A lot of businesses actually assess who they are competing with in a specific niche way before they even put up their own businesses. It is ambitious to try and survive in this economy, let alone survive and win even when you're up against the giants in the industry.
Competitor knowledge is just as important in the online world as it is for offline businesses. This type of information will give you a good grasp as to the type of business you will establish, the marketing strategies you need to take, and the budget you will be willing to spend to survive against your competitors.
But the competition need not be seen as the enemy - there are actually some ways you can use your competition to help guide your online marketing campaign. Here are a few ways you can actually use them to your advantage.
Knowing who the current market leader is will help you be aware of how they acquired their top position.
Knowing who you are bumping up against is important because you need to know what your competition is doing. Don't get blindsided by their prowess. Instead, be several steps ahead by finding out what their usual and effective marketing tactics are. Look for articles in trade journals, newspapers and magazines. Study their websites; search for information on them online using Google. Some really good info-gathering techniques even include buying from the competition, something like a "mystery shopper" - just to get a taste of their customer service, product or service, and quality of products. This will help you be aware of why they click, and why they are the current big shot in the industry.
You may also need to find out other back operations factors, such as their size as a company (employee and resource-wise), their market share, marketing strategy, target markets, capital and resources and location. All these have a huge bearing on the success of a business, because how can a 10-man company compete realistically with a business employing 100 people and with a crazy huge capital and marketing budget?
Armed with all this information, you can then get a clear idea of their strengths and weakness, and conjure up ways to answer those weaknesses. Find out what they're deficient in, and fill in that need. You do not need to pack up just because you are up against a Goliath - you just need to know where you can position yourself in an otherwise tight market. Remember, no business can answer 100% of the needs of the public - there has to be a missing link somewhere which you can take advantage of.
Find out what keywords they are ranking for, and if those keywords are raking in good business.
This is great information to get ahead in the online world. One of the best ways customers find out about an online business is by searching for certain keywords in the internet search engines. Knowing which particular keywords your competition is using will help you differentiate yourself, and put you in a different category - probably a category that's not too dominated by your competition. Use more specific keywords or phrases, or aim for spot number 2 or 3. Being number 1 on a search page does not necessarily translate to more sales - maybe some visitors are searching for more specific keywords, which you can address.
Sometimes, keyword searches will even reveal that you and the business you view as your biggest competition are not really offering the same specific types of products and services. And even if they do offer the same products, would you actually be willing to sacrifice more capital to compete and bid for the number 1 slot using a particular keyword? The question really is - can you afford it? If you end up losing, you might as well re-align your strategies. Kill the competition with unbeatable service or unparalleled product quality instead.
You need to know how your competition reaches their audience in order to think of counter-attacks.
If your competitor is on Facebook and Twitter - try to find out how they endear themselves to their fans and followers. The best way is to pretend to be a fan also. This may be sneaky but hey, they may be doing it to you too. Remember, be sneaky and discreet, but don't play dirty - there's no honour found in dirty tactics. Just try to find out what makes them click - and then try to emulate, pattern or inspire your own campaigns with their strategies. If they are not too effective and are doing something that could bring them down (example - not being open to constructive criticisms and being rude or deaf to queries), then you know what to avoid. Use your competition as peg for what to do, and for some "what not to do's."
Along with this, find out what customers love or hate about their products. Be aware also of their freebies, and customer reward systems. Knowing this will help you understand why they click. Don't try to compete on price alone - because bigger companies can afford to lose more, and will thus still eventually beat you on the price game. No sense putting up a business if you're going to lose money in the process.
Michael Griffiths is the CEO and Founder of My Small Business Marketing Guru. Helping small business owners generate more leads, clients and increase profits with relationship based marketing strategies. We invite you to get your free black mask marketing resources to help you business grow today, when you visit http://mysmallbusinessmarketingguru.com.au
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