We know what you’re thinking after reading our article title. “Steal from competitors?” you ask. “Isn’t that illegal, immoral and unethical?”
Let’s back up. We’re not suggesting you hack into their computer systems or swipe a secret recipe. The truth is, your competitors can teach you a lot about what to do and what not to do when running your company. In fact, some of the best ideas about how to operate, manage and market your business are likely to come from your rivals. (After all, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?)
With that in mind, here are 5 ways to “steal” from and keep an eye on your competitors:
- Spy on their online reviews
Check out both good and bad reviews for your competitors on Google, Yelp and their Facebook page, and see what customers rave or complain about. Is your competitor faster, cheaper or better than you are? If they’re consistently being praised for something that you’re not, it’s probably an area your business needs to work on. On the other hand, if they’re regularly getting complaints about delivery times, customer service, high prices, etc., then use that to your advantage. Search for problems competitors have overlooked, places where they’re missing the mark or are underserving – you could find all kinds of opportunities.
- Look at their content marketing
Blogs are great places to post helpful, informational content for your target market. To get ideas for useful posts, check out your competitors’ websites and see what they’ve been writing. You can also hunt for useful downloads or see what their fans on Facebook have been asking about. Don’t have time to follow everything competitors are doing? No problem – Google can help. With Google Alerts, you can get notified when competitors add a post or when particular topics appear online. (And don’t forget to set up an alert for your company, too, to see if and when somebody’s talking about you.)
- Get feedback from customers
Got a new customer? Great! Ask them to take a quick online survey about why they chose you and find out if they’ve made a permanent switch or they regularly buy from a competitor and why. If you sell a service, then you might be able to ask them this question direct. Do the same when you lose a customer, if possible, to identify why they’re leaving you, what you could have done better and what they prefer about your competitor. Gather feedback from customers whenever you can and adjust your own offerings accordingly.
- Review their FAQs
If your competitors have FAQ or Questions and Answers pages on their websites, social media platforms or other digital materials, read through them. Chances are, your target customers have the same questions and problems. If you don’t have the same answers on your marketing materials, add them in. Of course, you’ll need to write things in your own words, but basic concepts and questions will probably be the same.
- Compare financial data
One of the very best ways to steal from competitors is to find out how they’re doing financially. With financial data, you can identify your business’ own strengths and weaknesses and explore ways to improve. By evaluating things like their gross profit and average net profit margins, you’ll see just how your business stacks up, as well as where you may need to create efficiencies and change technology, processes or systems.
- Spy on their online reviews
You can start by researching this type of information through industry associations, business libraries and online web resources (search for a term like “industry ratios”). However, to gain real insight, you’ll want to seek out benchmarking data. At Accru Harris Orchard, we have the ability to use the financial data of hundreds of businesses, supplemented by a paid-for subscription service, to show clients just how their business compares and then make recommendations. Find out more about our free benchmarking service by clicking on the link below.