Every business has competition. No one is completely alone in a marketplace.
That’s actually a positive thing. Choices are good for customers. And competition with other brands pushes us to be better and prevents complacency. Markets with multiple businesses are good for everyone involved.
However, not every business leader fully understands their competition or the marketplace they serve. We’ve heard plenty of clients say “no one else does what we do.” While this may be true, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a competitor. You may just not have the rival you think.
In the spirit of better understanding who we’re up against, here are a few methods to discovering who (or what) is competing with for your audience’s attention and business.
Do a Google Search
Let’s start in perhaps the most obvious place—an online search. This may sound basic, but it can get you started with some helpful results.
Search for your industry. This could be general like: “banking,” “clothing store,” or “digital marketing.” Google will do some of the work to narrow the search results down based on what they think is relevant.
However, you can help this process by being more specific with your query. Instead, search for something like: “community banks in Chicago,” “boutique clothing stores near me,” or “B2B digital marketing agencies.” These should give you a better idea of your marketplace.
Approach this by another angle by searching for each of your services individually. For example, if you’re a photographer who offers wedding photography, business headshots, and student portraits, search each of those individually. You may have different competitors for each service.
People Also Search For
Once you’ve used Google to generally search for your marketplace and services, there’s another approach to take. This one allows you to use Google’s massive search engine to your advantage.
Google your business’ name. If you have a Google My Business listing (which you should), you’ll likely see a “People also search for” section towards this bottom. These are Google’s suggestions for similar organizations to yours.
Spent some time clicking through these suggestions. Visit their websites. Compare your services to theirs. They may not all be relevant competitors—but that’s not always dependent on your perspective. Ask whether or not your audience would consider them a competitor.
After all, they’re the ones who are deciding on who to do business with.
Use Digital Monitoring Tools
There are plenty of online competitive analysis tools out there. These not only give you a list of competitors but also see how you stack up with them. Here are some tools you can consider trying out (note that most of these are competitors with one another):
Keep in mind that most of these tools can also be used to track your own online performance. The trick is that they can just as easily pull data from your competition. Once you’ve got a list of businesses, run some search queries with their web addresses and compare to your performance.
Ask Your Audience
Now that you’ve done some creeping around the internet to discover what you can about your competitors, it’s time to go straight to the source. No, not those competitors—your audience.
As you have conversations with customers and potential clients, ask them who they’re considering buying from. Make sure this is casual and non-intrusive—it can be off-putting if your audience knows you’re trying too hard to get the scoop on the competition.
How you interact with your audience will also look different depending on your business. For product-based B2C companies, your audience might purchase from multiple stores and do repeat business with you. For B2B service-based businesses, however, there’s a longer purchasing process—giving you more chances to inquire about who else a potential customer is considering.
Approach the conversation by helping to show the customer what’s in it for them. If you approach it objectively, you could genuinely show them how you’re different from your competitors. This also means being willing to point them in another direction if you’re not the right fit for their needs.
Not Every Competitor is a Business
Let’s address those businesses that don’t believe they have competitors. Occasionally, we hear company leaders who say: “No one else does exactly what we do.” That might even be true—but it doesn’t mean you don’t have a competitor.
Perhaps, your competitor just isn’t another business.
For many businesses, a competitor is not purchasing a product or service at all. If you’re a local gym, you’re not necessarily competing with another local gym. You’re competing with a person’s desire to stay home and sit on the couch.
Position yourself in a way that shows value compared to not taking action.
Another common competitor for many service-based businesses is Do It Yourself (DIY). If you’re an electrician, you’re not always competing with the other area electricians. You’re competing with the guy who found a YouTube video explaining how to rewire a circuit breaker and who thinks he can handle this on his own.
Explain to people why it’s worth their time to invest with an expert like you instead of trying to save money by doing it themselves.
Understanding who your competitors are will help you to better position your brand and communicate value to your target audience. Take the time to do market research and own where you exist within that market.