These are good days for small business owners. The internet provides all sizes of companies the ability to research the competition at lightning speed. Accurate information is only a few clicks away, but keep in mind that there is a lot more out there than just a simple Google search. Small businesses that know the marketplace have a marked competitive edge over the others. What are they offering customers that you are not? There are several key places to look.
First Off, Get a Website
If you don’t have a web presence already, get one. Potential customers may choose the internet as their first stop when looking for a product or service. If you don’t have the cash for expensive web design, either coerce your son into creating a site or have our PowerSites team build you a website for a fraction of the cost. Websites give customers the feeling that your business has legitimacy and an established presence with a customer base.
See Who’s Out There
You may have more competition than you think. After an initial Google search for other similar local businesses, remember that Google has more capabilities than just search. You can look to see which competitors are using Google AdWords for advertising. Are there offers there that you can match or beat? You can sign up for Google Alerts, and messages will be sent to your inbox advising you of any mention of a name or term you choose. Use this to see what the competition has in mind for the immediate future.
Don’t forget about social networks. Small businesses often send offers to their customers from their Facebook page or Twitter account. These sites can be an excellent way to reach your customer base instantaneously. You want your business to be on people’s minds on a regular basis, and these sites let you do that for free. Similarly, you can check up on the competition and see how large their following is.
Get the Literature
Contact competitors and ask them for literature, brochures or catalogs, so you can see their full line of products and services. Research about pricing and guarantees is important, so find out how your business compares. You should also allow yourself the luxury of attending a conference or seminar or two–to meet and talk to the competition in person. Conferences themselves may provide small business tips, yet you also have the benefit of creating relationships with other merchants and suppliers.
Keep The Conversation Going
Talking to your customers is a time-honored way of getting a feel for other businesses. Ask customers what they think about the competition and you’ll soon find out that everyone has an opinion. Listen to what they say; their advice can be invaluable. Also, ask your suppliers what is hot right now. They won’t give many specifics about competitors, but get a feel for what the trends are in your community and your industry. Look at want ads and talk to job seekers. It’s important to know if your competition is hiring, and how often. Finally, you can become a customer of a competitor yourself, and decide how your own business matches up.
How do you research your competitors?