12 Smart Ways to Keep Ahead of Your Competition

Having eyes and an ear on the competition is just as important as listening to your customers. Here are some tips on how to stay ahead of the curve and help attract more business your way.

As a small business owner, you’re probably very aware of your competition, and if you’re not, you should be. As Bill Corbett, Jr., president at Corbett Public Relations, said, “One of the keys to success is market share. If you are not growing market share, you are not growing.” In order to grow, Corbett advised to use a set of tactics to stay ahead of your competition “to know what they are doing and what they are planning to do.

  1. Ask questions of parties who know your competitors — they could be customers, users of a product, or visitors to a venue or restaurant. Ask them about their processes, services, and product quality. Keep notes and information.

  2. Monitor the media. Companies that are growing are hiring people and this is often reported in the media.

  3. Check out competitors’ news pages. Are they issuing press releases about new products, services, or people?

  4. Consume their content. Get to understand their business mission, philosophy, goals, and people through the content your competition creates — whether blogs or video.

  5. Check social media. If you are not looking at the social media feeds of your competitors, they will beat you. Watch what their leaders are doing, what their public pages say, and what they post. Do they talk about their culture, people, new products, new services and strategies?

  6. Often you will be surprised about what is posted on social media feeds for all to see. Social media will also show you where they are marketing and if they are attending trade shows or other events. Don’t forget to look at LinkedIn—a great tool to see what people are up to and what their job descriptions are.

  7. Automate the process using Google alerts that focus on the company names, product names, and key leadership. These up-to-date searches will be conveniently sent directly to you, saving you time.

  8. Search the Web on different search engines—not only Google and social media sites. Use key words, along with company names, to get information. Keep an eye out for complaints, bankruptcy, or new products.

  9. Investigate staff reviews and comments on sites like Glass Door. You can learn a lot from former clients, customers, and employees.

  10. Monitor customer reviews. Bad reviews or good reviews, if a competitor is getting a lot of reviews, they provide a lens into your competition’s business.

  11. Take note of awards and recognitions. If a competitor is getting honored, it may be for the proper purposes. However, in other situations, awards are acquired (sometimes pay for play) to mask something negative that has happened.

  12. Keep your competitors close but not too close. Join organizations where competitors are present and talk, interact, and sit on committees with them.

However, remember that they may be at these meetings to learn about what you are doing as much as you are there to find out what they are doing.