Recently, I was asked to provide insight into a client’s marketing plan during a shareholder meeting.
The room was filled with small business owners – people who, in some cases, are solely responsible for their competitive marketing strategies. After the presentation, I was asked a familiar question, but found myself hesitant to respond because many of them were one another’s competitors.
They asked for marketing insight into the question, “How do I stay ahead of my competition?”
Take ’em out
I have these conversations with clients all the time, but not when their competitors are present! My first response was to address the elephant in the room by acknowledging the competitive environment. Then we discussed ways to monitor, analyze and ultimately reduce the threat.
This seems like such a basic step when developing a marketing plan, but we all get caught up in our own day-to-day activities and don’t always think about what the other guys are doing. Without question, monitoring your competition is one of the most important steps in your business marketing strategy.
Here’s my advice:
Constantly monitor your competitors by going to their websites, talking to their customers, secret shopping them, signing up for their e-newsletters and watching their advertising. Not only do you need to know their weaknesses – you need to know their strengths. It’s human nature to not be honest with ourselves about our “enemies” and what they do well; we like to focus on their vulnerabilities.
The next step is market analysis. If you are objective, you already know your strengths, why your customers choose your company, what your weaknesses are, etc. But you need to look at the market and ask yourself if everyone in your industry is focusing on the same things. Oddly enough, this is a common occurrence.
I advise my clients to be different, to offer something the other guy doesn’t and to differentiate their company from the crowd. Simply put, I ask clients to zero in on what sets them apart from the competition.
Your competitive marketing strategy needs to include a solid combination of offensive and defensive strategies. When it does, you will be able to pounce on them like a rabid kangaroo!
Stephanie Schoenrock is the account services director for KK BOLD. She’s never actually had to deal with a rabid kangaroo before, but she does work in marketing, which can sometimes be sort of the same thing.