So how do you outmanoeuvre your competitors? Critically you need to:
- get to know them, how they operate and what they are doing to make themselves attractive to customers
- and then beat them at their own game.
Gathering information about other businesses that could have a significant impact on the way you conduct your own business is known as competitive intelligence and two good sources of competitive intelligence are close at hand and relatively cheap to access:
Find out what competitors say about themselves
- the competitors themselves
- and the people who might use their product.
Understanding how your competitors are selling themselves and their products is useful in understanding how to best compete with them. Gathering competitor intelligence can be time consuming and expensive but by and large you can get a good feel for what the competitor is up to by looking at the obvious sources: their own shop, their website and their adverts. Depending on your business your own sales staff may have spoken to customers and suppliers about your competitors so get their feedback too. You can even purchase a product from your competitor and compare their packaging, service and quality to your own.
What they say about themselves is often a great insight into what they feel their strengths are. They can reveal their product range, features and unique selling points. They will show what channels they use for marketing and what support and guarantees they offer. Then you have to measure yourself against them to see how you rate. Know what others say about your competitors - and about you
A great source of information is the actual consumer. Surveying a group of people likely to be in the market for what you supply and getting their opinions about your product versus your competitor's can provide invaluable insights on how to make your product more desirable. Why do they buy from you or from your competitor? These customer decisions affect your profit, so knowing what they value is important.
Depending on the scale of your operation and the budget you may find focus groups can be easily arranged and work quite well. An independent presenter can be an advantage - people are naturally reluctant to be negative to the business owner in person but it's the customer turn-offs that you really need to know. The focus group will provide you with information you can use to evaluate your own performance against the competition, suggest ideas for exploiting their weaknesses and even identify potential new customers. Take control
Competition is a fact of life in business and you have to have some type of an edge. You may have an excellent product or service, but if everyone else is selling something similar, then just how much of the market can you expect to gain?
Getting to know your competitors is the first step, and the most important, in gaining a competitive edge. You can use the knowledge you have gained from customers about what they really value or ways to stand out from the competition and you can pick up ideas on how to set yourself apart from the rest.
Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.