We all have competition. Sure, there’s always that unique company that is first to market with a new and incredibly great product or service but for how long do you think they will remain unique in the marketplace? The answer is “not very long.” The truth is that all successful companies have competition and the competition cannot be ignored.

Smart companies do a competitive analysis so that they understand their competitive advantages and points of differentiation as well as their areas of weakness and vulnerability.

There’s no hiding your head in the sand. While there might be “enough” business for everyone and perhaps even some opportunities on which you and your competition can collaborate most companies want to be the market leader.

To do this you need information and it is easy enough to come by if you are willing to do a bit of work. Here are some suggestions:

  1. First and foremost take the time to review your competitor’s website as well as any relevant information that can be obtained through a comprehensive Google search. It’s important to have a good understanding of what they offer and how they are communicating with their market. Look at their social media, attempt to get on their newsletter list and gain clarity on their value proposition and brand.
  1. Do an assessment of “why” your clients work with you and not with the competition and vice versa. If you’re not certain why your clients selected your company consider doing “voice of customer” research to help you identify what criteria was important to them. You can then use this valuable information to help you formulate your new business development initiatives.
  1. If at all possible “shop” the competition so that you can see and hear exactly how they go to market. Listen to their pitch, ask questions and see how they handle objections. The more you know about how they sell to their prospects the easier it will be for you to create your own sales platform. Are you uncomfortable about shopping the competition yourself? If so ask a trusted colleague or friend to be a mystery shopper and gather the information for you.
  1. Make certain to put the names of your competitors into Google Alerts so that you can find out what they are up to. It’s one of the simplest and most effective things that you can do to stay knowledgeable about what your competition is doing.
  1. Do you need to make a new hire? If so you might wish to consider hiring from the industry. Many companies like to hire individuals that have worked for the competition not only because they know the business but also because of the “inside scoop” that they can provide. Be aware that this same situation can happen to you so it’s always a good strategy to keep confidential information inaccessible to employees as they may someday wind up working for one of your competitors.

Remember that it makes good sense to be on a friendly basis with your competition. After all, ignoring them won’t make them go away and it is much better business to be able to “swim in the same pool” and be cooperative rather than adversarial.