Dream Big, Execute Small
For local businesses trying to build their brand online, it is important to do some analysis of what your competition is doing first. Being aware of your competitors, their actions, what they offer – and most importantly, their customers – will place you ahead. This will help you in studying the market, having an accurate pricing structure and developing an effective marketing strategy. Here you will find out the weak areas of your competitors that are established as well as those who are new to the industry.

Here we will break down how to gather data, provide proper analysis and use it to your advantage.

Recognize the Competition

Your competitors are anyone in your industry that sells the same product or services to a similar demographic. Businesses that sell to a target audience that you have been looking to branch off into should also be considered.

You can find your competitors in a number of ways. In the online world, you can perform regular searches as well as get involved in community groups like your local Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, you can check these resources –

  • Local ads (both online and offline)
  • Press releases and business reports
  • Trade shows and similar events
  • Your customer base
  • Any marketing materials you may receive in your postal or electronic mail
  • Internet searches for your industry
  • Online searches for product patents as they relate to your industry

Explore the Competition

Once you have discovered your competitors, the next order of business would be to gather information that will help to examine the effect they have on your particular brand. This may include –

  • Price structure
  • Marketing tools used to promote their goods
  • Method of delivery
  • Whether they offer incentives to their customers
  • The number of employees in the company
  • The type of workers they employ
  • Policies for the return and exchange of goods
  • How they value their brand
  • How IT is used within the company
  • The owner of the company and what type of influence they have
  • Advertising tools that are utilized
  • Their online presence and whether there is an active social media campaign

Examine Your Competition’s Customers

This will help you a great deal when it comes to the needs of your own customer base. Research your competitor’s customers to find out the following –

  • Their age range
  • Which products or services each age group is likely to purchase
  • Which areas are your strongest and weakest, according to your customer’s feedback
  • The average number of new customers they get every year
  • The demographics of long-time customers

You should also include in your data any future plans that your competition may have such as –

  • Financial resources
  • New developments or upgrades in current products
  • Any targeting strategy such as branching out to a new demographic

Collect the Right Data

While this process may seem arduous, it takes some patience and time. Some of the resources you can use to collect this data include –

  • Locating new businesses in the trade directories
  • Looking up Companies House and use the WebCheck services for their annual reports
  • Visiting industry trade shows and exhibits and examine the types of customers they attract, promotional tools that are being used and their level of foot traffic
  • Perusing marketing materials as well as local press that the competition receives
  • Going online to find out how businesses that are similar to you operate, the products and services offered and whether their website is user-friendly

Get Acquainted with the Competition

You can start by introducing yourself at social gatherings such as community meetings, trade shows or other events. Inquire about the goods and services sold as well as other information that you may find useful. This is also a great opportunity to know the owner as it may lead to the both of you working hand-in-hand so that you both may have improved sales.

Communicate with Your Customers

This may be tricky as customers and suppliers initially may not tell you what you need to hear. However, their opinions about the competition may become useful as it can help in your pricing or marketing campaigns.

Your Next Move

You can start by creating two lists – one defines the advantages you have over the competition and the other lists the disadvantages – using the information you have gathered.

By examining the area where your competition excels, you can create a strategy that will help you to progress. In the process, you should be aware of any copyright infringement or any other risks that may involve intellectual property. Use their weaknesses to your advantage by finding ways that may generate more business for your company.

This type of analysis should be done on a regular basis because the competition is doing the same to you with the intention of taking your weaknesses and using it to their advantage.

Create an Online Brand

This should take some time on your part if you do not already have an online presence. If your competition has little or no presence in the virtual world, you should seize the opportunity immediately as many today look to the Web to buy a number of products and services. Creating a user-friendly way to sell your wares will help to establish your brand. A number of online tools can be used to achieve this and some of these include –

  • Building a website for your business
  • Online display advertising
  • Using social media sites like Facebook, Google + or YouTube to create buzz about what you have to offer
  • Starting a blog that will inform customers about new products and events that are taking place in your business

Having a professional-looking website is important to your business although this does not mean that you have to use the services of a professional webmaster. There are many cost-effective ways to go about this, such as using a blogging platform in the early stages. Once you have become established or have the resources, you can hire a professional for a more polished look.

Whatever method you start with, your online presence should have the following –

  • The goods you are selling
  • Your general location or address
  • A direct way to reach you such as a phone number or email address

If there is a feature that customers may find advantageous like a free estimate or delivery, make sure this is visible to viewers. Customer feedback and links to online reviews. Make sure that you have permission to post photos or testimonials online first. Make sure that your blog or website has content that contains popular keywords so that it will be found in major search engines.

Image license: Creative Commons (image source)
About the Author
My name is Sandra Hamilton and have had many years experience of blogging on a wide range of topics including landlord insurance, indemnity insurance, Business Insurance and liability.