When you’re running a business there’s almost nothing more important than keeping abreast of what your competitors are doing. They have a huge influence on the outcome of your plans and the behaviour of your customers, so if you’re going to make anything like accurate predictions you need insight into your competitors.

Today we’re taking a look at some of the things you really need to know about your competitors if you’re going to factor them into your plans successfully.

Who They Are

The first questions to answer are perhaps the simplest: who are your competitors? What are the names of the businesses, who runs them, where are and what is their unique value proposition.

These are all vital questions because they help you identify some specifics about your competitor businesses – if they’re smaller, independent outfits or if they’re part of a larger group with much greater resources to call on.

Especially important is their unique value proposition – what it is that they specifically offer to customers. Even in a crowded marketplace, many businesses can co-exist if they have distinct value propositions that appeal to different segments of the market. If you know what your competitors are offering, you can tune your own business to either offer it better or tap into a different market segment.

This phase of research also tells you if your competition is mostly local or online. To an extent this is dictated by the nature of your business – hairdressers have little to fear from digital competition and need to focus on other hairdressers in their catchment area. Retail businesses, on the other hand, are subject to global competition even if there’s no one else selling products like yours for a hundred miles around.

What Are They Planning?

Having identified your most important competitors, you then need to try and understand what they’re planning. This sounds sinister and underhand, but really it’s just an attempt to plot out how they might structure their year, similar to how you’ve already planned yours: when might they launch that big sale, when is their new product due, are they planning to open new branches in the summer? 

Think about how big movie distribution companies jockey for position so they can release their big movies during key blockbuster seasons, but make sure they each have a distinct launch window. This is the same way you can handle coexistence and competition with rival businesses – if you can work out when their next sale is likely to drop you can schedule yours for earlier or later – still in the same peak season when people are looking to spend money in your niche, but with space to breathe and not force conflicted customers to choose between two brands.