Knowing who your competitors are and understanding the way they work can help your business get traction, visibility, and leverage, especially if you are a newcomer in the industry. The same works for already existing businesses. Learning more about upcoming threats will help you avoid leniency and adjust tactics to stay on top of the game.
The information you should keep an eye out for are your competitors' products and services, pricing schemes, marketing campaigns, website and social media platforms, customer feedback, promotions, and media activities. All this information takes a lot of time and effort to gather, but it's definitely going to be worth it. Here are some tips to help you in your research:
List Your Competitors Down
For sure you are already aware of the big players in your industry, but emerging companies shouldn't be ignored. To research more about who else is in the race, use the following:
Google Search: Use keywords specific to your industry to find those that rank highest in Google. If you have a website, another easy way to find companies similar to yours is by searching using "related: www.yourURL.com". Google will pull out a list for you to skim.
Trade Fairs: These shows/exhibitions gather companies in a specific industry to demonstrate their latest products, services, and study activities of rivals.
Ask Your Customers
Ask customers what they think about your products and services. Afterwards, ask them which of your competitors they buy from and how you compare. If you are talking to a new customer, ask what made them switch to your product. If it's the other way around, find out the reason why they left and what they liked about your competitor.
Stalk Them on Facebook
Find out what your competitors do on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to improve your own social media marketing. On Facebook, you can find shared fan interests using Facebook Graph Search. On Twitter, use hashtags to see what other people say about you and your competitor. A social media tool such as Fanpage Karma also allows you to see analytics and reports that help you measure engagement and posting patterns. All these help you generate content that resonates with your target audience.
Use Online Tools
Most businesses are online. Find out what they're doing on the Web using the following tools:
Alexa – This is a free service that helps analyze traffic on e-commerce stores. You can also see here the site's global rank, audience insight, and many more!
Google Adwords Keyword Tool – Pick keywords related to your industry and use Google AdWords to find out the traffic generated by these keywords. This tool can also be used to have an idea of how much your competition pays per click for their ads.
Google Alerts – Set up Google Alerts for your company and any keywords related to your identity, industry, and competition. The tool works by sending you email updates on new content related to your alerts.
After all the information-gathering, ask yourself this question: What can you do better? Researching your competitors shouldn't result to copying. The main point of researching is to find out how they do their business so you can top them.