I was inspired to write this blog post after meeting two women at the recent Local Women in Business event who are friends and run very similar companies, in close proximity. It reminded me that knowing your competitors, and even working with them, can be incredibly important and often fruitful.
I know some people think competitor research is about ‘spying’ and ‘stealing ideas’, but it really isn’t. It is about research, analysis and then developing your own ideas. Copying someone else never works, as you’ll only ever by second best (at best!) to the original.
Competitor research is a fundamental part of running a small business. You need to know what other businesses similar to yours are doing in order to grow.
The reason I felt competitor research was a key area for me to address is that a lot of it is done through ‘reading others’ writing’. What are competitors saying about themselves? And how do they say it?
Google your competitors
The first port of call for most research is good old Google. If you don’t know your direct competitor’s name, the first thing you will need to do is put into a search engine your profession and location, e.g. Editorial Services in Hampshire.
The results of this search actually tell you a lot of things about your competitors without even visiting their webpage. For example, which company is at the top of the list? What is it about their site that makes them top of the list? Is it a good use of keywords and search engine optimisation (SEO)? Have they paid for the listing? If so, why are they doing that? Do you need to consider doing that?
Now, take a look at the website of a competitor. What does the homepage look like? What do they say about their products and services? How many do they offer? What is their range? How much do they charge or are prices even listed? Is the copy well written? Does the homepage look inviting and professional? Is it easy to navigate?
Then do a little digging! How many pages do they have? Take notice – do they have a Facebook page or other social media profiles? Do they have a blog hosted on the website? Are their location and/or contact details easy to obtain? Do they encourage you to sign up to a newsletter?
If they blog, what are the posts like? How regularly do they post? What are they writing and talking about?
Evaluate and Review
As I said above, gathering all of this information is not about then copying it, it’s about evaluating and reviewing your own stuff in comparison to theirs.
Going back to SEO, there are lots of tools which allow you analyse websites and their use of keywords, in particular. Therefore, take the time to run a few competitor sites through these tools to compare with your own site (see the links below) – especially those competitors’ websites that appear higher up in the search engine results. What keywords are coming up frequently? Are these reflected in your own site?
Finally, try to identify your unique selling points (USP). What do you offer that your competitors don’t? I promise every small business has a USP. What’s so great about a small business is that it is usually so personal to the passionate individual who first set it up that it will have a ‘quirk’ or set of offerings that you just can’t find anywhere else! Remember, the most unique element of your business is YOU! So try a bit of self-reflection and consider what makes you (yes, your actual self!) help your business stand out from the competitors.
I know we are all very busy, but this sort of thing is important once in a while – even when business is booming! Take a look around…you’ll be amazed at what you will find!
Spyfu – https://www.spyfu.com (hate the use of the word ‘spy’!)
Similar Web – https://www.similarweb.com/
Moz – https://moz.com/tools/crawl-test (note: you can only use for free for a trial period)