One of the biggest threats to a growing business is complacency among the owners, executives and staff.
When things are going well, it’s too easy to become comfortable. Money is flowing. You’re on top of the world. What could go wrong?
This is the mentality that can hurt a business – even if that business is an industry leader. Regardless of what success they’ve had so far, entrepreneurs have to keep working hard to maintain it. A critical part of that is keeping a close eye on your competitors to out-strategize them and stay several steps ahead.
Know your opponent
In political campaigns, candidates are focused intently on opposition research. They study their opponents aggressively. And they use that information to fine-tune their message to voters and differentiate themselves from the other campaign. That’s how politicians win – and the same strategy is true in business. You must be constantly evaluating your competitors to make sure you’re doing everything better. More importantly: your customers must believe you’re better, too.
Think beyond your outdated business plan
If your business was founded with a thorough business plan (and hopefully it was), then you’ve already done your competitor research. But how long ago was that research conducted? Two, three, five years ago? Chances are the playing field has changed dramatically since then. If your competitor research is more than a week old, then it’s probably outdated.
Integrate competitor research into everything you do
Some businesses form teams that are tasked with devoting a portion of their work week to evaluating competitor messaging and news. That’s fine, but you can do this even more efficiently.
Train your staff on how to make competitor evaluation in-grained in the work they’re already doing. Encourage them to be occasional customers of your competitors. Follow those businesses on social media. Subscribe to their emails. Open their browsers to their homepages. And when your employees see something significant, they should say something. Encourage them to feel comfortable reporting anything competitors are doing that is unique or better than your company. This information can be invaluable.
Follow industry news and trends
As an owner or executive, you should be leveraging your personal/professional network for “inside” information about competitors. This isn’t the time to stop attending networking opportunities. Talk to industry insiders. Follow analysts on social media and subscribe to industry news. When competitors are planning new products or making significant changes that could affect your business, then you should know about it before it happens.
Invest in market research
If your budget allows for it, invest in professional market research services or custom whitepapers to ensure you’re constantly looking at the latest data. Rely on credible projections. Know where the industry is moving.
The sooner you can react to potential competitor advantages, the better prepared you’ll be. You must evaluate this information constantly if you want to be a leader in your industry.