Competitor research is important because every business wants to succeed and beat competition.
Also, competitor research helps to keep tabs on your competitors.
It is a tool that you can use to take what’s working for your competitor and use it to your advantage in your own business.
A competitor that has a way to do something easier or faster or less expensively than you would probably won’t tell anyone.
However, through competitor research, you can monitor your competitors and meet, beat, or exceed their prices.
Even if your efforts do not expose all your competitor’s trade secret, you still can achieve a lot.
Which competitor should I research?
While it is important to first identify one, two, or three of your successful competitors. That is, those that seem most similar to what you’d like your company to be like. Don’t ignore the not-so-obvious competitors as well.
Here are four simple ways to check out what your competitor is up to, without spending a lot of money:
#1 Competitor research – explore your competitor online
The cheapest and easiest way to start competitor research is online.
You can find out so much using Google and other online sources.
There is no excuse not to know everything about your competitors.
It may sound like stalking but you need to regularly check your competitors’ sites and social media profiles.
Check your competitors’ blogs, magazines, customer comments and social media accounts regularly.
Spend time to actually read the content.
Keep tabs on the content that they are sharing with their customers and fans.
How are they promoting their products/services? What type of customers do they attract?
This would give you content ideas, but you’ll also get to understand their marketing strategy – you’ll learn about who your competitor is targeting.
Additionally, you’ll get informed about industry trends, and the products/services that your competitors think are opportunities.
Also, more broadly, read publicly available information – daily and business newspapers and newsmagazines.
Also, follow analysts’ blogs, and read articles about your industry.
#2 Competitor research – be a customer
The first way to find out what your competitor is doing is to order their product or service. Do this often – every few months.
When you buy a product or service, you become a customer. You get to experience how your competitor treats their customers.
Be a customer – go shopping and experience what people who buy products or services similar to yours do.
This is especially useful for business owners who make or sell a retail product.
When you get to the stores, observe what happens as customers select products to buy.
Check out how other products are placed relative to your competitors. Ask consumers questions about the products they are buying.
If your competitor’s product or service is too expensive, visit the business and ‘window shop’. Check out their pricing and return policies.
In addition, you can assign an employee to order your competitor’s materials — flyers, brochures, catalogues, price lists, and so forth.
The insights you get can help you improve or differentiate your offerings.
This would in turn, help you to create a unique niche and to attract customers to your business over competing alternatives.
Try doing this as often as possible.
#3 Competitor research – survey your customers
What are customers saying about your product compared to your competitors?
Talk to marketers, distributors, retailers to get feedback about customers reaction to your product.
Ask customers directly about what they like and don’t like about doing business with you.
Ask people what they like and don’t like about your products and your competitor’s.
You can use online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey.com or even free Google forms.
In addition, you can organize an informal focus group at your church, Muslim associations, or even online using tools such as Zoom, Clubhouse.
#4 Competitor research – attend a professional meeting
Attending professional or association meetings provides the opportunity for getting out of your office and meeting competitors face to face.
When you attend such meetings, keep your ear to the ground – this is an invaluable opportunity.
People often use such situations to brag about what they are doing.
You may be lucky to hear about their upcoming products or services, when they say too much.
Attend trade fairs at least once a year, walk the aisles, see what’s going on with businesses in your industry.
Connect with and follow industry analysts or consultants who serve your industry.
This can help to revitalize or even save your business.
Competitor research helps you know more and aids brainstorming, business ideas, finding financing, product development and better decision making.
The internet is a powerful tool, a great starting point.
If you know how to use it well, it can be a powerful research aid for competitor research.