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Learn, Don’t Steal, From Your Competitors

By Jessica Brown

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It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you would be naive as a business owner if you didn’t take note of your competition. You have to fight to stay in your customers’ minds, and that means knowing what you have to do to stay at the top. But when it comes to competitor research, there are some things you should and should not do.

DON’T steal their original ideas.

You shouldn’t go into competitor research thinking that you should be stealing the other guys’ ideas. You want your business to stand out on its own and beat out the competitors in an honest way. That being said, feel free to look to other businesses for inspiration. If your competitor ran a successful Facebook contest, you may want to consider running one of your own. But don’t give away the same prize and conduct it in the same way.

Do consider this research an ongoing process.

Competitor research doesn’t mean that you do your homework once and then forget about it. Your competitors are always looking for new ways to get customers, just like you are, so it is important to check back in on their latest tactics so that you can know if you need to step up your game!

Do try to stay organized.

Competitor research can get quite confusing if you provide a common product or service. It can help you to create a spreadsheet of your competitors, their website and social URLs, their mission statements and unique selling propositions, as well as anything else of importance to you. That way, you can compare them side-by-side and easily access their websites when you do continuing research.

Do pay attention to their keywords.

Keywords are very important to any business that wants to see success online. They help your customers find you in search and help you reach customers more easily through ads. Paying attention to the keywords your competitors use can be extremely useful for your content creation, from your website to your social media and blog posts.

There are tools out there for you to do competitor keyword research, one being SpyFu. You can subscribe to their service or try out a limited version for free.

Don’t forget to look at their social side.

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 4.28.51 PMWhen you begin to do competitive research, a nice place to start are social and review sites. Seeing the KIND of post that your competitors are sharing with their customers can serve as a nice case study for you. Are they not responding well to company news but loving blog posts? The opposite? If you have the same customer base, you can make an educated guess at what customers want to see from you.

Review sites also give great, unbiased insight. You can see what your competitors’ customers were happy about and what they would change about the product or service they received and apply it to your own business.

Do use your customers as a resource.

Want to know the businesses your customers would consider shopping at over you? Just ask them! Your customers will be willing to share their feedback on other businesses if they think it will lead to better prices or better service from you (although I am sure that you’re already the best in these categories!) It’s easy to strike up a conversation with a customer about the process they went through to find you, who they chose not to go with, and why.

It’s best to look at your competitors as people who keep you on your toes and help you strive to build the best business you can. But no matter how you look at the relationship with them, it is always helpful to know what they are up to!