Running a business is a ridiculously complex exercise. While business success seems like it comes from a simple issue of having a product that customers want it isn’t that easy. There are very few if any businesses that do not operate in an environment with competitors. While it should certainly not be the focus of your business there is a time and reason to study your competition. So what exactly should you be looking at when you study the competition?
Well of course they have products and similar ones to you, that’s why they’re your competition but there’s a bit more to it. Do they have additional features that make their products more appealing than yours? Perhaps it’s vice versa and they have fewer features that the market prefer? What segment of the market do their products occupy? Who are they targeting with these products? The idea is to map out the market positioning of the competitor’s products versus your products. You’re doing this for all your relevant competitors so don’t expect it to be a quick exercise.
The next thing you want to understand is the sales and marketing strategies of your competitors. How do they sell? Online, direct, distributors? How do they market? Mass media pay per click ads or intimate influencer campaigns. The channels they use will tell you a whole lot about the business not just their products. When you are looking at this do not just take note of what they are doing that is working. Also, take note of what they are doing that doesn’t seem to be working.
Zimbabwe is a price-sensitive economy in general. This does not speak about the customers but the general economic situation. You would’ve thought of checking your competitor’s pricing. You however need to delve a bit deeper into the pricing to make sense of things. Something may be higher priced but better value for money. Something may be higher priced but have more favourable payment terms or methods. Pricing isn’t an absolute numbers game, it’s about what the numbers mean to the market. Studying the competitor pricing will bring you closer to understanding this.
This would apply more if you are a new entrant in a market. An experienced campaigner would have an idea of what’s going on already. Not to say that anyone can afford to ignore this. Yes, promotions are a part of marketing plans but they do not always exist for the sake of it. Promotions are usually tied to cultural matters such as important days. Understanding the promotion strategy of those within the market will help you understand the general business culture in the market and how businesses relate to customers.
You also need to identify gaps in the market left by your competitors. However, the approach by many people to this is completely wrong. Many people want to focus on the features of their product or business and identify where customers do not offer these. That’s great but customers aren’t about features they are about outcomes. The benefits of the features. So look at the gaps that customers do or at least would identify from their viewpoint rather than yours.
Do not become overly obsessed with your competitors. Remember it is the customer who gives you money, not the competitor. So always look at competitors through the lens of the customer.