Before you launch an analysis of your competitors, you need to determine what exactly you are trying to uncover: what is it about your competitors that would be most helpful to learn? Your initial focus should be on how these companies position themselves in the marketplace, and what attributes they communicate most consistently to their customers and prospects?
Remember, the purpose of this exercise is to help you determine how to best differentiate your business from competing enterprises.
Here are a few sample questions to help organize this research effort:
- Who are your top 3-5 competitors?
- What type of organizations are they? Are their offerings and operations similar to yours, or are they different types of businesses?
- How do customers refer to your business, i.e., how would they describe what you do? Would they put your competitors in the same category?
- Where are they located? Do they operate in the same geographic areas as you?
- What are their products or services? Which of these compete directly with you? Which do not compete with you, or might be considered ancillary to your offerings?
- Are their products or services appealing to the same market/audience as yours? Do they compete head-to-head with all your audiences or only certain segments?
- What do you consider each competitor’s primary strengths? Weaknesses?
- How do you compare the quality of their products and services compared to yours? Are there specific attributes that can help you make this assessment?
- Is there anything they are offering customers that you are not offering? Does that give them a competitive advantage? Could you offer it if you decided it would help you compete?
- What is their pricing structure? Does their pricing provide significant advantages or disadvantages in the marketplace? Can they operate on lower margins than you (as far as you can tell)? Can they offer comparable products or services at lower cost without damaging their profitability?
- How good is there customer service? Do they respond quickly to requests?
- How do they market their businesses (conventional advertising, direct mail, social media, publicity, couponing, etc.)?
- What are they primary messages they seek to communicate through their marketing? As best you can tell, what is their “brand promise”?
- In your view, how credible are those messages? Do they live up to their brand promise?
- Do they have a strong internet presence? Active on social media? Have significant followings? Engagement?
- How do they perform on Yelp or other consumer rating sites? What are some common positive attributes that reviewers mention? Are there common negative attributes noted by reviewers?
- How do they respond to negative comments (if any) on social media?
- Overall, what is personal perception of these companies?
These are but a few questions to get you started. You can always ask others. Just be sure that the information gathered will help you better understand your competitive challenges — and figure out how to differentiate your business.
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