03 Feb Phillip Kotler says look at your competition
A lot of businesses fail for many different reasons. Whether it’s a lack of market research, bad timing, bad business management practices, or simply some Act of God, businesses just fail sometimes.
In the online space, MANY businesses have failed because of the ‘Fields of Dreams’ syndrome. You know the line, “If you build it, he will come?” Too many folks think that applies to the internet. Just stand up a website and people will magically appear and buy your product, right? WRONG. There are a plethora of activities surrounding a great website that you can’t overlook, and the best place to start is your competition.
Learning from your competitors isn’t a new thing. The quote above by renowned Marketer Phillip Kotler is actually pretty old, and when he made that remark it was in reference to brick and mortar businesses. But the same rules apply to an online-only business, or an extension of your bricks and mortar brand on the internet. If you’re the new kid on the block, you can learn a lot from folks who have been around the block a few times. Here is a basic way of doing this.
Step 1: Identify your Competition
So, you need to find out who your competitors are. Hopefully you have an idea already, but cast your net a little wider. Ask friends and colleagues, look in the Yellow Pages, and then do what most people do – Google It. In case you encounter someone who hasn’t heard of this tool, here’s a little link that might help you explain it: http://lmgtfy.com/
Step 2: Analyze their Strengths and Weaknesses
Once you’ve come up with a list of your competitors, either evaluate their site and their lead generation activities, or have a professional do it. Create a list of criteria by which you will evaluate them, like product variety, ease of navigation, clear calls to action, findability, etc. Then score them against those criteria. This “score card” will be an invaluable tool in Step 4.
Step 3: Look at Opportunities and Threats
This one is pretty easy. By doing Step 2, you’ll be able to figure out what’s going wrong or what is going terrifically well on your competitors’ websites. Make a list of these items for Step 4 so that you can decide what to examine.
Step 4: Determine your position
Now, decide what you are going to do. Take that score card from Step 2 and apply it to your business. You don’t HAVE to improve on all of the faults that you’ve found on your competitors’ websites, but if there’s a crucial part of your user’s journey that can be improved upon, it seems a little silly not to implement the change.
Then in 6 months time, do these 4 steps again. There will always be a new kid on the block to take into account…
Some folks look at this part of the Strategy phase of a project as optional, but I believe it’s absolutely critical. You don’t have to do a deep dive into every competitor, but at least understanding what everyone else is doing will help you make your own decisions as a business owner or user experience designer.