Get­ting to know your com­peti­tors

Bray People - - OPINION -

Q . MY IN­DUS­TRY has changed a lot in the last few years and I seem to be fac­ing new and dif­fer­ent types of com­peti­tors, to the ex­tent that I am not sure what competition is out there now. What is the best way to go about re­search­ing com­peti­tors, and what type of in­for­ma­tion should I look for? A . It is a good idea to try to col­lect and an­a­lyse in­for­ma­tion on com­peti­tors on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. It al­lows you to bench­mark your per­for­mance against peers in your in­dus­try, to un­der­stand the al­ter­na­tives that are be­ing of­fered to your cus­tomers, to iden­tify com­peti­tor weak­nesses that you may be able to ex­ploit, to find new cus­tomers or prod­uct/ser­vice ideas, and to fine tune your busi­ness fore­cast­ing. Fol­low­ing is some ad­vice to help you on your way. WHERE TO FIND IN­FOR­MA­TION

In sim­ple terms, there are two types of re­search you can use – pri­mary and sec­ondary. Pri­mary is re­search you carry out your­self. It can in­clude feed­back from your cus­tomers and sup­pli­ers about com­peti­tors gained through di­a­logue with your sales or pur­chas­ing team, or in­for­ma­tion you gather by call­ing your com­peti­tors to re­quest in­for­ma­tion/a brochure/a price list.

Sec­ondary refers to re­search that al­ready ex­ists. It can in­clude direc­tory listings to iden­tify com­peti­tors (cham­bers of com­merce, busi­ness di­rec­to­ries, web listings), com­peti­tors’ sales and mar­ket­ing lit­er­a­ture (in­clud­ing brochures, ads, di­rect mail­shots, press re­leases), com­peti­tors’ web pres­ence (web­sites, blogs, so­cial me­dia up­dates), mar­ket re­search re­ports pub­lished by re­search com­pa­nies, trade ex­hi­bi­tions and com­pany ac­counts, which com­pa­nies must file with the Com­pa­nies Reg­is­tra­tion Of­fice (www.cro.ie).

You could also keep an eye on in­ter­net fo­rums and so­cial me­dia dis­cus­sions (Face­book, Twit­ter, etc.) as these are now key plac­ers where con­sumers share in­for­ma­tion on and with sup­pli­ers. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The type and level of in­for­ma­tion you will need will vary de­pend­ing on your in­dus­try and busi­ness, but there are ba­sic things ev­ery busi­ness would ben­e­fit from know­ing about their com­peti­tors. They in­clude:

- Whothe­yare - In ad­di­tion to ex­ist­ing busi­nesses that of­fer the same type of prod­uct or ser­vice, there are also new en­trants that may emerge in the mar­ket, or busi­nesses that com­pete in­di­rectly by of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent type of prod­uct or ser­vice that could be bought in­stead of yours. For ex­am­ple, a restau­rant and a cin­ema may not be ob­vi­ous com­peti­tors, but they are both com­pet­ing for the same “en­ter­tain­ment spend” or dis­posal in­come. In­ter­net trad­ing means you may also be fac­ing competition from other parts of the coun­try, or from other coun­tries.

- Whatthey of­fer - This in­cludes the prod­uct or ser­vice, but also the ex­pe­ri­ence that they are of­fer­ing the cus­tomer as this can be the main rea­son cus­tomers buy (or would buy) from them.

- How much they charge - It is not ad­vis­able to set your price solely on your com­peti­tors’ (your price must cover your costs and give you the mar­gin you re­quire), but it is good to know what they are charg­ing and to take this into con­sid­er­a­tion.

- Who they sell to, and how - Are there any cus­tomers you share? There may be an op­por­tu­nity for you to win more of the busi­ness. Do they have cus­tomers that you don’t sell to? There may be new busi­ness po­ten­tial. What is their go-to-mar­ket strat­egy – re­tail, on­line, busi­ness distrib­u­tors?

- Their­mar­ket­ing strat­egy - What are the ben­e­fits they are pro­mot­ing and how? Do they ad­ver­tise? Do they have a strong pres­ence in lo­cal ra­dio or press and at net­work­ing events? Do they have a loy­alty scheme?

- Where they source raw ma­te­ri­als/prod­ucts/ser­vices - Do they use the same sup­pli­ers as you and at what com­pa­ra­ble price? Or, do they use dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers that you may con­sider us­ing also?

- Their­fi­nan­cial po­si­tion - Com­pany ac­counts are use­ful for bench­mark­ing your own per­for­mance (al­though be care­ful of mak­ing di­rect com­par­isons as it may not be a like-for-like sit­u­a­tion) and for get­ting an in­di­ca­tion about costs, wages, sales, profit mar­gins, etc.

- Theirstruc­ture­and or­ga­ni­za­tion - You may be able to learn from the way in which com­peti­tors struc­ture their op­er­a­tions, in terms of find­ing more efficient ways of do­ing things, as well as gain­ing an un­der­stand­ing of the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. For ex­am­ple, how do they man­u­fac­ture, dis­trib­ute, de­liver or look af­ter ser­vice/re­turns? How many staff do they have? THE SWOT ANAL­Y­SIS

All of the above should al­low you to get a good idea of your com­peti­tors’ strengths and weak­nesses. The next step is to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties and threats for your own busi­ness.

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