Filling a need or solving a problem are the most popular reasons why people choose to start a business. Someone either has a need or sees a problem that they feel needs a solution, or needs a better solution that those that are out there. This person then decides they have the perfect solution, and thus, a business is born.
Does this sound like you? Have you come up with the perfect solution to a need or a problem? Before you go fast-forward on your new venture, it’s important to make sure you really do have the perfect solution by identifying who your competitors are and analyzing what they are doing. In turn, you can determine what makes your solution unique and different from your competitors, which will help guide you to having a successful business.
Getting started is simple and inexpensive. Begin by creating a competition whiteboard – keep in mind that you will continuously be adding information to your whiteboard, so place it in a location that is easily accessible.
So, what goes on your new competition whiteboard?
- Google Alerts: If you haven’t already, create a Google Alert for each of your competitors and their products. Of course, you should also create a Google Alert for your business and products, once you get your business set up. Print this information and post it on your whiteboard.
- Trade shows/industry events: Gather information about all of the trade shows and industry events related to your product/service, and post this information on your competition whiteboard. You may want to consider creating an events section on your whiteboard. Find out if your competitors will be in attendance at these events and in what capacity – are they having a booth, giving a presentation, paying for a sponsorship, etc.?
- Competitor web sites: By monitoring your competitors web sites, you can keep track of changes they are making to their products/services, including features, benefits, pricing, new products, and even discontinuing products. You should also monitor personnel changes as well, if possible. Write key information on your competition whiteboard.
- Marketing materials (print/online advertising, brochures, tear sheets, etc.): Gather as many of your competitors marketing materials as you can. This can be done by attending trade shows and downloading information from their web sites. Keep this information organized in folders/envelopes attached to your competition whiteboard.
- Online reviews (if available): Though online product reviews are not always honest, it is still important to read them and try to determine which ones are sincere. Make notes of important comments on your competition whiteboard – both positive and negative comments.
- Feedback from others in your industry: Sometimes the easiest way to find out what your competitors are doing is to talk to others in your industry. Make notes of what they tell you and who provided the information (in case you want to reach out to them at a later point) but remember, they could be talking about you to your competitors as well.
- Product/service comparisons: If possible, purchase your competitors product or service anonymously, or ask someone you know if they would be kind enough to do this for you. This is by far the best way to find out what your competitors are doing. Use your competition whiteboard to create a product comparison, and update it as necessary.
Now that you’ve started your competition whiteboard, look for areas that your competitors aren’t addressing but you are or you can. What benefits do you offer that your competitors do not? Are there products or services not being offered? Geographic or demographic areas not being served? What is unique about your product or service?
From here, you can develop your marketing campaign, addressing your competitors’ holes.