Setting up your own business can be an exciting time and you’ll obviously be keen to get started. Before you do, it’s worth taking the time to investigate your competitors.

Finding out how your competitors operate and what they offer can give you some valuable insight in to your own business and help you avoid a few pitfalls.

Researching your competitors can help you:

  • Find out what works and doesn’t work.
  • Give you ideas of how and where to market your products.
  • Price your products.

Find out about your competitors

Researching the competition can be a lot easier than you think and there are many ways you can get your information. The first thing you need to find out is just who your competition is.

Who is your competition?

You may already know who your main competitors are but it doesn’t hurt to find out if there are businesses you don’t know about. There are many clubs and organisations where small businesses can get together to network and these are an ideal opportunity to find out exactly where your competition lies.

  • Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce has meetings all over the country and they provide an excellent opportunity not just to meet up with other businesses but also get help and advice about running your own business.
  • Business directories. If you have a copy of the Yellow Pages, have a look and see who else is advertising your products or services. There are also many local online listings to help you get the information you need.
  • Trade fairs. These are very useful for researching new contacts and products and can also be used to find out who else is offering the same products as you and find out how they are marketing their business.
  • Local Press. Those free newspapers which come through the door are a haven of information. Check for articles about other businesses and the classified section as well.

What do you want to find out?

Finding out who your competitors are is one thing: finding out what you need takes a little more time.

With the right approach you can gather a lot of useful information to help you market your business and find the right price point for all your products and services. Most research doesn’t require a lot of your time either.

  • Register on their mailing list. This is a quick and simple way to find out about their products, prices and offers. If you see similar offers appearing more than once, then you can be sure that works for them, so it could work for you too.
  • Check your post. We all get flyers through the door and we mostly throw them out with just a cursory glance. Instead, check all marketing material which you receive, either by post or by email.
  • Customer reviews. There are a lot of sites online where customers can leave reviews. If you read some of these you can find out where your competitors have done well, and where they have done badly. You can use this information to help you make fewer mistakes.
  • Social Media. Check out their social media pages and find out what they are posting about and who their customers are. By reading the comments on their posts you can get an insight in to how they operate and what posts their customers respond well to.
  • Contact them. One very easy way to find out about prices and services is to contact them as a potential customer. This way you can ask questions about pricing, how they provide their product or service, how quickly they can deliver and you can also ask about related products and services as well.
  • Check out their website. This often tells you a lot about a company and most sites will offer some background about them too.

How to use the information

Now you have your information you need to use it. You may have acquired a lot of details you don’t really need so go through everything and pick out what you need to know right now. You can then put together a plan which will help you get your business off to a flying start.

One very important point to remember is not to simply copy your competitors. You need to use the information to make your business unique and get inspiration from what you have found out.

Marketing

If you’ve done your research right you should now know who your product is aimed at. Pitching your services to the right people is a great way to start.

Pricing

You should also have an idea of the best price points to use and which offers work best. An introductory offer is always a good way to encourage business, as long as it’s the right offer.

Delivery

Whether it’s a service or product, you will need to deliver. Most customers like to receive what they’ve paid for as quickly as possible, and your research should help you identify the most cost effective and efficient ways to do this.

Customer service

Those reviews and social media pages will help you find out exactly what makes your competitors customers happy, and this will help you when you get started. You’ll also have found out what makes their customers unhappy so you will know what the pitfalls are and how to avoid them.

You need to monitor your competitors as your business progresses as well. They may add new products and services which you have not yet thought of or you may find they have introduced a new product which isn’t getting good reviews.

By keeping in touch with your competitors you can keep your business on top of its game and offer your customers the best experience possible.

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