“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles… if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” Probably one of the most popular quotes of Sun Tzu from the Art of War, it is not only applicable in grand epic battles but in business completion as well. After all, the best way to beat an enemy is not only to know their weaknesses but also their strengths.
But how do you study your business competitors? Here are some tips:
Identify your competitor
This sounds simple enough but it is actually much more complicated than that. Take cable companies like ComCast and Verizon, they are essentially supposed to be competitors but if you look at it more closely it is more like each one have a monopoly of services on a specific territory that rarely infringe on one another. They are not really competing for the same market.
So when you consider it you have to identify the businesses that are competing with your for the same market for the same product or service. These will be your direct competitors. It does not end there, however. You also have to consider your indirect competitors. These are businesses who do not have the same product or service but can be considered as alternatives to your own, An example would be hosted PBX solutions vs. 4-line telephone systems. They are not really the same but the latter could be seen as a cheaper alternative to the former.
Identify their strategies
Once you have determined your competitors, you can now examine the strategies they employ to get an advantage over you and your common competitors. Do they advertise a lot? Do they have a strong branding campaign? Do they have a strong web and social media presence? Do they rank high in major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing? What other media do they use to market their product or service.
Know their strengths and weakness
Once you know their strategies, you can also study its effectiveness. Is their advertising yielding better brand recognition or is it bringing adverse effect to their brand? Do they rank high in major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing or are they languishing on the rankings for important keywords?
Look for opportunities
Once you know their weakness, you can also review your own performance on these categories. Are you doing so much better or are you just slightly ahead? Once you know their strengths, on the other hand, you can now formulate a plan to counter their strengths or even adapt those strengths into your own business.