Helpful advice from business professionals on how to learn about your competitors and what to do with the knowledge you gain…
Your business will face competition and part of the grand adventure of being an entrepreneur is assessing that competition and finding ways to win coveted clients. Leading with a fire in your spirit, you can compete well if you channel your efforts into capitalizing on your unique strengths as compared to others. Remember, you compete not only with your immediate neighbors, but also the draw of Internet-based companies which means you could be competing with businesses from across international borders – ALL vying to have clients spend their money with them instead of you. This arena is not for the faint of heart, but you wouldn’t be a business owner if you were faint-hearted, so the challenge to overcome your competition can be an exciting one; and with a properly executed strategy that is fluid and continually fine-tuned it can be very successful.
Mark Jones, Area Manager in the United Kingdom for Minuteman Press International, uses his industry-leading digital print, design and marketing franchise locations as an illustration of how to compete in business. He also indicates that as Minuteman Press franchise owners lead by example, they also provide their clients with meaningful tools and strategies to take on their own competition.
Mark says, “There has always been and always will be competition in our industry, the business services industry. This is largely to do with the fact that every business out there is a potential customer. What matters is being head and shoulders above your competition and we have been doing that for better than 40 years. When I get the opportunity to meet people I am more than happy to explain how we achieve this and also give them the opportunity to hear this directly from our franchise owners, who are doing this every day. Our franchise owners are prime examples of how to rise above the competition. They have dedicated themselves to making sure that their clients are provided with a marketing strategy along with a variation of customized printed collateral that can be used to command the lead in their own quest for business growth.”
Who is your competition?
Your competitors are out to win, too. Frankly, they are trying to eat your lunch. To beat them (and maybe get a piece of their lunch), you need to know who they are, of course. So, identifying who else out there does what you do and discovering if they are more capable than you are to solve the problems that your clients need addressed is paramount because those businesses are the ones to beat. Unless your market is in a relatively new stage of development with few others to compete with for attention, it is necessary to think like your customers and put down your “seller’s cap” for a moment.
So, as a buyer, you might ask yourself two questions:
1. Of my choices, who is most likely to fill my needs/solve my problem?
2. Who else out there can solve my problems?
When you answer as a buyer, don’t forget to include the option “do-it-myself”. Very often, clients think they can cut corners and handle certain jobs on their own. They may also choose to do nothing. After generating as many answers and a list of competing providers who may also be able to offer a solution to your problem as a “buyer”, plus all the different ways it can be solved (including DIY or doing nothing), write down the top 3 alternative solutions to your own business that you feel are the most threatening to you and are the most viable to the client. Now, you have your competition. They may be a new business offering similar products or services or an established business with an aggressive marketing campaign. In either case, assessing the competition is for the purpose of winning coveted clients.
Ultimately, however, if you are following a solid business plan and if you invest personally in meaningful relationships with your clients, you have already initiated a formula that will be difficult to challenge.
Jeff Robey, Florida Regional Vice-President for Minuteman Press International, represents a dominant force in the digital print, design and marketing franchise industry. As such, Minuteman Press franchise owners have an edge as they establish roots within their communities by virtue of a longstanding tradition and a well-respected brand. Jeff reflects on this unique advantage afforded to these franchisees and points out that it is the mission of each Minuteman Press franchise to partner with their clients within the business services industry as they assess their own competition, so they too can have that “edge”.
Jeff explains, “As a full service printer who would handle any print, design, sign, apparel or promotional item need puts us ahead of the competition because people prefer to work with one company. We are well-equipped to translate this success into the goals of our clients as they, too, assess their competition, helping them formulate a complete marketing strategy that they can use as a powerful tool with which they can build their businesses and win over clients.”
Tips for Learning about Your Competition
In addition to identifying competition that is already operating against you, you must also be aware of possible new competitors. Here are a few quick ways to get a heads-up on who your competitors are:
- Your local Chamber of Commerce
- Internet searches
- Press Releases
- Inside information from customers
- Trade Fairs
- Marketing literature (sent to you)
- Local business directories
- Planning applications/New constructions
What to Do with the Knowledge You Gain
After you find out who your competitors are, here are some tips for what you can do with that information:
- When you come across ads or if you obtain competitors’ marketing literature, read about them and use what you learn to fine tune your marketing approach.
- Check out their websites to see how interactive it is and to see if it is easier to find than your own. You could find out a lot about your competition by visiting their website as businesses will frequently reveal a lot about themselves online from biographies of their staff to their company history.
- Remember to look for your competition at trade shows so you can pay attention to their booth set-up, promotional approach and take note of how busy they are.
- Use all of this information to draw and honest comparison and find ways to capitalize on possible weaknesses.
To leave your competition in the dust, it helps to know who they are. Identifying who else may be pursuing clients you want and need, then assessing what they offer can help you craft your marketing strategy so that you can stand out above the rest. Setting prices competitively and creating fresh initiatives with the help of marketing and design specialists can be done after analysis so that your rivals’ offerings can shrink in comparison. Capitalizing on their weaknesses and strengthening your own performance in terms of quality and service can only provide you with a boost in the charge to secure a loyal client base.
However, just as elite runners are advised not to spend too much time looking over their shoulders at rivals as they approach the finish line, you don’t need to become consumed with every move your competitors make.
Knowledge is Power But Don’t Be Consumed
Bo Gustafsson, owner of International Minute Press in Scotsdale, AZ, summarizes this concept best, offering, “Don’t focus too much on competition, they will do whatever they will do. Instead, convey your strengths: respectful treatment, fair pricing, great quality – AND that you are always there for your clients, no matter what.”
To learn more about joining the #1 rated Minuteman Press franchise family, call us at 1-800-645-3006 or simply fill out the contact form on this page.