How well you perform compared to your competition plays a huge role in the ultimate success of your business. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to set yourself apart, or you simply want to see what the other business’s reach is locally, knowledge is power. Cozying up to the competition might seem counterintuitive at first glance, but there’s no reason you can’t learn from those in the same field and be on friendly terms.
1. Understand Business Basics
Before you worry about the competition, make sure you understand the basics of running your own business. Mastering the ways you communicate with your customers should be a top priority. You don’t need a degree in marketing to get the word out, but you need a working knowledge of the best ways to promote in your industry.
Check out what your competition does for marketing. You likely won’t have access to their internal data, but you can follow them on social media and watch print ads they send out to see where all they have a presence. Many companies also keep a news or press release page where you can keep up with their activities. Set up Google alerts for the other firm so you know when there is news about them.
2. Be Unique
While you want to study your competition and note what works well and what doesn’t, you should never copy their campaigns or even give the appearance of imitating them. Not only will you make an enemy out of another business owner, but their loyal customers may resent your efforts.
Instead, look for gaps in their branding so you can figure out what differentiates your business from theirs. Perhaps they serve one niche of customers in your town and you serve another. Your entire marketing would be a bit different if the audience is varied. Even if you seek out the same buyer personas, figure out what your unique value proposition (UVP) is and promote how you’re different.
3. Attend the Same Events
Did you see an announcement that your competitors will be at a local home show or trade conference? Make plans to attend. Stop by their booth and check out what they’re doing well. What can you do better and how can you ramp up the areas where you excel?
Marketing spending averages between 4% to 7% of gross revenue for smaller companies. That’s a big chunk of your profits, so you want to ensure your marketing methods are as effective as possible. Learn from what others are doing so you don’t waste your advertising dollars.
4. Study Their Online Presence
Digital advertising in North America will hit around $128 billion this year or about $452.54 per internet user. Digital marketing makes up about half of most advertising budgets. It is also an area where you can throw a lot of money at ads and not see any significant results.
Take the time to get to know your audience and what impacts them. Study what your nearest competitors do on their websites, on social media and even how they rank for different keywords. You’ll likely see areas where you can do better and areas where you stand apart.
Take notes on the types of content you see from them and which seems to garner the most engagement. Do they release informational videos every Tuesday? Perhaps they supply memes that their users share? Pay attention to the tactics that work and repeat those with your own individual spin.
Know Your Audience
You can study your competition for hours on end, but the key to effective marketing is knowing your own customer base. Look at internal data to see what types of products they prefer. Personalize your advertising to solve the problems they have. The more approachable and solution oriented you are, the more likely you’ll attract your target audience.
Caleb Danziger is a freelance writer, tech blogger, and editor at thebytebeat.com. Follow him on Twitter @theotherdanzig