Posted: Wed 14th Dec 2011
It doesn't matter whether you're a start-up, a micro business or an established business, you must always keep a close eye on your competitors, writes Alasdair Inglis of small business marketing experts Grow. A fundamental rule of all business is that you must not reinvent the wheel.Â By keeping a close eye on your competitors at all times, regardless of what stage your business is at, you will futureproof your business. In the same way as wolves keep Caribou on their toes, in a good way your competitors do the same for you and as an added bonus, you won't get eaten! Even though I've been in business for over 12 years, I saw competitor's website last weekend and I spent a whole hour on it. This was someone who had made a real success of what they do. It was fascinating to try to understand their business model, the different products and services they sold and the way they presented and packaged them. It really gave me food for thought and a few ideas about things we could do in our business.
I don't know if it's an English trait, but there is a certain politeness around not being upfront about business owners keeping a close eye on their competition. You must know as much as possible about your five closest competitors. Competitor analysis is not about copying other businesses, it's about deeply understanding what your competitors are doing and:
seeing what range of products and services your competitors offer
seeing how they have packaged their different products and services
seeing how they have priced their different products and services
seeing what language, style of writing and marketing and sales copy have they used to explain what they do.
Well written website copy really sings and has a certain type of elegance. If you're a start-up, your competitors can really give you a head-start about how you should be promoting and marketing your business. For those of us lucky enough to have developed websites from scratch, the process of working out the navigation and content for every page of our website is a time-consuming and intense process. Take advantage of the many hours and creative disagreements that your competitors have had and see how they have structured their websites. I always recommend that you join your competitors' email marketing lists in order to see how they market themselves. Looking at your competitors' email marketing is a golden opportunity to understand their entire marketing strategy. Almost all email marketing will involve some form of promotion of a competitor's product or service, and by receiving your competitors' email marketing regularly you very quickly get to understand what type of special offers they are making, what product or service they are trying to push and their overall strategy. If you are intending to create some form of content yourself for social media order and email marketing in the future, one of the best places to get ideas for content is from your competitors' regular emails. One of the advantages of analysing competitors who have been in business for a while is that if they are successful they are probably doing a lot of things right. By seeing what they are doing, and doing your own version of it, you can speed up your own business success and make fewer mistakes. Marketing is a huge field and picking the wrong methods of marketing wastes time and resources which are always in short supply in small businesses. If you see that your competitors are doing a lot of pay-per-click advertising over a period of time, it's likely that it will be working for them and that pay-per-click advertising is something you should seriously consider. You will of course, have to learn how to do pay-per-click advertising or find an experienced person to do it. However, because you have done your research and you can see that your competitors are successfully using pay-per-click, the investment of your time and resources is justified. Grow runs regular small-business marketing workshops at the British Library and O2 Centre. Check out their website for details. Photo credit: Marianne Perdomo