Watch and Learn from Your Competition

 There are different viewpoints about how and if you should pay attention to the competitive market place.

I was watching an interview with Frank Rich, famous columnist for the New York Times and author of “The Greatest Story Ever Sold, when he dscribed how competition has changed in the news industry. He shared that not that long ago, a columnist might show up to the office, and sit and reflect “gee I wonder what so and so is going to write over at the Post today?” or “hmmm, I wonder what his take is going to be in his News column this week?”

In other words, it wasn’t that long ago when we all knew who our competition was – we often even knewthem by name.

But in a day and age of interconnectivity, it’s easy for tens of thousands of firms to offer similar products or services.

So what should a small business do?

Still consider what your competitors are doing, but always remember that there are going to be competitors you won’t know about. Also, consider:

Piggy back on someone else’s work. If you’re considering creating a content-based product (i.e. information product), test your idea out first by offering similar products through affiliate links. There is no sense in creating something your readers have no interest in buying. Knowing exactly what your audience will buy is priceless marketing information. If you can make it better, you’ll learn that from your customers. If the product is already great and is filling the market niche, then you know not to waste your time with a new product and focus on other things.

Subscribe to your competitors newsletters. See what they do. See how they write, what they talk about, or wht they’re offering.  You can learn a lot about a firm through their marketing tactics.

Introduce yourself. Reach out and introduce yourself to your possible competitors. Sometimes even ‘competitos’ can find ways to cooperate to broaden a market. So for example, if you are a researcher, maybe you can team with another researcher who does qualitative researcher versus the quantitative you do.

Understand there’s always a need for options. There’s more than one diet book out there… right? So invariably, there is always going to need to be more than one provider for certain topics. Just because there’s a mechanic in town doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for another. Maybe that mechanic doesn’t do foreign cars? Or maybe they have an abrasive “car-side manner” that rubs some people the wrong way? or what if he just gets so busy and the customer doesn’t want to wait the two weeks before he can work them into his shop?

So never forget: today’s rejection might end up being a customer after all- just keep that door open. And by understanding who your competitors are, what they offer and why you or your services are different is a great first step in developing that understanding.


See what your competitors (a.k.a other people reaching the same target market) are doing. What types of content to do they give their readers and what do their readers respond to? Again, your audience may be unique from theirs, but look for competitors who share a similar style and focus to you and you’ll get some great ideas from there.


Category: Competition, Market Research

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