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Competition is a fact of life in the business world. It’s usually a good thing, motivating companies to identify and meet the needs of consumers in creative ways that hopefully result in better products and better manufacturing processes. In a perfect world, competition can save companies — as well as consumers — time, effort, and money.
Of course, a perfect world assumes the right resources are at hand. Thus, using competition for advantage means companies have to invest in good intelligence. They must stay abreast of ongoing market conditions, including the key players on and surrounding the field, so that they can respond to existing rivals, identify new opportunities and capitalize on any possible partnerships. Here are a few tips for building competitor profiles that actually enhance the value of your business decisions:
Any good research project begins with a question. Start simple; ask “Who are my competitors?” and then begin to gather basic information so that you can begin to develop a competitor profile on each of them. Include the name of the organization, its location and any satellite offices or subsidiaries, key management contacts and all online addresses or presences. You can build off a basic “google” search, gathering documentation for size, revenue, structure and offerings, which will help you craft more complex questions for in-depth investigation down the line.
With a general understanding of an organization, you can then delve into a more thorough review of its market presence. Use secondary sources, including trade journals and industry reports (like this one listed on our Research America website). Monitor keyword performance in online searches. You can even go “old school” and visit the library for advanced reference services that are free and can provide great — albeit general — background information that more fully illuminates what an organization is about, who is interested in it and how it operates within the market at large.
Social media is critical for 21st-century marketing. As such, it’s vital that businesses keep tabs on the competition by tracking their social media accounts to see how they advertise themselves; the interactions they have with the public, and the deals they might be offering. Use the data you glean to build a picture of what is working (or not) for your competitors and include the details in your competitor profile for future reference.
Next, get personal. Attend an industry conference or trade show to get a feel for competing brands and the features they promote to consumers to make them, not only identifiable but desirable. Conference and trade shows are great opportunities to watch competitors in action, snag promotional literature and interact firsthand with competing products. The knowledge gained through such interactions helps you create a more well-rounded and accurate competitor profile.
Ask consumers (especially your own customers) about the competition. Probe the reasons they choose your product and your company (or not) over another one. Consider information from suppliers, as well; see if you can determine what the competition is ordering and in what volume. Finally, follow HR leads: interview competitor employees for jobs within your own organization and pay attention to the people the competition is hiring. A competitor’s former employees can be valuable resources, offering quality intelligence on the previous employer’s policies and practices. Furthermore, watching the job ads for the competition allows you insight into how the competition might be expanding or on what products and processes it might be focusing on, allowing you to further expand your competitor profile.
Of course, the most beneficial competitor profile will result from customized market research. Our team of professionals at Research America is skilled at crafting research projects that yield comprehensive and individualized information that can be used to compile fully-formed competitor profiles for better competitive analyses. To learn more about Research America and the actionable insights we obtain for our clients, please contact us today.