How can you keep up with the competition if you don’t know what they’re doing? To compete in today’s marketplace, your business needs the competitive edge, and one way to do this is by gathering information about competitors in order to acquire an advantage, or to protect an existing one. It’s easy for new entrepreneurs to be so focused on the progress of their own company that they don’t take time to look up and around.
“Learning everything you can about your competition is time-consuming, but the return on investment is enormous," says Sally Wright, president of Alliance Consulting Group in New Brunswick, N.J. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, as well as how they are viewed, what attracts customers to them, and how their quality of service compares to yours will help business owners know what they are up against.
One of the best ways to gather information from competitors is to visit their business and buy from them. If you perceive a weakness, capitalize on that by improving your own products and services. Keeping files on the competition can be beneficial in identifying habits and trends. Keep copies of promotional material to model their success, while adding your own creative strategies to put yourself in a better position. Always look for ways to differentiate yourself from others.
Visiting trade shows and using the internet are excellent ways to keep up with competition. The web is a wealth of information which can be used to your advantage. Monitoring all information, including job postings on a rival’s website or other industry job boards can help detect a company that is introducing a new initiative, and also find competitors looking to lure your talent away. Making phone calls on a regular basis with specific questions is an easy way to do research on the competition in order to learn what they are doing and what changes they are making. You can’t afford to be complacent in today’s marketplace, but keep in mind that the competition is probably checking on you also.