When it comes to running a successful business venture, there's more to it than keeping an eye on what you're doing — you also have to keep an eye on what others are doing.
This means you should identify your closest competitors and see what they're up to, and to learn what they might be doing wrong. More importantly, you should also learn what they're doing right to get an edge on them.
There are a number of ways you can keep tabs on the competition without raising any red flags. Here are five of them:
1. Visit them in person. This is a tried-and-true method of scoping out your competition. It gives you time to see how their operation is set up, the kinds of products and services that they offer and even their pricing. 1
2. Do industry research. Sign up for as many industry-related groups as possible, so that you can learn about the newest and best practices and read your competitors’ success stories. You may even get the jump on some news about a local competitor that is planning an expansion.
3. Perform an online search of other businesses. Positive word of mouth is one of your best marketing tools, but many people prefer to keep their comments online. The Internet is a gold mine for you, as you can get a feel for your competitors’ weaknesses based on feedback. See what people are saying in the digital world, where they're less afraid to be brutally honest.
4. Digitally connect with competitors. While you're signing up for industry news, don't be afraid to subscribe directly to your competitors’ newsletters and social media feeds (including their blogs). This can give you ideas about things you can do to reach a broader customer base to help in generating profit and reducing expenses.
5. Be a customer. You don't have to be a regular, but on at least one occasion, patronize a competitor and buy something. This can help you gauge how effective their customer service is, as well as the quality of their products, so that you can identify opportunities to outshine them.
Learning about your competition is a key part of business planning, and should be something you do on an ongoing basis to stay a step ahead of the others!
1 Keep in mind that you’ll be visiting their place of business, so be mindful of the information you collect and how you collect it. Taking pictures can be intrusive. ,