Let’s say you sell a aromatic product that controls body odor, and if you drink it, it can neutralize bad breath internally for 2 weeks.
This product has no competition anywhere. Get serious.
There’s the deodorant companies, the perfume companies, the soap companies, AND the gum companies, mouthwash companies, toothpaste companies; not to mention, the candy mint companies and the tongue scraper companies.
Top that all with the food and liquor companies that think it might be cool if you smelled like BBQ ribs and Scotch.
Face it, no matter what “niche” you think you may have found; you are going to have a competitor. And, if you don’t have one at the outset, you’re going to have one six months down the road when some other company comes up with their “me-too” product.
And if you are an MLMer, you not only have product competitors, you also will deal with compensation plan competitors.
You can’t or won’t be able to compete effectively with all your competitors, but you can compete. And the first thing to do is to learn your market and the predominant competitors of that market.
You may be able to hire some high-priced marketing research firm to conduct this research for you, or you could simply “point and click” to learn an extraordinary amount of the info yourself.
ManageSmarter Magazine makes a couple of suggestions.
1. Identify your competitors
Now, this may seem odd to you. You’re probably thinking, “Doesn’t a company know who its competitors are?” Not always. New firms come seemingly out of nowhere, preempting existing companies with different technologies or approaches they never saw coming.
Often a company in an adjacent area will change its positioning to try and address your market, or a new startup may emerge in a related area. You need to create a master list of your key competitors and make sure you keep this up to date.
To do this, Google the terms, which describe your industry, your products and services. You can also use a little known feature in Google. In the search box, type in “related:www.yourcompanyname.com” and Google will display a list of companies that it considers related to yours. Look for new companies that show up and see if any of these pose a threat.
2. Check your competitors’ home pages for positioning changes
When you visit a company’s Web site, first look at its home page to see if they have made changes to the way they describe their products and services. Carefully scrutinize how they emphasize different features or benefits and how they are positioning themselves. Sometimes, you can learn a lot even from the subtle changes your competitors make on their home page.
3. Review the trade shows they participate in
Trade shows can take a big chunk out of a company’s marketing budget, so it is important to know which shows your competitors participate in.
Regularly review the events page on their Web sites and maintain a spreadsheet with names, dates and locations of the shows that your competitors plan to be at. You can then see which ones you might want to sign up for.
If you spot one of them at a new show, you might ask yourself, “Why are they exhibiting at this defense-related show?” It might be an indicator of a new market they are entering–perhaps one that you should consider as well.
4. Create a competitive intelligence database of white papers and webinars
Increasingly, white papers and Webinars have become the preferred way for a company to establish its mind share and leadership–so this is another area you should be tracking. You should maintain a list of titles of the whitepapers and webinars your competitors create or host to get an idea of their new direction.
You may not learn much from one single event or white paper, but you’ll learn a lot when you look at these as a whole. You’ll see trends and patterns that clearly indicate how these companies are positioning or repositioning themselves.
5. Check who they are hiring and firing
Once in a while, check the management team and job postings pages on your competitors’ Web sites. Try and see whether your competitors have added or removed any names from their management team. This is often the only way you may learn that your key competitor has lost their VP of sales; no press announcement is likely to be made about such events.
Srikanth Chari writes. “Tracking your competitors is the only way to make to make sure you are thwarting threats, taking advantage of opportunities, marketing effectively, and, ultimately, winning in the marketplace. By performing competitive intelligence, you will significantly increase your margins and profitability.
There’s one resource that’s often underutilized in this regard: your competitors’ Web sites.”
Always remember no matter how small your business is; it’s still a business. Market it that way.