Keep your enemies close, and your competitors closer!

black and white people bar men

Many businesses see gathering competitor intelligence as a cost (and a headache) yet understanding the competitive landscape in which you operate is a valuable weapon in your strategic business arsenal. Information gleaned can help you evaluate your own performance, shape your promotional materials, gather fresh ideas and potentially identify new customers to target.

Here’s a few pointers to help you find out all about your “frenemies”:

  1. Who are your competitors and which should you focus on? Think:
  • Direct competitors e.g. those you come up against day in, day out
  • Indirect competitors e.g. those who offer a substitute product or service (for example, if you produce breakfast cereal, then your indirect competitors include croissant suppliers)
  • New entrants to the market who are eager to grab a piece of the pie
  1. Undertake a good old SWOT analysis for each one (as well as yourselves) so that you can compare information easily and draw conclusions; it’s important to understand their strengths and weaknesses, relevant to your own, but being aware of their opportunities and threats will help you mitigate against the former and capitalise on the latter.

When thinking about a competitor’s positives and negatives, consider:

  • What do they offer customers…and we’re not just talking about product range – what do their clients get out of the relationship e.g. service, advice, support, etc
  • What is their reputation in the marketplace? Proactive or reactive; forward thinking or traditional; customer focussed or unapproachable?
  • What is their competitive advantage – is it price, range, service, etc?
  • Who are their customers – do they target the same customer base as you, or do they successfully deliver to specific niches? Do they have good retention rates or do they seem to settle for constant churn?
  • How do they market themselves – what tactics do they use, and how successfully?
  • Who are their suppliers – do they have any exclusivity arrangements which give them a price or product advantage?
  • How do their financials stack up – this will give you an indication of how feasibly they could expand, introduce new plant, launch a new product, unveil a heavyweight marketing campaign, etc
  • What is their management profile – do they have a strong multi-disciplined senior team, or is one “jack of all trades” at the helm?
  • What is their business strategy – are they happy to “plod along” or are they continually looking to diversify?

Play I Spy

It’s also well worth keeping a close eye on the competition to see if they are launching new products, taking on new team members or are deploying innovative marketing tactics which might grab your clients attention. A good way to do this is to check your competitors websites every day…but seeing as we have businesses to run, and precious little time to spare, try instead registering with the website monitoring service ChangeDetection which will alert you to changes in competitor sites. It’s free to use, and you can monitor as many sites as you like – and there’s even a HTML tag which you can embed in your site to prevent your competitors keeping similar tabs on you! Visit:

Simple sources of competitor intelligence

  • Talk to your sales team
  • Chat with your customers
  • Scour the media
  • Go online and search
  • Check Companies House for accounts
  • Read market research reports
  • Check their testimonials and customer satisfaction levels, either on their own website or on impartial third party review sites

In summary, make sure that you review your competitor analysis on a regular basis – markets never stand still…and neither should you.

For advice on company research and corporate strategy, please visit our Business Advisory pages or  contact the office.