No matter what business you’re in, the key to success is to be better than your rivals at a competitive price. Whether it’s a matter of size, speed, quality, aesthetic appeal, durability or a combination of two or all of these attributes, the more you know about who and what you’re up against, the better chance you have at besting it.

Most would agree with philosopher Francis Bacon’s quote that, “Knowledge is power.” However, every day there is more knowledge available about everything, which can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to maintain a market edge in a cutthroat arena. You must be creative and diligent in researching your competitors.

Of course, it’s best to know as much as possible about your opposition but if you know these four things, you’ll have a leg up on the competition, an advantage that gives you a better chance of ending up in the winner’s circle.  Pursue these 4 areas of competitor research to get a start into the possible insights. For deeper insights, delve into competitive mystery shopping or competitor price analysis solutions.

Positioning: Who Are They Targeting?

Focus is imperative. You can’t be everything to everyone; trying to only dissipates your efforts and weakens your market edge. Once you determine who your opposition is catering to, you can either focus on a totally different sector or brazenly attempt to overtake your competitor’s share. This requires unbiased analysis of your strengths and weaknesses, plus consideration of how much your new approach will net you.

For example, if you own a storage facility near a college campus, your competitor may be offering student discounts at significantly reduced rates. You can beat their rates by a few dollars and throw in some perks like free handcarts and local moving vans. At the same time, you can beef up your college student customer base by partnering with a local pizza restaurant or fast food restaurant and offering coupons for free food with every unit contracted for 3 months or more, an appealing incentive that costs you very little. Alternatively, you could focus your marketing on new housing developments and business parks whose occupants typically have more disposable income than students, so you can charge more.

Analyze Your Opposition’s Corporate Culture

Knowing who’s behind the scenes and what they’re up to can give you a big business advantage. The information is public; it just takes a bit of digging to find it.

Start with the company website’s About Us and Mission Statement pages. These should provide lists of key players from investors to department managers, as well as affiliates and charity connections. If the company has a Facebook page, you’ll find a wealth of information on company events and parties, as well as seminars attended by employees. All this information paints a picture of what the company is all about.

Next, pick out a few of the top brass and dig deeper. Use your favorite search engine to find their resumes and current affiliations. Job histories tell you where they’ve been and how they’ve steered their careers, an excellent indicator of where they’re headed, priceless information to gain a competitive edge.

Who the top executives are currently rubbing elbows with also gives you insight into their business goals. Attend conferences and seminars where you’re apt to meet them and listen attentively to what they say, especially their comments on personnel and colleagues. Reading between the lines reveals a lot of important information.

Assess Their Weaknesses

Knowing a competitor’s vulnerabilities provides many advantages. If they lack in marketing skills, you won’t have to spend more to successfully reach your target demographic. Inability to train and retain good personnel gives you the chance to develop those employees into star performers. Poor quality control can easily drive their dissatisfied customers to your door.

Thanks to social media, uncovering these foibles is easy. Twitter and Instagram are teeming with valuable information on disgruntled employees, feedback on poor service or products, as well as inside information that may or may not be viable, so be careful what you believe. However, don’t dispel similar comments that come from a variety of diverse sources.

Many weak points of competitors are easy to trump. For instance, if many customers groan about their soggy hamburger buns, launch a campaign about your new home-style buns that stand up to even the most outrageous toppings and condiments. When rival’s patrons complain of long checkout lines, flood the market with news of your three new cash registers that guarantee quicker service.

During the course of your research, you’re sure to come across some unkind comments about your own business. If the comments have a commonality, seize the opportunity to correct them before they escalate into profit thieves.

Pricing Issues

Pricing is always an important issue, especially during economic times that sometimes seem to fluctuate as often as seasons change. You’ll always be facing increasing vendor prices, often complicated by wage laws that require you to charge more just to cover payroll. To remain competitive, you have to delve deeper than what your competition charges and find out why and how they maintain their price points. Pursuing a competitor pricing analysis will give you insight into cost differentials and more.

Again, this information requires creative research. Company websites often list vendors companies use, especially if they are well-known, reputable sources. Create a cost-and-compare spreadsheet to see if you can save a few cents per unit by making longer commitments or buying in more bulk, which may be how your opposition can charge less for comparable products and services. If you have a longstanding relationship with a favorite vendor, exercise integrity and give them a chance to be more competitive before choosing another provider.

Research the details of your competition’s operations. For example, they might be serving 7 ounce beverages instead of the standard 8 ounce size, or perhaps they charge a nominal fee for flavored lemonade when you offer that option at no extra charge.

However you choose to keep tabs on your competition, remember that the process never ends. Your opposition is usually as competitive as you are, so they’re also constantly striving to stay ahead in the game. Play often, play fair, and never lose sight of your goals.

Reality Based Group offers multiple services that allow you to gain insights into the competition. Our Competitive Mystery Shopping solution affords you knowledge about your competitors’ products, services, stores, promotions and customer service. Our Competitive Pricing Audits will allow you to collect a log of your competitors’ inventories and prices. Inquire now to get more information.

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