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11 Hot Tips For Beating The Competition

By Eric Gilboord |

1. Know What You Want. Be clear on the information you are looking for. Much of what you are seeking is readily available. Talk to your staff, customers and suppliers. Go out equipped with a list of the specific information you require. Look for the competitors' price plans, additional services, and staff capabilities. Review their product line and determine how much overlap there is with your own offerings.

2. Get To Know Your Competitors. Make sure you balance older established businesses with ones new to the market. Talk to them at trade shows when they are more inclined to be chatty. But be cautious, as a sharp competitor they may feed you misinformation or embellish sales figures to make themselves look good.

3. Competitive Links. If you have many competitors put the information on a spreadsheet. Look for the common themes of successful and unsuccessful competitors. Overall try to determine their individual strategies. Don't be surprised if several share the same strategy.

4. Internet. Use the Internet for a quick insight into a competitor. The information is freely available and easily accessible. As a starting point find out if they have a website and review it thoroughly. Look to association or industry specific sites for upcoming trends in your area of business.

5. Conclusions. Quantity and quality are very different. Masses of statistics are only good if you can draw a conclusion from them and determine actionable steps. Take action and use the information you gather. If competitors lower prices to get business you may wish to offer additional services instead of price cutting.

6. Competitors. Call or visit competitors both direct and indirect (related businesses) and talk to their staff. Employees can unwittingly be tremendous sources of valuable information. You may need to make several calls or visits to develop a complete picture.

7. Alert Your Staff. The trouble with point 6 is it can work against you as well. Educate your own staff about confidentiality. Train them to ask why a caller might need the information they are seeking. Develop a company policy regarding the information that is allowed to be discussed with outsiders.

8. It Takes Time. Don't expect to gather all the information you need to make sound business decisions in a few telephone calls or store visits. Take your time. Avoid the trap of using old information. You should be gathering information on an ongoing basis and routinely adjusting your marketing plan.

9. Read Their Brochures. Competitive literature will tell you many things including strategy, positioning, products and services, target group, key staff. Check to see if the literature is out of date or up to the minute.

10. Call Them. Examine how their staff answers the phone and how they approach a prospective customer or opportunity. Make a call to them and act like a new business prospect. Have others do the same thing and compare notes.

11. It's Not All Bad. Not everything the competitor does is right or wrong. Copy the good and avoid the bad.

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