Let me guess--you run a successful business, and you're at the top of your game. The need your company fills is unique, and there's not another business out there that can do what you do. Now that you've established yourself in the marketplace and built a loyal base of clients, you feel confident enough to sit back and relax a little.
As Han Solo once said, "Great, kid. Don't get cocky."
Every company has competitors. Yours may not be high-profile now, but they're still out there, and pretending otherwise is both foolish and egotistical. If you ignore your competitors because you think they're not a threat, you could miss out on valuable opportunities to serve your clients better and end up losing their business.
Why You Need to Watch Your Competitors
Knowing your competitors is good for business--and not just so you can constantly outsell them. Other companies in your industry have a lot to tell you about your field, client demand, and how to run your own organization better.
Two years ago, my company wanted to create a new app to take advantage of the social media trend. We conducted a SWOT analysis to figure out how we could differentiate our offering from our biggest competitors' and discovered they were missing out on a huge sector of our lifestyle market.
We went after that demographic, and it paid off--big time. Absorbing the strengths and weaknesses of the other company contributed to our success, but it never would have happened if we'd allowed ourselves to grow complacent.
6 Ways to Gather Intelligence
You don't have to "Slugworth" your way into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory to size up your competition, but it's a good idea to task a team member with tracking your competitors' activities.
Here are a few simple ways to gather information about competitors to diminish their advantages and capitalize on their weaknesses:
1. Visit their websites regularly. This may seem obvious, but your competitors' websites are treasure troves of valuable information. Read their case studies, watch how they're positioning themselves, and see what jobs they're hiring for. You can also read their testimonials to compare their work to what you're doing.
2. Follow them on social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other channels reflect the voice of the brand. Observe how your competitors communicate with their audiences, and get a sense of how big their followings are.
3. Set Google Alerts. You don't want to be caught unaware when another company launches a new offering or initiative, so make sure you have a way to keep track of their latest achievements.
4. Ask around. Flip through your Rolodex, and call up some of your contacts to see what they've heard about your competitors. Your trusted media partners can be particularly great sources of information on what competitors are spending, what they do differently, and what their message is.
5. Attend their workshops. Workshops are opportunities for companies to showcase their expertise on a particular topic, so you should attend as many of these events as possible to learn what they know.
6. Network strategically. It's important to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, so identify your strengths, and shout them from the rooftops. If there's a chance your competitor is going to be at an industry event like a conference, trade show, or speaking engagement, you or another team member should be there, too.
Whether you like it or not, your business has competition. But instead of looking at your competitors as enemies, reframe them as your mentors. Consider whether their methods might work for you, and take notes on where they're falling behind. Aim to excel where they're struggling to capture market share.
When you are aware of your competitors and learn to recognize their value, you can constantly improve your business and stay one step ahead.
This article is co-authored with Kiera Garvey, public relations specialist at Gravity Media.