to a non-government website.

            About the Author:

            Caron Beesley

            Contributor

            Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

            Comments:

            The Internet is so important when it comes to promoting a small business.  Since so many people now rely on the web to find and purchase services or products, it's essential for small business without a powerful name brand to establish a strong online presence.  It is also an extremely cost effective way of marketing.  
            Hi Caron, Finally, it seems that somebody is on market with this. Regarding search engines, I do beat my competition. With personnel, we do beat them both intelligence wise and for marketing purposes. For instance we have someone who almost got on Jeopardy. The trick I like to do is ask my clients who called them what my competition was like and how their sales style came across. Then, I leverage this information when a new client calls in. I do this by saying, 'although my competition will tell x, y and z, it is my belief that at clients are better served by a,b,c.' I try to cut them off before they can even brag or discuss their company. Cut them off at the knees is what I say. Otherwise, in my mind, we are on the same exact page on #4 and #5. Thanks for the posting.
            Great topic. I beleive the more you kow about your competition the better you can preparer your busienss to compete within your market. We specifically compete in the tax preparation industry. ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
            Great topic. I beleive the more you kow about your competition the better you can preparer your busienss to compete within your market. We specifically compete in the tax preparation industry. ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
            Great article and one that should be read many times over to allow it to sink in.Although I'm realtively new to the SEO game and marketing a product online,it really has been a steep learning curve but one that I feel was necessary.I'm sure there are many thing you can do to outsmart your competition online.The one I use often is finding their high ranking links through Yahoo.This allows them to do all the work for you and all you need to do is replicate their technique and add a few on top in order to get ahead.
            Great article and one that should be read many times over to allow it to sink in.Although I'm realtively new to the SEO game and marketing a product online,it really has been a steep learning curve but one that I feel was necessary.I'm sure there are many thing you can do to outsmart your competition online.The one I use often is finding their high ranking links through Yahoo.This allows them to do all the work for you and all you need to do is replicate their technique and add a few on top in order to get ahead.
            The Chinese proverb says : Know he knows us fight hundreds of times win hundred times. ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
            The Chinese proverb says : Know he knows us fight hundreds of times win hundred times. ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
            Here are a couple of extra tips to add to the list. For 'Getting to Know Your Competition' . . . Depending upon the industry or business, sometimes you can actually become a customer of your competitor. This is a great way to experience just what their customers experience, the good and the bad. For 'Using It to Your Advantage' Once you know your competition's strengths & weaknesses, don't speak poorly of your competition or bash them for their weaknesses. Instead, use your knowledge to ask potential customers presumptive questions. Presumptive, because you already know the answers! For example, if your competition only offers a 1 year service contract or warrantee, and you offer a 5 year service contract or warrantee, you could ask a potential customer 'Is it important to you to have a guarantee that your equipment will continue to work for several years or are you only looking for a short term investment?' Or maybe 'When you worked with (my competitor) and they came to service your equipment at the end of the second year, were you happy with the caliber of technicians?' This is a great question if you know that (your competitor) wouldn't come to service the equipment at that time. Get it? To Your Success, Kathy M. Fetch Local Customers ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
            Here are a couple of extra tips to add to the list. For 'Getting to Know Your Competition' . . . Depending upon the industry or business, sometimes you can actually become a customer of your competitor. This is a great way to experience just what their customers experience, the good and the bad. For 'Using It to Your Advantage' Once you know your competition's strengths & weaknesses, don't speak poorly of your competition or bash them for their weaknesses. Instead, use your knowledge to ask potential customers presumptive questions. Presumptive, because you already know the answers! For example, if your competition only offers a 1 year service contract or warrantee, and you offer a 5 year service contract or warrantee, you could ask a potential customer 'Is it important to you to have a guarantee that your equipment will continue to work for several years or are you only looking for a short term investment?' Or maybe 'When you worked with (my competitor) and they came to service your equipment at the end of the second year, were you happy with the caliber of technicians?' This is a great question if you know that (your competitor) wouldn't come to service the equipment at that time. Get it? To Your Success, Kathy M. Fetch Local Customers ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.

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