Learning the tricks of the trade

4 Tips to Learning the Tricks of the Trade

Whatever your business, you need to be aware of what’s working for your competitors – in terms of marketing, pricing, strategy and more – so you can pick up some ideas and keep your competitive edge.

Larger companies can spend a lot of time and/or money monitoring their competitors, which is probably not an option for your small business. But there are many ways you can keep an eye on your rival businesses, and pick up ideas for your own, at little or no cost. So what are you waiting for?

#1 Social Media

Your approach to social media needs to be unique to your business: your requirements, what you’re good at and your current and intended customer base.

But since you and your competitors have the same audience – your customers – if the competition is active on a social network, it may be because your customers are there. If you don’t have a presence on the same networks, check out how it’s working for them – follow them, take a look at their numbers and their engagement with their audience – and consider whether you should be there.

Also, consider what the competition is posting on their social media platforms: it’s a great opportunity to pick up ideas for content and strategy. What’s their balance of text versus images like, or original content versus shares? How do they engage with their audience? Would it work for you?

While you’re at it, subscribe to your competitors’ email newsletters to see what other marketing ideas you can pick up.

Social Media Strategy
You can pick up tips on social media strategy by following your competitors

#2 Search smarter

An internet search to check out your competitors should, of course, begin with a visit to their website(s) – both to pick up ideas for the design, content, and features of your website, and to do a little digging. Check out their prices and product information, and also pay particular attention to any customer reviews for tips on the pros and cons of your competitors’ products and/or services. You should also visit relevant review websites to do the same.

Next, comes a straightforward Google search: but it shouldn’t end there. Keep an ear to the ground by setting up Google Alerts, and/or a similar service, to monitor the competition, your keywords and anything else related to your products – including your own business. Also, keep an eye on what any relevant industry analyst firms are reporting about trends that relate to your business.

#3 Deals and Discounts

When you’re keeping an eye on the competition – online and off – it’s particularly useful to look at the deals and discounts they offer. You’ll pick up some ideas for ways to market your products, but you’ll also spot gaps that open up in the market when time-limited deals come to an end. Monitoring reviews will also give you a feel for the sort of offers your customers would like to see.

If your competition isn’t online, and/or you can’t find a lot of information about their offers via advertising and in the press – maybe if you’re in business-to-business sales without individual customers – don’t forget you can always just give them a call! Inquire about a price list and ask what kind of discounts they can offer, for example by volume.

Deals and discounts
Are your customers missing out on deals and discounts they could be getting from your competitors?

#4 Ask…everyone!

Conduct surveys, informally and otherwise, of everyone interested in your industry for whatever reason. Ask them what’s working for them, what your competition is up to, and what they’d like to see from you.

Ask your customers: when someone switches to you from a competitor, ask them why – and do the same if you lose a customer to the competition. You’ll put together a great picture of what your offer is missing.

Ask your suppliers: build up a relationship with them, and you can get a better idea of their relationships with rival small businesses too.

Ask your employees: if you’ve hired anyone away from competing firms, make sure they get a full debrief on the strategy and tactics of their previous employer.

Ask the industry: attend trade shows and conferences, and/or get involved on forums and LinkedIn.

No matter how great your products, service, business plan, and strategy are, your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Your customers know about your competitors’ best tips and tricks – do you?


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