Spending too much time sussing out the competition can be a distraction, but when I do, the insights are often important to my SME and my direction as a leader and innovator. This information is occasionally acted upon or at a minimum, it influences my thinking, my team and my business. In a world where the focus is increasingly on collaboration rather than the threat of competition, competitors could, in the right circumstances, become your partners and allies.
I tell my team and my clients to understand the competition, because to do so is to know the baseline of service and excellence in your industry. I then tell them to use that knowledge to better it on every count! Or better still smash it out of the water! If you know what your competition is doing you can use your competitors’ outstanding claims as your base line of “normal” and then build better.
There are other reasons, of course, that competition is good for SMEs. Your competition educates the industry you operate in on your behalf. It builds awareness of your market and service, and provides better educated customers who come to you with pre-knowledge and who may be easier to deal with – or hey, disgruntled customers that fall right into your lap!
And don’t forget experienced staff who at some point move-on and your company is where they want to move to.
Performing a quick Google search on a competitor can reveal:
◦How they are doing what you do. I’m not suggesting you copy them (you can be far more original!) but this process can spark ideas and creativity.
◦Who is working for your competition? What sort of staff are they hiring? How do they dress? What qualifications are they hiring? A review of your competitors’ ’employer brand’ is worthwhile because you are all competing for the same talent. You need to understand the benchmarks for employment in your industry so you can improve them and/or adapt your own processes accordingly.
◦What you don’t want to do. Also, what you don’t want to be like, and how you can move away from associating yourself with practices in your industry that you don’t want to imitate. Differentiation is the key to standing out. You can learn as much about what you don’t like about services as what you do like to better shape your company’s offering.
◦The mistakes (and wins) made by your competition. This can educate you so that you are better placed to take risks and make more informed decisions.
◦The pricing strategies out there. Review this and watch how cost structures are evolving in your industry so you can make the most appropriate choices.
◦Information that helps define your value adds. This will help you provide a service or product that is different from the rest!
And don’t forget to ask around about competitors. Tales of the competition can help you create better service, better quality services and a more inviting workspace.
About the author:
Sharon Williams, Founder and CEO of integrated marketing and PR agency, Taurus Marketing. Sharon is a pioneer in the Australian marketing and public relations agency industry. She is a CEO, Fellow of the PRIA, international speaker, personal brand expert, entrepreneur, mentor, marketer, media commentator and frequent mainstream editorial contributor.