When you’re looking to set up a company one of the first things you’ll do is look at potential competitors. Finding those company competitors isn’t always as easy as putting them into google, and even if it was, what do you do next? How do you really find competitors for a company and how do you use the information once you’ve got it? There are multiple ways to get the information that you need and it generally depends on your industry. A restauranter, for example, won’t go about competitor research the same way as someone who’s looking at a competitor’s keyword ranking would.
With that said, here are some top ways you can find competitors for a company, either an existing one, or one you want to set up, and also how you can best utilise that information for your own purposes.
How To Find Company Competitors
Think Like a Customer
The first step is pretty easy. You don’t simply Google the company. No you google the product or service that they’re selling and see what comes up. Finding people who compete with you is hard when you’re trying to remember company or business names, when you’re searching for what they offer, or what you want to offer, they’ll pop up right away. This is because the best out there, the ones you’ll want to be competing with, would have invested in SEO and would have got those all important Keywords ranking. You will eventually want to be competing for those keywords when you get started. The top results are your company competitors. So if they sell, for example, hair dryers, you’d search for hair dryers and the top results are the big businesses in that niche.
So, by simply taking a step back and thinking like a customer, you can find pretty much all the biggest competitors in one fell swoop. Make a little list. Remember, the order you find them on Google won’t necessarily be their order of magnitude in terms of business size and scale.
Also, remember, although most businesses target Google, there are certain outliers who focus on other search engines. If you’re going to be selling products in China then you may need to focus on Baidu. If you didn’t get much from Google for whatever reason, then have a look at these two third party tools which can give you a hand, free of charge (may need to give them your email address).
How To Find Company Competitors With Third Party Tools
Get a Helping Hand
If you’re not happy or comfortable with the businesses you found using the search engines, then there are other ways you can dig into the company competitors out there. Here are two of the more widely used competitor tools out there where you can easily pick up key competition quickly. However, don’t go paying for anything if you haven’t done the simple search engine trick above.
- BVD Suite
Bureau Van Dyke is a business research tool, which comprises mainly of FAME (financial analysis made easy) and ORBIS. Both are from Moody’s analytics. They’re great analysis tools for digging into business financials (we’ll come onto these later), but they also offer a competitor tool. It means that if you can find just one of your competitors, and pop them into the tool, then the tool will spew out another load of business competitors for you to have a look at, along with, usually, detailed financial information.
You can grab a free trial from SEMrush, or you can use a free version which gives you around five free searches a day. The benefit of SEMrush is that you can put your website into its tool and it’ll tell you who your main competitors are.
Haven’t set up yet? Don’t worry, just do the same thing as above and throw whichever competitors you do have into the tool, and it’ll pull out other ones.
Competitor Research: The Ammo You Need
Now you’ve got your list of potential competitors, what do you do? Well, you do two things.
- You avoid any mistakes that they’ve made
- You find opportunity gaps and relentlessly pursue them
You need to work out how the businesses operate. What makes them tick. Let’s take a restaurant for example. If you’re looking to compete with a company that operates in the food sector, then you need to check out how popular it is. Then, you need to answer a tough question. Is it popular because the food is good, or is it popular because of the items they’re selling.
Think about that for a second. If you live in a small town, with one burger joint, then that restaurant will probably be pretty popular, even if the food doesn’t stand out. If there are five burger joints and it’s still bust…then that’ll tell you something. This applies to other businesses too.
So, what do you do? You take a trip to the restaurant. A few in a week. Go when they should be at their busiest. Go in the day, when you’d think they should be quiet, and then go another time too just for control purposes (what you saw the first time might be a fluke). You see what’s super popular on the menu. You talk to those who work there. Are people enjoying themselves. Check out your competitors’ decor, too. All of those little things. What was their last food inspection like?
This is the kind of information you need to act upon. When you launch, you aim to improve in every single area that you identify. And remember, if there are multiple competitors, you do this time over. If you find that one thing that none of your competitors have, then you’ve instantly got your unique selling point which can bust the competition wide open.
One point here: to find this shortcoming you usually need some industry experience, but that’s a given and you probably wouldn’t be setting up a business if you didn’t know much about the industry.
“The only true way you’ll research a competitor is by living the customer experience” – me.
Can You Speak To The Employees?
Get The Inside Track
If you can speak to the employees, they’ll have a tonne of useful information for you. Networking like this can pay back multiples down the line. Not only this, but people usually bounce between jobs. It’s natural. This means they’ll have some more competitor information for you too. See what they say. What they think. If they like you they’ll open up and you can ask them all different kinds of questions. When are they at their busiest? What’s the most popular thing on the menu…you get the idea. This is harder to do if it’s an online business, but if they’ve got live chat make the most of it.
Need To Find Your Competitors Financial Situation
Money Feeds Business
In some situations you might want to go a little deeper and look at your competitors financial state of affairs. This won’t always be needed, however some business owners are good at using a facade. Things may look wonderful in terms of the storefront, but dig a little deeper and money wise, things might not be too good. You don’t want to follow a business model that you think might work, based just on what you see, because it won’t necessarily show how well your competitor is doing. So, what can you check?
Most of these records are private and you won’t be able to see them. However, if they own a company they’ll be legally compelled to file a tax return which you can view. Sometimes the juicer detail is still hidden away but you can see some of the information. If they’re publicly traded, then you can access way more detail. The securities and exchange commission is a great place to get started. As mentioned earlier, FAME/ORBIS is great for this as you can access a lot of this financial data instead of having to trawl through accounts. Another key bit of information can usually be found in investor communications. Businesses want investors to part with their cash, so they usually are pretty upfront about their financial situation in their investor relations communications. If they’re a much smaller business,then finding these details will be a bit harder, however you might be surprised what you can find in filings and the like.
Put Your Research Into Action
Pen To Paper, Plan To Action
You’ve done the hard work. Now it’s time to use it to make your business the best it can possibly be.
You copy what works but always put your own spin on it. You ensure that you’ve got a unique offering delivered in a way which works consistently. You do well what they don’t, all informed by your checking out of their online reviews and feedback.
Your pricing strategy is informed by your competitors. What sells well, and what offers do they use to drum up sales. Again, what works and what doesn’t.
Whether the next step is in the finding of investors, working out the best place to launch a physical business or how to position yourself online and launch in a way which targets the consumers of a saturated market. Knowing the market, your competitors and your competitors’ customers makes a huge difference in this regard.
Making informed decisions regarding your company competitors will allow you to succeed.
Don’t Stop Keeping An Eye On Competitors
If The Plan Works…
Keep at it. Keep tabs on your competitors. Whenever you ask the question why are my competitors doing better than me you know there’s something they’re doing which is pulling custom away. Keep an eye on them. You don’t have to obsess over your competitors, you simply have to be aware of their new endeavors and whether they’re working or not. Are they selling way cheaper than you are? Perhaps they’ve got a supplier you don’t know about who simply costs less. That’s an example of the things you should be concerned with…not every little facet.
Remember, it’s you that makes the business. You, not them. So although keeping an eye on your competitors in the first instance, and even on an ongoing basis, is useful, don’t put too much time towards it…keep it on what matters most. You and your business. The right mix will see you doing better than your competitors time and time again.