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How to make a smart analysis of your competitors

In the world of sports, and perhaps especially in team sports, athletes do everything they can to study their opponents. They want to know what strengths and weaknesses they will face on the field and where they need to become stronger themselves to win the game. Because that's what it's all about - winning the game. Companies succeed in the exact same way. There are smart things to constantly be doing to know who you're fighting out there.

This is what you should think about when you look at your competitors today:
1. What are their strengths on the market?
2. What are their weaknesses?
3. What is the main threat from them to your own survival?
4. What opportunities are there for you to become better than them and even steal their customers away from them?

Yes, we're talking war here:
• Order their annual reports. With the company's financial statements, you can see what has happened to them several years ago.

• Be bold - ask if you can visit them. It may sound crazy, but they might say yes, especially if they think you might be looking for opportunities for cooperation.

• Create a special wall, book or bulletin board where you put up all your competitor's ads, brochures and other marketing materials. Ensure that all the staff read and take notice of what the competition is doing. Together you can place the competitors in different groups. For example: Price presser, quality team, customer service, etc.

• Visit their websites continuously. Create a separate folder with your competitors' URLs so it will be easy to access them all quickly, for example every Friday at 3 pm.

• Book press coverage, not just on your own company's keywords, but also on your competitors' product names or keywords. You don't need to keep track because others will do it for you. It's cheap and saves you time.

• Listen carefully to what your customers are saying about your competitors. Your customers can provide you with lots of clever details and information about the competition.

• Ask your employees, partners and everyone else you can think of about their experience of your competitors. Reward everyone who brings smart information. Teach your surroundings that you will appreciate hearing what your competitors are doing and planning.

• Create a document where you write down your obvious competitors one by one in separate columns and then start to gather information about them – look for everything. Create a Hotmail or other free e-mail address that isn't related to your business and subscribe to their newsletters, ask them questions from the anonymous address. Be smart and creative and find out everything you want to know. Order their brochures and all the information they have. Order their products if you have that option. Ask someone to call and complain to them.

• Ask your customers what they like and don't like about your own and your competitors' solutions to their problems. You can visit stores and ask the staff selling your competitor's products what they think. Ask the users as well.

Finally a warning:
Beware of becoming too competitive. This is a common trap that many companies have fallen into. A competitive company makes a big mistake by acting as if the competition is the same as the customers. By spending a lot of time and energy (and money) on following the competition, you can easily slip into thinking about the competitors as customers in the sense that it is what they do and let that control the development of your own company, instead of the real customers and what they want.

Your homework:
Make a list of your top ten competitors, order their sales material and compare it with yours. Make changes that will allow customers who contact the both of you to easily understand why they should choose your company over your competitor.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

230 000 prescribes to his free newsletter "The 5 minute marketer"
Every week some 230,000 prescribers gets his free newsletter about 5 minute marketing.

"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.