By Wilma Bedford
How do you start your small business in a competitive market?
Just as it is wise to keep, your eyes on the lane next to you when driving a car on the freeway, you must also be aware of other businesses’ strategies. How can your product and your trademark stay competitive in a market where new competitive products are developed almost every day?
The answer is: not only through good marketing but also competitive intelligence (CI), also known as marketing intelligence, which is a process of ethical as well as lawful monitoring, the collection and analysis of data from your competitors and the industries around you so that you can make better decisions. Such research enables you to spot shortcomings and to discover better growth opportunities, anticipate changing trends, react to changing circumstances (like a pandemic), and this leads to excellent business performance. CI also allows you to see what your opponent is doing right, and you can learn from that.
In the past this data collection process was very expensive and only big companies could afford it, but nowadays information is readily available online and even smaller businesses can get affordable access to data collection.
How does one do research in competitive intelligence?
- Determine who your competitors are. See the industry as a game and all the competitors as players and your goal is to collect information so that you can make the next move in your favour. Establish who your direct competitors are. Are they people or companies who offer a product similar to yours to the same market as your target market? Who are your secondary competitors? Are they businesses that offer a different product or service but draw the same consumers you’re targeting?
- Set a goal. What do you want to know? This will determine where to search for information. If, for instance, if you want to market your own beauty products or newly designed power tools you have to understand the opposition’s marketing strategies, their specific message, and their marketing campaigns. In what respects is your competitors’ product better than yours and in what respects is your product better? How does the competitor distribute his product or service? How do they market their product? Can you afford the distribution costs? You and your team now know that you should concentrate on that and not your opposition’s showroom.
- Decide on your data collection strategy. Look at the competitor’s website. Has the website recently had a facelift to make it more attractive and accessible? Look at blogs, online offers and promotional offers, price structures and publicity campaigns. Look at the feedback from consumers of their product or service. Do they advertise posts? If so, for what, because this points to a shortcoming or possible expansion of the company. Is the company listed on the stock exchange? Are financial statements available regarding the company? You can also learn a lot from the company’s history: did the company merge with another company, for instance a shoe store with a drapery store in order to cash in on overlapping markets?
- Collect and process data. This can stretch over a period of weeks and months, but then you will see a pattern and the strong and weak points of your competitors. Use CI instruments that are available online and are affordable to help you.
- Share your information and findings weekly with the relevant teams so that adjustments and a plan of action can be introduced in time to make sure that your business flourishes. This is not exclusive information for top management, but through processing of information sales teams can determine where sales problems could arise, the marketing team can adapt their messages to lure certain buyers more efficiently, and the production team understands why the competitors are placing a specific price on their products and why they use specific packaging.
- Stay within the law. Avoid any Hollywood-style espionage practices to get information about the opposition. Be ethical; there is a thin line between illegal and unethical. You could perhaps run into a wronged employee of the company who has key information about the company’s plans for the future and is prepared to share it. Use your discretion and remember your reputation is more important.
- Where can you get information lawfully? You can check competing businesses’ websites to see what their products look like and you can read reviews.
- Look at the keywords and catchwords your competitors use in their advertisements and to lure clients to their web page. Which physical and emotional needs of clients do they address? Where and how do they advertise to get maximum cover?
A Marketer’s Guide To Competitive Intelligence
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