Scoping out your business competition is one of the most important things an SME can do, and there are a wealth of resources online to make this easier and cheaper than ever. Some information is challenging to find, however nowadays it’s not necessary for SMEs to employ a market researcher. Instead, follow some guidelines and take a diligent and forensic approach to research. The sky is the limit, or rather the broadband connection is.
Why do it?
The start-up experts at Inc. magazine talked to Michael Levy, an independent brand strategy consultant, who concisely summarises the reason for doing one’s own competition intelligence: “Keeping track of who your competitors are, what people are saying about them, and what they are saying about themselves, can help you differentiate your business and stay ahead of trends that could impact your business. Staying smart on the competitive landscape helps you make very practical decisions around product development, pricing, promotions, messaging, [and] where you fit in the brand landscape.”
Free Tool-Based Research
There are plenty of free competitive research tools that will help you unearth data, although the amount of data will depend on the popularity of the company in question. Generally any FTSE500 company will have a huge volume of information available online – corporate house data is the first place to look for financial, business and HR information.
Beyond that, subscribe to their Google Alerts, Facebook, Twitter feeds, e-newsletters and RSS feeds, to see what they’re saying about themselves. These information sources are right on the pulse of their brand and visual identity, new products or services, promotions, advertising and PR campaigns, new offices, recruitment drives and for garnering feedback from their target audience.
Financial Information 101
It’s a worthwhile exercise to seek out business reports about a successful business competitor. A subscription service will offer reports on companies about the financial history, directors, customers, employees and recent developments. Insights gained from these reports can be an invaluable way of staying ahead of the game. In particular, you can find some of this information for free and look up credit scores at Duedil.com.
A website is the reception desk of the online world; as the first welcoming face of the competitor, it encapsulates all of the visual and brand values associated with them. Put on a consumer hat and attempt to navigate through the site and purchase their goods or services. Is it an easy and smooth experience or is it like pulling teeth? Then do this with your own site and compare the experiences.
Competition intelligence may be a term bandied about by market researchers, but start-ups and SMEs can implement their tactics all the same, and at lesser cost – check out Inc. magazine for more details.