How to Build a Brand Tip #5: Understanding the Competition

How well do you understand your competition? In the first instance you’ll need to identify who your competitors really are, which most assuredly is not simply “everyone else.” Depending on the nature of your business, competitors may be defined by geography or the relatedness of the goods or services being offered. Market research is essential because identifying your competitors is important before you finalize your decision about which business categories and market segments to compete in.

Once you determine who your competitors are, you need to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis. Obvious strengths include name recognition, good distribution channels and cash flow. Weaknesses include the opposite of the foregoing and may also include alignment issues such as lack of uniformity in engaging customers through social media. Opportunities may involve uncharted pathways to expansion into other markets, strategic alliances that are ripe for the picking or favorable governmental programs or incubators for businesses. Threats may include product displacement, quality control issues or a trending away from a particular product or service concept. Gathering this intelligence needn’t bust your budget; use Google as a research tool. For example, through internet research you can potentially determine such data points as a competitor’s market share, annual revenue, desired targets, rate of growth or decline, press mentions and so on. For a fee, you can utilize the services of researchers to determine ad spend for your competitors. Above all, revisit the competitive environment and your SWOT results frequently to stay abreast of trends and changes in your market that require adjustments to your business and marketing plans.

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