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Getting to Know Your Competition

There are two ways to view competitors. In many cases, people tend to see contenders for market share in their spaces as enemies. While it’s true you will vie with them for the attention of shoppers, you can also learn a great deal from them. In other words, they can also be inspiration, as well as potential partners. Whether you’re selling ebooks, cosmetics, electronics or furniture online, getting to know your competition is an important aspect of doing business.

Here’s how to go about doing so.

Figure Out Who They Are

Make a list of everyone you can think of right off the top of your head. Odds are the most prominent ones will come to mind first. After you’ve exhausted your memory, run a search for the products you sell or services you offer. Take note of the firms that rank high in the results. You want to know what they’re doing to make that happen, so you can do it too. Take screenshots of their ads, home pages and landing pages. Shop their sites, make some purchases so you can get a feel for the nature of the experiences their customers get. If they’re good, learn from them. If they’re bad, figure out how you can be better.

Talk to Them

There could well be opportunities for collaboration. Get in touch with your rivals and let them know who you are. Ask about any professional associations or networking events you might join to get to know the other players in your sphere. While you may be in competition with one another, you are also affected by many of the same industrial issues and regulations. Joining forces in those regards could result in a better business environment for everyone.

Learn from Them

As we mentioned above, if they’re absolutely crushing it, take notes of what they’re doing and build upon it in your model. Never copy them play for play. Instead, observe their strengths and find ways to improve upon them from the customer’s perspective. This will make you more competitive and lead to greater success. Whatever you do though, avoid getting caught up in a price war. Doing so hurts everybody’s profit margin. You will all lose a race to the bottom. Don’t start one.

Hope for the Best—Prepare for the Worst

Your efforts to collaborate will be appreciated by broad-minded entrepreneurs who are secure in their capabilities. You’ll find them open to collaborations and partnerships because they’ll see the benefits right away. However, you will also run into people with a different mindset. These individuals will not be above engaging in dirty tricks in an effort to maintain their positions. This sometimes takes the form of slanderous reviews in social media and on review sites like Yelp. Devise a response plan for such people so you can counter as soon as you become aware of them. Be prepared to go legal if the situation calls for it.

Getting to know your competition offers many benefits. Despite what many people believe, business does not have to be played as a zero sum game. All boats float in a rising tide. Working with your competition can be a good thing if you approach it that way. Of course, at the same time, you should also be looking for ways to make yourself more competitive along the way. The noted Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said it best: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” You might discover that person you thought was an enemy is really a friend.