You own a small business and don’t have a lot of money for market research firms or consultants. What can you do to better understand your competition?

Here are a few ideas:

• Visit your direct competitor’s stores and talk to the sales staff; it is amazing what people will say.
• Websites can be a treasure trove of information, so dig deep; register on their websites.
• Talk with your customers who are doing business with the competition or used to do business with the competition.
• Suppliers often have keen insight on the health and strategy of your competition; take your suppliers to lunch but beware what you reveal since the door swings both ways.
• You can gather secondary data on the competition from trade associations, and publications. These member fees can give great access to low cost industry data.
• Have lunch with former employees of the competition—they often sing like canaries.
• Put a team member in charge of gathering this data; I bet you and your team have a great deal of info which has never been collected in one spot.
• Watch for press releases, radio commercials, and TV spots.
• Save print advertising and promotions used by the competition.
• If feasible, buy your competitors’ products or services.

When this is complete, analyze your competitor’s products regularly for improvements, weaknesses, and quality trends. Make a short list of anticipated competitor strategies and tactics for the current year. Map out your retaliatory strategies and tactics, including situations to which you will not respond.

He or she who is most prepared wins.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

P.S. Create a market research budget for next year; it will be money well spent.

About the author
  1. You can also join SCIP, the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals. We publish a CI magazine that contains many suggestions on how to improve your competitor tracking, and we have several books on different aspects of competitive intelligence.

  2. Bonnie,

    Great suggestion. SCIP offers a low cost alternative to learning more about competitive analysis techniques and market research.

    Any other advice for the readers?



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