The world of business is a competitive affair and success is dependent on how well you can perform relative to your competitors. The challenge is that operating a business only affords so much time for you to do research, and many businesses will be understandably protective of their operations in order to ensure future success.
Just because you are trying to gain a foothold in a respective field doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice knowing what your competitors are doing. Taking advantage of the 5 best ways to research your competitors and outshine them will help you to improve your processes to produce the best products and services possible.
Identify who your competitors are
The most important step to setting yourself apart from competitors is to know who your competitors are. When identifying your competitors, you can use a variety of methods to research your competitors:
- . Use search engines to find businesses that relate to keywords that you would use to describe your prospective business
- . Look into local ads to find what type of businesses exist within a certain field, such as hardware stores or beauty salons
- . Speak with your local chamber of commerce to find out what local businesses are listed
- . Attend trade fairs to find out what type of businesses are operating and what kind of products and services they offer
- . Review any proprietary information as such as copyrights, patents, or trademarks to see what kind of businesses or business-related products are already protected
Once you’ve established what businesses exist, you should also review what products and services they offer. Methods to do this include:
- . Visiting your competitor’s websites
- . Review ads to see what products are being advertised
- . Contacting the company to acquire a catalog
- . Speaking with former customers
Knowing who’s out there and what they offer will allow you to refine your search even further.
Do some online research
Just about any business looking to stay in business has some sort of an online presence. It could be as simple as a webpage for that business, a blog or review about that business in a journalistic publication, or an online ad for that business.
Many businesses incorporate all of these elements while also investing in promoting via social media platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Youtube. Researching competitors’ online presence is an important first step to identifying how you can make your business better.
When doing online research, there are a variety of elements you should investigate. First, if you happen upon an advertisement or even a company webpage, what is this business advertising?
Are there products and services clearly identifiable? Does the webpage or ad offer sufficient information without having to call someone? Secondarily, how engaging is the content?
Does it offer different means for accessing information (blurbs and blogs, customer testimonials, videos, pictures, or contact for more information)? Is it easy to scroll through different tabs to find what you’re looking for? Finally, how reliable is the information?
Was it updated recently? Does it relate to the products or services you’ve encountered in real life? These questions will all help to guide how effective this organization is at engaging different clientele and whether you can improve on this presentation for your own business.
Experience the customer experience
There’s no better way to evaluate a competitor than to try the products and services for yourself. This may be more or less feasible depending on the operation.
If you’re trying to start a full-service landscaping business or a used car business, you don’t need to randomly have trees planted or buy a car to experience the business.
However, you can walk into a business or even speak to someone from the business to see what their process is for addressing interested clients. Do they have friendly customer service and take the time to explain processes or are they curt and dismissive?
Customer services is an essential part of any business, which can help to separate your own entity based on what you experience from others.
For many other businesses, particularly those that sell less expensive, repeatable goods and services (like cakes and cosmetics), you can walk into a store and buy something or at least try a sample. What is the quality of the presentation?
What are their price range and price point for each item (you may even be able to find out what the most popular items are)? What is the quality of what they are selling?
How attentive and helpful are the staff? What do their packaging and store layout look like (is it cramped or accommodating, easy to hold, or cumbersome?)?
For those who are looking to establish a brick-and-mortar office, warehouse, or store, having a good idea of what competitors are doing in their respective establishments can allow you to refine your process to create something even better.
Evaluate other customers’ experiences
If you have a bad experience in a specific establishment, you may have arrived at the wrong time or something unforeseeable may have happened.
While there are a variety of attributes that are evident upon the first glimpse, such as the upkeep of a store, customer service, and even product selection can vary based on other market and personal factors. That’s why looking into reviews can provide a more objective experience.
One of the best ways to get immediate and verifiable evidence of the quality of an establishment is to talk to former customers. You can interview your friends and family to see what their experiences were like or you can even ask other customers within or outside of a store what their shopping experience is like.
Many customers will gladly share what they like within a store and what they don’t like (especially if they’re waiting for customer service!). Online reviews are another great way to see what people think about a specific company, which can give you clues on product quality, customer service, and company reliability.
Consulting Better Business Bureau listings can also confirm a quality company’s reviews while also illuminating any dubious activity one’s competitors may be presenting.
Speak with someone from the company
Depending on the size of the company, you may be able to access the point of production or you may have to talk to someone at a corporate office. You can try calling the company directly, using your social network, or even visiting the company at an appropriate time to try to speak to someone.
Although some companies may have confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements that limit what information employees can give, disgruntled employees will be more than happy to vent about a company’s operations.
What are their hiring and firing policies like? What are their compensation packages like? What are the working conditions like? How is the team chemistry? You may even find out about production goals or timelines, which can give you a clue about company operations.
Knowing how a business handles its employee relations is an important indicator of how effective a company is in the long term and whether you can improve your own operations.
You don’t need to be or hire a private investigator to extract valuable information from competitive businesses. Some simple investigation via online and in-person interaction can reveal valuable insights into how effective a business is in managing its operations and how well it can compete.
For a budding business, investing in the R of R & D can yield a wealth of information to help you build a business that’s helpful, hopeful, and wealthy.