When starting a business, one of the first things that you need to do is research your competition. You need to know who else is in the line of business that you are about to enter. This is an important step because it shows you what you need to do to succeed. It gives you an idea of what you are up against when selling a certain product or providing a certain service. This will tell you how you need to do things differently so that you can stand out.

In this day and age of super tough competition, you need to make a mark to attract customers who will buy from you and not one of the other hundreds or thousands of businesses. Below are a few tips on what you can do to research your competition so you can find out what they are up to. This way, you can develop and implement strategies for your business that help you get a leg up over even the oldest and strongest names out there.

Start on the Internet

You can begin to research your competition by getting online and doing a few Google searches. If you are getting into eCommerce, this is the ideal place to start. You will be able to see every ranking result for online businesses. Even if you are not selling exclusively online, Google can still give you a good idea of who is out there. Most businesses have a website these days, even if it’s just a landing page with basic information.

When you begin a search, type in the product or service that your startup is planning to offer. Try a few different phrases using that keyword if nothing relevant comes up. For instance, you could try adding words like buy, hire, or online to expand your search.

As you browse through the results pages, make a mental note of the different results that pop up for each search.

Zero in on Your Niche

From the search engine results pages, pick out the companies that closely match your niche. Open each of them in a new tab on your browser so you can easily go through their information when you are done looking. Go as far down the list of results as you need to get at least 20 different companies so you can more accurately research your competition.

Pick Out the Competition

From these open tabs, get an overview of what each company offers and compare them to your business. Take note of how you are different from each of these companies. From there, make a list of 10 up to 20 competitors in your niche. Read about each company in more detail. Go through their websites to read their founding stories and gather other information about them.

Also make a list of the closest-matching businesses and make bulleted notes on the key points you picked up. Then rank them based on how they relate to your offerings and any practices they have that you think could work well for you. You will use this later on.

Next, look up customer reviews about them on Google and other sites where consumers are active. It is best to look into what review sites most closely match your business. Here are some popular sites to find reviews on: Facebook, Amazon Customer Reviews, Angie’s List, ConsumerReports, Yelp, Consumr, Foursquare and Glassdoor.

Formulate Your Value Proposition

From the research that you have collected, you can now sit down and brainstorm your value proposition. This is a very important step in starting a business because it forms the basis of what you are offering to your target customers.

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Look at the notes that you made about the aspects of your business that are different from your competitors. Use these to help you focus on what is unique about you and the brand that you will build. From here, you can create a unique value proposition. As you write, keep your target market in mind. Try to clearly communicate and emphasize how you are unique and how you will provide value to them.

Learn from the Best

Go to the list you made of the things that similar businesses are doing. Think about how you can adopt and adapt their strategies to work for you. You don’t want to copy them exactly, but you can get a lot of great ideas from their marketing techniques that are visibly working. From the basic concepts, plug in your target customers and see what you come up with. This can help you to create similarly successful campaigns to boost your business.

Check Back

You are going to get very busy as you plan and launch your startup, and continue to be busy as you grow. Make sure that you always have some time set aside each month to research your competition again. Stay updated on what they are doing, and add in a few new names that emerge. Use what you learn from them to inspire you to grow and change for the better. Your competitors are a great source of ideas for features that you can adopt and modify to make them work equally well, if not better, for your business.

 

As tempting as it may be to pass over this laborious task, you must not fail research your competition. The information that you will collect is going to be a vital component in the growth potential of your business throughout its lifespan. Always research your competition most thoroughly as you begin and check back often to stay abreast of any developments.