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DIY Business Review – Getting to grips with your competition

This is the fourth article in the fabulous DIY business review series provided for us by Penelope Herbert. These questions can really help you move your business forward.

A very good thing to remember is this; your competitors are not who you think they are, they are who your target audience (customers and potential customers) think they are. For example, if you are a florist it’s not just other florists who are your competitors. Your competitors include other ‘gift’ alternatives to flowers, such as chocolates, CD’s and theatre tickets.

Also, think about competitors in relation to their size and industry position compared to yours. Large companies can use their dominant positions and greater resources to use certain strategies that small businesses can not afford. There are winning strategies for big companies but there are also losing ones. The good news for small businesses is that your strategies may give you a better return on investment than larger companies can achieve.

1. Who are your fiercest competitors?

Your fiercest competitor isn’t necessarily the biggest. Who is very proactive? Which companies market often and diversely? Which are the most high profile? Who has the largest market share? Do you have more than one ‘fiercest’ competitor?

2. Why do you think that?

What have they done that gives you the impression that they are your fiercest competitors? Are they better resourced that you? Do they have a better marketing plan or greater marketing budget? Do they have more staff? Are they in a better geographic locality? Have they been in business longer?

Have you researched their position? If not, on what do you base your opinion?

3. What do you see as your competitor’s core competencies?

A ‘core product’ is the problem-solving services or core benefits consumers receive. Core competencies represent the specific skills and abilities that enable a business to deliver its products and services to its customers.

Core competencies may include intellectual property, machinery, staff skills, anything that contributes to the customers perceived benefit of the product or service, and those elements that are hard for competitors to copy.

4. What do you see as the core strengths of your key competitors?

A core strength could be like Colonel Sander’s secret herbs and spices in his KFC recipe, the ability of Sony to miniaturise or the impeccable styling of Natuzzi furniture.

5. What do you see as the core weaknesses of your key competitors?

6. What marketing activities are your competitors currently undertaking?

Check out company websites which often post current marketing activities. Marketing activities can be wide-ranging depending on your type and variety of competitors so take note of mail-box drops, direct mail marketing, advertising (print, radio, television), sponsorships, shopping mall promotions, trade shows, special events, public speaking engagements, pull-up banners, posters in shop windows, etc

7. What strategies have you implemented to take business away from a competitor?

If you haven’t ever strategized to take business away from a competitor, you may have inadvertently through special offers, better customer service, word-of-mouth promotion, or for simply introducing a better product or service.

Clearly there are laws against unfair practices, creating barriers to market entry, and acquisitions.

8. How successful were they?

Through working through this week’s questions and the questions of the previous three weeks, you are gathering valuable market intelligence. In addition to the questions posted, you can also gain excellent market intelligence from your customers, suppliers, contactors, resellers, sales staff, and other sources.

You can learn a lot about your competitors from what they say about themselves on their website, in annual reports, media release, speeches and advertising. And from what others say about them in business publications and at trade shows. Also keep an eye on competitor by buying and analysing their products, monitoring their sales and checking new products, patents or marketing messages.

Marketing research, on the other hand, is what links your customers and the public to you through information. It is used to identify marketing opportunities, and problems, to review and refine your marketing mix activities. This is a whole topic for another article on Women Unlimited but small business can find informal and low-cost alternatives to paying for formal and complex market research undertaken by a specialist company.

Next week we will look at copywriting, media releases and marketing collateral.

SPECIAL OFFER: An exciting, new marketing book ‘Underdog Marketing’ by Dr Alex Davidovic and Penelope Herbert, will be released in mid-March 2009. It has been described as –

“Underdog Marketing is the must have book for anyone planning to create their future around their own expertise. It will teach you, through real life experience, how to market yourself, how to plan and how to protect your business for the future.” Penny Power, Founder and Director – Ecademy Limited

“This book is important. It is a definitive work that should be read by everyone, whether in business already or just starting out and is one of the most comprehensive books of its kind I have found.” (Phil Shepherd is based in London and works as a business advisor)

A must for anyone starting out in business or wanting to improve their marketing in an existing business, this book leads you ‘step by step’ through solutions to develop an ongoing marketing strategy that works for you. Barbara Gabogrecan, President of Marketing Communications Executives International (MCEI Melbourne)

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About the Author: Penelope Herbert was born in New Zealand, lives in Australia and has worked in Japan, Malaysia and the USA. She trained as a Film Editor/Director in New Zealand before embarking upon various media, marketing and public relations roles overseas. Her time as Editorial Director for a national fashion and lifestyle magazine gave her a passion for print and the impetus to open a marketing & public relations agency, Hot Pepper, in 2002. For seven years she has been a Contributing Editor to ‘in-business’ magazine specializing in women in business and the issues & challenges of small business owners.

A sought after public speaker and seminar presenter, Penelope has authored two comprehensive workbooks based on her popular workshop series and her work with small business owners & corporate clients. She also recently finished an eight-week television segment based on her co-authored book, Underdog Marketing, to be released in March 2009. The book is a complement to the state-of-the-art, skills development, 12-step mentored marketing platform www.UnderdogMarketingChallenge.com which features video, podcasts, structured courses, interactive features and a members forum. Penelope lives in Adelaide with her partner, Terry Reeves (himself a marketing guru so good for bouncing off) and their gorgeous Hungarian Viszla dog, Shelby.

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