Earlier this week, Upwork published my article on competitor intelligence. In the article, I highlighted 6 ways that doing competitor research could improve your marketing strategy. I find that many new business owners don’t know the relevance of competitor research in their business and marketing strategy. They skip it all together in some cases, or they do the research but fail to apply the insight for competitive advantage. Before you go on, you might want to read my Upwork article published on 03 October 2017: 6 ways that competitor intelligence improves your marketing strategy.
In this blog post, I will discuss 4 ways that competitor research improves your business strategy.
Hiring the right people is important for your business growth. To give you an idea of the top skills in your industry, use platforms like LinkedIn to track the skills that your competitors are bringing into their business. Are they hiring customer service executives or app developers? How many years experience are they looking for? This gives you a good understanding of what you need to grow, especially if you need to prioritise skills by hiring for crucial roles first.
As a business matures, you will find that more partnerships and collaborations take place. Follow your competitors’ news stories by subscribing to their newsletters. Also, set up Google Alerts so that you get news about the company and also about your industry in general. Partnerships often trigger significant PR effort so it is likely to make big news. Several partnerships in your industry could signify consolidation (as in mature markets) or collaboration for innovation. Ensure that you build this into your business strategy, and continue to review based on your business environment.
An industry with multiple third-party suppliers might regularly review cost structures. Your competitors might start to bring certain services in-house, for instance. Or they could look at acquiring specific suppliers. Your competitor research in this area doesn’t imply that you will copy what the market is doing. In fact, you might discover that you could have an advantage by doing the opposite. For example, outsourcing certain services could reduce your fixed costs or improve your profitability. Conversely, acquiring a supplier that provides a critical material for your business might mean that you gain intellectual property and become more valuable as you retain exclusivity.
It’s possible that you start your business thinking you will offer one thing. But by the end of six months, you find that you either change what you offer or you find opportunities to offer other products and services. A brief review of your competitors’ revenue streams, particularly those that have been in your market longer than you, could give you a view of potential revenue streams. These streams might not be open to you straight away, but some could contribute to your growth strategy. For example, you could start out consulting and then find that there are opportunities to offer standardised training. You could also start out providing Software as a service and discover that the data that you gather from your users is highly valuable, and could be offered to a different market segment.
You shouldn’t spend months researching your competitors. But you should definitely do some research. What’s even more important is that you do this research regularly. That could be quarterly or annually. Ensure that your business strategy evolves with your findings and with the changes in your business environment. These changes are guaranteed to come – be prepared.