You love owning and operating your own business, so it makes sense that you want it to prosper, grow, and become better year after year. You do this by focusing on offering consumers a reliable product or service, providing outstanding customer support, making sure you reach your target audience, and helping them to recognize and respect your brand. However, it's important to also keep an eye on your closest competitors because they're the ones who will not only have similar business goals to yours, but will also want your customers as their own. So, what's the best way to learn more about competing businesses and how they're doing?
Hire a Professional
Keeping tabs on your competitors is an effective strategy for growing your business, but it can be time consuming for you or your employees to conduct extensive research. There are firms that can help you gain competitive intelligence by providing services such as competitor profiling, research and analysis, monitoring and forecasting, manufacturing cost analysis, consulting, and many others. The information these types of businesses can provide you with can help you anticipate your competitors' moves, which could allow you to make certain informed decisions in a timely manner.
If hiring a competitive intelligence agency isn't in the budget, there are some other ways you can check in on competitors. For instance, you can always start with a Google search, which is how most people start looking for anything these days, but searching can be an especially effective tool when you're researching competitors. You can start by clicking through a competitor's website and reading about their specific services and products, what customers say about them, and so on. Along with search, you can supplement your quest for information by using some of Google's other tools, such as Google Alerts. This feature allows users to enter specific queries (for example, a business name) and then tracks that query and sends a report to you any time that the phrase is mentioned online. This is an effective tool for not only tracking how many times your own business is talked about online, but also to see how often your competitors get a shout out.
More and more businesses these days are creating larger presences for themselves online, and with the prevalence of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it's quite easy to do. These outlets have become essential marketing tools for many businesses, which means you can learn a great deal about your competitors simply by checking in on their pages every once in a while. You'll get a great sampling of what your competitors' customers are saying about those businesses. Additionally, following competitors on review outlets such as Yelp can help you learn about the deals and promotions other companies may be running. This can help you craft specials that appeal to like-minded customers.
Another great way to cull information is to sign up for competitors' email blasts or newsletters. These marketing methods are typically used to inform customers of new products or services or even upcoming events. Newsletters and emails can be a rich source of information to help you make strategic moves and grow your business.
Win Customers, Don't Steal Them
Using these and other competitive intelligence gathering methods, you can create plans that will help you keep your customer base and win - not steal - other customers away from your competitors. Don't forget to ask your current customers about what other businesses they've used before and why they use your business now. You should do the same when a customer decides to go to a competing business. What attracted them to the other company? What could you do better that might win them back?
Once you've gathered enough information, you can navigate your particular industry more easily and keep your business at the head of the pack.