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Posted: September 09, 2011

Eight tricks to beat your competition

First of all -- what are they up to?

Marty Koenig

A business owner can spend a lot of money and time with consultants trying to figure out what the competition is up to. Last week, I sat down with a business owner, and one of the first questions I asked was, "What do your competitors do to win against you?" The response? A blank stare.

That's a fairly typical. Go ahead and take 15 seconds and answer it for your company right now. Out loud.

How did you do? If your answer is the sales or marketing department knows all about that, you're doing yourself a disservice. If it's clear that your answer is sort of made up, or that you're waffling, that's not good. When I hear answers like that, I can tell you haven't thought about this recently enough.

That's okay. Here's is a little help to improve your competitive genius. When you do, it will create more cash for you. If you want to win more, know more about your competitors. As a business owner, I'm sure you keep hearing "Work on your business, not in it." If you take action and spend 20 minutes a day for the next week, you'll have a great result. This is the kind of high value work a CEO/business owner should be doing more of. Here we go:

1. Make a list of your major and minor competitors. I use a spreadsheet so I can add info as needed. In fact, it works great to put it up on Google Docs so others on your team can do some of the work. Paste in their website address, Facebook page, and any other sites where they appear to be active.

2. What do they say they're selling? What comes to mind when you first see their site/FB Company Page? What's their slogan say they do? After you get past the stuff you don't know what it really means, move your eye down and see how clearly they say what they're selling. You'll notice that many of your competitors are not clear about what they do. If you're an eCommerce company, most of them say they're just selling products. Not an experience. Not a community. If you're an IT company, you'll see that most are selling . If you're a consultant, you'll see that most are selling WHAT they do, which is the same stuff the next guy/gal is selling. If you focus on WHY they should buy, you'll be better off.
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3. If the website / FB page have pricing, how do their prices compare to yours? If yours are higher, do you justify that?

4. What do you see as their strengths. Do they appear available, or is their contact list hidden three clicks away? Do their product/service features show their audience the end game, meaning not just the features, but the benefits and how their customers will feel when they buy their product? Does yours? Are they masters at social media?

5. What do you see as their weaknesses? If it's not clear what they say they are selling, then make sure your message does. Note that on your list as a competitor weakness. Do they look like, and say the same things as everyone else? Does their website look like it's from 1995? Do their words seem friendly, or is it just brochureware blather talking about how great they are. If your company looks just like them, it's time for you to make a change.

6. What are your company differentiators against each competitor. Write down your "secret sauce", the things they don't do, but you do. Put these down in the "Your Company Differentiators" column on your list. Do this for a couple dozen competitors. You'll start seeing a pattern in this column. Those are the things you've got to teach your sales people and everyone in your company to focus upon.

7. Spend a little time once a week checking search results on social media. You'll see what your competition is focusing on these days, or at least the ones they want the public to see. If you use a tool like TweetDeck, set up search columns so you can easily see what they're saying and what others are saying.

8. Call them up as a prospective customer. How do they treat you? Do they care about you, or just selling the next widget or service? If it doesn't cost too much, order from them. See how the whole experience is. As a business owner, have you ever ordered from your own company?

There are many more ways to analyze your competition. I would appreciate your comments below on what has or has not worked for you.
When you go through this exercise you can answer this question without hesitation: "What are your competitors up to, and how are they winning against you?" You and your entire company will win more business.

It's hard for most business owners to find the time to do this work. You may ask if doing a competitive matrix can be delegated. That depends. If you and everyone in your company knows your Strategic Excellence Position statements (or Unique Selling Propositions) then yes. If it's been more than six months since you've reviewed and renewed your SEP's, then, no, you won't be able to see how you are different than your competition.

This competitive matrix is just one part of a larger exercise, the strategic planning process. It is proven that a business owner/CEO won't be successful if they are the one leading the workshops. The most successful outcomes happen when outside help guides you and your leadership team through it.

Market dynamics change fast these days, and you need to stay on top of your competitors. When I work with business owners/CEOs on this, it helps crystallize why their company is better. They win more and have more fun. You can count on your competitors to watch what you're doing. Are you going to let them win?
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Marty Koenig helps business owners who are struggling with their company's growth, so they can build the company of their dreams...one that makes them a lot of money and gives them more time with their family and friends. See his recent books at http://www.buchananpublishing or visit http://www.cxotogo.com. Read his professional blog at http://www.martykoenig.com. His private email is mkoenig@cxotogo.com. Call 888.745.8516. 

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