Many business owners and website owners know they have to define their target market(s) if they want to be successful, instead of just “coping and hoping.”
However, after deaing with many business owners and website owners, I discovered that quite a few of them never conducted any kind of competitor intelligence. Or if they did, they only scratched the surface.
But knowing who your main direct competitors are, and also who your indirect competitors are, and how they are going about marketing and conducting their businesses, is KEY information. Especially, in today’s extremely competitive business environment.
Taking a simple example, if you run a brick and mortar business, and you have local competitors, you would want to know (or should) what kind of adverting and marketing they are doing.
Perhaps you would study their local prints ads or broadcast commercials, drive by their locations periodically, and check their websites to see what’s going on there, and search the name of their business on the internet to see what their listing looks like in the search engine results pages (SERPS).
Many business owners assume they only have one or two key competitors. But they are overlooking the fact that they likely have numerous indirect competitors.
Here’s an example:
A fairly large bowling alley operator once told me, “Look I only have one competitor and he’s far away across town… no problem.” (Meanwhile, the reason he was talking to me in the first place was because his business was having a rough time of it.)
I finally got him to see that the bowling alley across town was not the only entertainment facility competing for his potential customers’ discretionary dollars.
In fairly close proximity to his location, which was in quite a nice locale, he had these other indirect competitors:
- 2 movie theaters
- a theme park with rides and lots of things to do
- a beautiful golf course
- a nice miniature golf course
- a dinner theater
- two sports bars with lots of TVs, good food and pool tables, catering to a fairly upscale crowd
- several nice restaurants
- a hotel which served food and drinks with a mix of live music and stand up comics 3 nights a week – a popular place with the locals and tourists
- an ice skating rink
- nice running and jogging venues
- tennis courts
In short, he had lots of competition for his customers’ discretionary income and time!
Once this had truly sunk in, he could see that the reason his income and profits were shrinking slowly but surely, is that there was much more competition in the area for his customers’ dollars than there had been when he first opened up 12 years prior.
I told him one of the first things he needed to do was go around and visit some of these places (he hardly ever went out) and see what they were like, what they were doing, the ambience, what the customer experience was like, etc.
Then make a point of getting his hands on their offline marketing materials, newspaper and magazine ads, etc., and see if any of them had commercials running on the local TV stations.
To his credit, he did a pretty good job of doing that, and had some fun while he was at it. He really wanted to turn things around.
When he had finished, he had a really good idea of what he was up against marketing-wise and entertainment-wise, and he knew he had to make some significant changes to his business model (see earlier blog concerning Business Models).
This was actually a very hard working guy, and once he “got it” he came up with some pretty good plans for turning his business around, and he did. His main problem, was that he’d had this idea sitting there that his only competition was another bowling alley, when actually he was “surrounded” by other competitors.
Now Let’s Look at Internet Marketing…
If your business has a website (if it hasn’t, you are not in the 21st century!), how does it compare to your competitors’ websites? How easy is it to navigate? Is it attractive? First and foremost, does it contain the type and quality of content your prospective customers would want and expect to see?
What keywords are you competing for? Yes keywords are still important, even after Google finished with its Panda and Penguin updates and the new Hummingbird algorithm surfaced. But it’s all in how you use them.
Google has gotten very good at natural language processing; it’s easier than ever for it to understand both search queries and what’s on your pages. So your content can’t just be stuffed with keywords. It must truly be relevant information that is useful for your potential site’s visitors… or why should Google steer people to your website?
What keywords do your competitors rank well for? How many of your competitors’ websites have higher rankings in the search engine results pages than your website does? How come?
What!? You don’t know these things? Isn’t it time you found out?
Written by Bob Nelson
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