Understanding your competitors

May 14, 2012

Why understanding your competitors should be part of your business strategy

We all know the saying “keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer”. How about if we changed it around to say keep your clients close, but your competitors even closer. By understanding your competitors we have the first part of your business strategy!

In a recent blog post, we spoke about long-term business relationships. Mentioned in this post was the idea of maintaining business relationships with your competitors – an idea that may seem strange, but makes perfect sense when considered. Essentially, your competitors hold the answers to what will push your business ahead of the game.

Through analysis and comparison of your business competitors, you will gain knowledge and insight into what will give you a distinct advantage. The key to understanding your competitors lies in the “who, what, when, where and how” of a business strategy.

  • WHO are the key players in your competitor’s business and WHO are they targeting?
  • WHAT are your competitors doing within your industry as well as online?
  • WHEN are they engaging the most clients or obtaining the most profit?
  • WHERE are they engaging these clients or obtaining the most profit?
  • HOW are they engaging their clients and HOW are they perceived by them?


There are several locations, most specifically online, where it is possible to find information, which makes understanding your competitors even easier. Basic Google searches, Google Alerts, LinkedIn, Facebook, HyperAlerts, Twitter, YouTube, social mentions, Geo Location networks (Foursquare, Gowalla), review sites (Yelp, Merchant Circle), Q&A networks, forums and bulletin boards, annual reports and company websites are all points of reference for comparing your competitor’s strategy, products and client relationships with your business’s own.

By understanding your competitors, you can identify their strengths and weakness. You will see what works and what doesn’t, subsequently using this information to arm your business with a strategy that will give you the means to differentiate and stay ahead of the game.

One last bit of advice: keep up with this analysis. Make sure understanding your competitors is part of your operations plan and analysis is carried out every 6 months. Your competitors are most likely analysing your business, so their strategies will be constantly changing as well.