Whether you’ve been in business for a long time or if you’re just starting out, chances are you have a pretty good idea who your competition is, at least by name. But how well do you really know who they are, how your business stacks up to theirs, and what makes you different from them?  Knowing your competition is important for marketing so your message can stand out from the pack.

Every marketing strategy should include competitive information

Every small business marketing strategy typically includes the fundamentals:  target audience, ideal client, unique value proposition, etc. but it’s surprising how many marketing plans fail to really look at competitors, but this a critical part of a marketing plan! Know more in-depth information is an important foundational aspect of your marketing strategy. It can help you with who you market to, how you market to them, and how your formulate your unique value proposition. While your competitive analysis doesn’t need to be extremely detailed, it’s good to have a fairly good overview so you can quickly understand who they are and how you compare. Using a competitive analysis table can help; it provides a quick glance so you can easily sum up the competitive landscape.  Knowing your competition is crucial to a good plan.

Setting your company apart from your competitors

Once you have a good idea who your competitors are, and how your services or products compare to theirs, you can begin to formulate your unique value proposition that can be leveraged in your marketing efforts. Known as “UVP” for short, a unique value proposition is a clear statement that describes the benefit of your product or service, how you solve your customer’s needs and what distinguishes you from the competition. Your unique value proposition should appear prominently on your website and in every marketing campaign. Why is a UVP important?  It clearly sets your company apart from your competition. Don’t leave it to your prospects to figure out why you’re better than your competitors; TELL them!  What are some distinguishing points that can set you apart from your competitors and make you unique, special and different?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • How long you’ve been in business
  • The expertise of the employees, management or owners
  • Level of customer service
  • How specialized your company is
  • How diverse your company is
  • The size of your company
  • How many locations you have
  • Pricing
  • Turnaround time

There are many ways you can positively position yourself as superior to your competition, IF you know them well enough to do so.

Find out what your competition is doing right

checklistThe reality of any business is that everyone has a competitor that is “doing it right” in some way or another. That might be through their marketing efforts, how they position their products, or the kind of people they hire. Find out what they’re doing right, study what they’re doing, and incorporate those good ideas into your own marketing efforts. Competitive intelligence is gold if you use it correctly! One exercise is to look at your top three competitors’ websites. Anything about those websites resonate with you?  Are they promoting upcoming speaking events?  Do they showcase the talent of their employees? Have a newsletter sign up list?  Maybe you just like the functionality of the site overall; it’s clean, easy to use, and informative. Now take that great information you just gleaned  from knowing your competition and apply it to your own efforts.

Find out what the competition is doing wrong

Everyone has a weak spot, something about their company, service, product, etc. that could be better. Guess what?  Knowing your competition and their weaknesses are can be valuable in your marketing message. That’s not to say you want to initiate a smear campaign against your competition, but if you know your competitor is weak somewhere, why not leverage that in your marketing?  That weakness, by the way, could BE their marketing. For example, what if you’re a technical consultant and you notice none of your competitors are on LinkedIn, joining groups, answering questions, and overall networking?  That’s a wide open opportunity for you to take advantage of that, get in front of prospective customers, and position yourself and your company as the subject matter experts in the field.

Learn how to better position your own perceived weakness

As stated above, everyone has a weak spot, your company included. However, if you know how your weakness stacks up against your competitors, you’re going to know how to address it in your marketing and sales.  This holds true both for weakness you can overcome, as well as ones you can’t. For example, what if your “weakness” was your turnaround time for service?  You may have assumed your lead time was perfectly acceptable, only to find your competitors are delivering faster. Now that you know this “weakness” you can address it. A weakness you may not be able to overcome, such as not having multiple locations as an example, can be leveraged in a positive fashion if you are aware that it’s a perceived weakness. Instead of being “limited” to one location, your marketing can tout that you “specialize in a local market”. It’s all about positioning and messaging in your marketing.

Knowing your competition is important in marketing. Take the time to do your homework and know how you stack up, and you’ll greatly benefit in the long run.

Patty Hughes
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