When it comes to competition: you can’t live with them … and well you can, however, live without them. Especially when you run a startup, or small business, it can feel as though everyone is your competition.
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Yet, whether you are competing for customers, market share, thought leadership, territory, press, or something more – it is essential to ensure a healthy balance of competitive awareness and self-awareness.
The wrong competitive outlook (and actions) can easily turn into paralysis analysis and competitive envy. Meanwhile, the right measure of insight can produce real results for your business. So, instead of cyberstalking competitors, it is time to make it less about them and more about you.
Here’s a look at nine quick, strategic tips to help focus your competitive efforts, remain proactive, and turn competitive information into actionable business results.
Assign a competitive AOR.
Let’s face it. You can’t spend every waking hour monitoring competitors. Depending on your business size, consider assigning this AOR (area of responsibility) to an intern, employee, independent contractor, or group of employees.
This will empower you to focus your competitive sights and delineate actionable goals (instead of stalking competitors across social media networks, which will cause burnout and duress). Once an AOR is assigned to someone, their goal is to carry out predetermined competitive tasks and report findings on a quarterly or annual basis. This will force you to take a more strategic, and helpful, approach to competitive analysis.
Define the challenge.
Are you at a point where competitive analysis is feasible for (and will benefit) your small business? By redirecting resources to one area, another will invariably take a hit. So, before you make a concerted effort to track competitors, determine why it is important in the first place. Define the business challenge that will make competitive insights meaningful to long-term goals.
For instance, are you having a tough time connecting with customers? If so, a quick competitive analysis can help you learn how brands in your category connect with consumers. This deep dive will reveal how best in class competitors connect; tied to real business results. Ultimately, these takeaways can be applied to your business.
Learn the landscape.
Define the competitive landscape early on. If you are tracking every competitor under the sun, then you are wasting precious time and resources. Instead, take time to decipher your true competitors. There may be fifty brands in your category, but only five that you directly compete with for customer share of mind.
First, look at direct competition (i.e., companies that compete within your category). This is where their products and services perform the same function as yours. Next, consider substitute (or indirect) competition. If resources are scarce, focus on direct competition, until you can afford to expand your efforts. This ensures your activities are capable of delivering true benefit.
Listen to conversations.
The best competitive intelligence is often not the messages that companies send out, but rather what end users (i.e., customers) are saying behind the scenes. To gain a true picture of your competitive landscape, scout out industry forums, online reviews, customer feedback, etc.
This will reveal a clear and candid picture of how competitors are courting their customers. Meanwhile, it will unlock insights into areas that your business can truly compete on – problems that a competitor may be missing or is too large (and inflexible) to readily address.
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