Business Planning Tips for Researching Competitors
If the plan for your business is to open or expand a gift shop on Main Street, scoping out your competition isn’t difficult. You can browse through neighboring shops that cater to the same kinds of customers you hope to attract.
Then inquire around — talking to your banker, other retailers, business leaders, clerks at City Hall, those in business networking groups, local media including business blogs, and others — to see what businesses are planning to open in the near future. Finally, uncover stealth competitors, including online and other less apparent businesses that can take a bite out of your market.
For many businesses, however, competitive research is more complicated. You have to work harder to learn the following about your competitors:
What products or services they offer
Who their customers are
What their strengths are
Where their weaknesses are
Corporate strategists call this information-gathering effort competitive intelligence, or CI. Fortunately, the Internet provides a great starting point:
Begin with your competitors’ websites.
You’ll likely see everything from product specifications to client lists to news-release archives, containing information about future strategies and plans.
Then put search engines to work, entering competitors’ names and scouring the general, news, and blog results.
Find your competitors in ratings and review sites.
You can learn what their customers like and dislike, giving you valuable information upon which to build better solutions.
To guide you in your sleuthing, use the competitive intelligence checklist shown in the figure.