While competitors pose a threat to small business owners, they also offer the opportunity to grow and improve. Studying and tracking competitor websites helps small businesses learn their strengths and weaknesses. And they’ll learn more about their own unique business strengths, which they can use to develop powerful marketing messages. Simply copying your competition doesn’t pay and can harm your growth potential. Use your unique strengths to establish your brand and attract your target audience. Your unique strengths are your specialty!
The key is to do your homework. Learn about the market, your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your competitors by studying websites and by using competitor research tools.
Study the Market
Before you study the competition, make sure you understand who your target audience is. Understand what factors are important to them in making a purchase decision. To find out what they look for, study published marketing surveys, testimonials, ratings websites and competitor websites, and learn which products are top sellers in your market.
Study the Competition
This includes direct competition and businesses offering substitute products. Sometimes identifying the competition is not obvious. To explore all possible competitors:
- Google search for companies with your products and services.
- Google search your own business and see what comes up.
- Learn about substitute products and services and the businesses who offer them.
- Learn about new technologies that may offer replacement products, and their strengths and weaknesses.
- Search for both physical stores and on-line stores; locally, nationally and internationally.
When you have a list of competitors, study their websites. Do they have what customers value, such as clear messaging, concise product descriptions, easy and secure checkout, free or reduced shipping, fast shipping, clear return policy and excellent customer service? Particularly important is customer feedback such as ratings and testimonials. What are customers saying about the competition on social media? Try placing an order from the competition to assess their ordering and delivery process.
Study the competition’s social media presence. Do they post messages with customer benefits in mind? Are their messages educational, entertaining or are they lists of products and services? Do they include a value proposition?
Compare the Competition to Your Business
Study your own website and social media presence with the same critical eye. Does your website clearly communicate your specialty? Your strengths? And do you include social proof of satisfied customers?
When you compare your website to the competition, you will likely see areas where you can improve your messaging to help you stand out from others. It may help you identify niche markets in which to focus fresh marketing campaigns.
Competitor Research Tools
Competitor research tools are available that can give you valuable data about your competition. You can find out about who your competitors are, SEO results, advertising and social media presence, and learn about industry trends such as new technologies in your industry, changes in customer purchasing behavior and new on-line tools. 99signals posted a list of tools to consider using for your competitors, and your website designer can help you choose the competitor research tool that’s right for your business. They will improve your website to highlight your strengths and include features your customers want.
Your small business competes with others in a widening market. Customers can access any business anywhere that has a compelling on-line presence. Taking the time to understand and communicate your unique specialty will help you stand out from the competition, even as you stay aware of their influence. Contact us to learn how we help small businesses design and maintain their websites.
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