If your company has been around awhile, you may think of it as the established – even obvious – choice in your marketplace. But can you identify your company’s top competitors? Beware! Let’s examine what Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton were likely thinking as they began planning their runs for President. Surely neither Bush nor Clinton expected a competition-free primary. But could they even have imagined being challenged by the candidates who actually emerged?
Donald Trump and Ben Carson? Say what!?! Two first-time candidates for any public office turn out to be the Republican front-runners in Iowa because they are (A) a loudly bombastic egomaniac, or (B) a quietly humble healer.
So: can you identify your company’s top competitors? Equally important, are you watching the upstarts in your market who want to take your clients away? If your growth dreams come true, which companies will you be competing with in the next 1-5 years?
By scouting your actual and potential competitors, you will learn about new things they are offering, what their strengths are, the types of clients they are trying to attract and how they are differentiating themselves. Valuable information, right?
“Yes,” we hear you saying, “but how do I scout the competition?” Here are some methods that have worked for us and others.
If you know who they are …
- Visit their websites once a month to see what’s new, scan the latest company news items and take note of the topics they are blogging about.
- If they have a newsletter, subscribe.
- Follow their company pages on social media so their posts show up in your news feed.
- Create Google Alerts for the company names so you’ll get an email when the name appears in search results.
- Chat with their employees at networking events. (Hint: They will be more forthcoming if you say you “work for” your company without mentioning you are the owner or leader.)
- Google the keyword phrases you would use to search for a company like yours.
- Ask your clients what other companies they considered before choosing yours.
- When your company is the close-but-no-cigar candidate for new work, ask which company won the work, and why.
- Get the Philadelphia Business Journal “Book of Lists” and check out the websites of all the companies in your category to see which most closely resemble yours in size and scope.
- Join your industry’s trade group and/or the Chamber of Commerce; then search the member database for companies in your area offering similar products or services.
Even the most diligent competition-scouter can miss the occasional Sanders, Trump or Carson. But you’ll be blindsided far less often if you are aware of all the likely prospects for your company’s top competitors.