What’s your competition doing? Business management site AllBusiness.com offers “Twelve Tips for Doing Competitive Analysis.” Here’s a précis featuring eight of those tips:
1. Be a customer. Bring a notepad and pencil to competing establishments and ask a lot of questions.
2. Find out as much as you can about the people who run competing businesses.
3. Buy stock in your competitors. If you're competing against a publicly traded firm, you can receive regular updates on the firm's results and strategies.
4. Talk to your competitors' customers.
5. Use the Internet. Keep tabs on competitors’ websites and use online services such as Dow Jones Interactive or Google Alerts to access information.
6. Attend industry conferences and trade shows.
7. Assess the competition's goals. A competitor trying to increase its market share might lower prices; a firm attempting to increase profits may cut costs. If you know your competitors' goals, you'll be better able to anticipate their strategies.
8. Don't delegate the job of keeping up with competitors. You might appoint someone to work with you on the task, doing research and the like. But as the entrepreneur, you're in the best position to appreciate and act upon information about your competitors.
I would add one more tip: Open a channel (as they say on Star Trek) to your competition. Be on friendly terms with them, make a point of chatting with them at conferences, meetings, etc. There are many ways you can help each other.
I know many entrepeneurs who compete tooth and nail, but also happily share information and refer business to each other when times require it. Business success today requires many allies, and like-minded competitiors rank among the best.
(For the full original story, and all 12 tips, you’ll want to read the original post here.)