Stay ahead of the game: know your market and your competitors

As a small business owner, it’s only natural that you’ll want to channel all your energies into growing your business. But whilst you’re busy beavering away, you can reduce risk by taking care to keep a weather eye on what your competitors are up to. Regularly conducting a spot of market research will mean you can prepare for industry changes and ensure your business doesn’t get left behind.

Collecting ‘market intel’, as its known, involves gathering and analysing information about your industry, your client base and your competitors. Such information is particularly relevant if you’re thinking of diversifying into a new area because it may well save you time, money and frustration.

  1. Do your homework

There’s already a huge amount of information at available at your fingertips; all you have to do is undertake an internet search. Thoroughly read your competitors’ web page and any social media platforms they use. It’s here they’ll advertise new products and services, announce important staff changes, upload images of their business and much more. You’ll be amazed at what you can find out. Don’t forget to read posts and comments and check out Google reviews; they often include some very frank – and useful – customer feedback.

  1. Market research

There’s nothing to stop you performing your own field research by making use of surveys and questionnaires. These can range from the simple (a pop up question or three inviting a quick response) to the more in-depth (a more focused set of questions around a specific aspect of your service). There are heaps of online research tools you can use to help you do this yourself or you may prefer to outsource this exercise to a market research specialist or mystery shopping outfit. Whatever option you choose, don’t forget there’s no point in doing it if you’re not prepared to take the time to thoroughly analyse the information you’ve gathered. What is it telling you and what is the best way forward?

  1. What do your competitors do better than you?

Be hyper-critical of your own business and take inspiration from others by asking frank questions such as:

  • How does your pricing compare with your competitors’ pricing?
  • Do they offer better value for money than you?
  • Is the quality of your product demonstrably superior? How do you know it is?
  • How engaging is your marketing material?
  • Do people praise their customer service? And what matters to them when they do?
  1. SWOT analysis – an excellent self-assessment tool

Take the opportunity to identify your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s a great way to get your whole team involved and may help you see your business from a different angle; their input could be enlightening – or very challenging! Either way, the information you gain from this exercise will pinpoint where your business stands now and help you to formulate a clear action plan to ensure your business continues to remain a key market player.

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