Many business owners feel that is harder to compete today than in the past. According to one poll from Constant Contact, 59% of business owners feel that it is more difficult than it was five years ago. Business owners must deal with more savvy competitors and use data to win over customers.
One of the best advisors they can have is the legendary Chinese general, Sun Tzu.
Sun Tzu's Wisdom on Competitive Intelligence
Smart business owners should learn an important lesson from Sun Tzu. He reportedly said: "Every battle is won before it is ever fought." In the 1987 film Wall Street, the antagonist Gordon Gekko clarified this tidbit of wisdom. Information is the key to winning in war - and business.
What does this mean for you? You must learn everything you can about your competitors. A dedicated approach to competitive intelligence can make or break a company.
What Information Should You Look for?
If you hope to be competitive in business, then you need to learn as much about your competition as possible. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Focus on Both Strengths and Weaknesses
When decision makers study their competition, they are usually focusing on their strengths. They want to know what they need in order to outperform their competitors on their own terms. However, they often neglect to evaluate the weaknesses of their competitors, which are just as important. The 888 Ladies team discuss how they researched the competitive landscape that “took place against the backdrop of real business and marketing research about the types of slots existing in the competitive space and what might be missing from 888's offering” in the extensive “Creating a World: The Making of Treasure Fair” article.
Consider their Target Market
One thing that you need to take into consideration is the target market of your competitors. They may not be focusing on the same customer base as you. This means that you could be alienating your own base if you try to copy their marketing strategies, because they may not appeal to your own demographic. Getting a better understanding of your target market also helps you identify which competitors overlap with your own customer base, so you can decide which competitors to focus your efforts on.
Go Deep With Your Research
A lot of companies limit their competitive research to Google. Unfortunately, you can only capture so much information with a few search engine queries. If you really want to get a detailed understanding of your primary competitors, then you will need to study in more detail.
There are a number of other tools at your disposal. You may want to try using a professional information brokerage firm if you don't know where to begin. If you prefer to take the DIY approach, then you can use tools like Compete.com, AdBeat, Moat and Spyfu. These tools are mostly useful for finding information on the web, but you can also review public records of your competitors for more information. Court records and customer complaints can give you an indepth analysis of any weaknesses in their operating strategies.