Monday, February 28, 2011

Sussing out your competitors

Another major part of writing your business plan is researching your competitors. One of the sources I used the most was, of course, the internet. Now there are other places to look, such as business directories etc, but my way of thinking is how do I find who is most visible?

If your competitors don't have a web presence, whether it's personal sites, gallery sites (for artists), online shops, Facebook or even listings in web directories, how much competition are they going to be, really? Now many companies tend to find clients and operate mainly by word of mouth, but they still need some form of advertising to the uninitiated if they are going to grow. Companies that want to reach out and connect are are going to be competing more directly with you than anyone else.

When you go on their sites, you can see if they have direct financial info such as pricing, which is certainly beneficial to help you set your own and see what market rates are. Even if they don't have that, you can see what products they offer. What might be even more valuable data though, is how they are marketing it. What is their website like, are they blogging, on Twitter or Facebook, do they do a newsletter? Besides giving you ideas for your own marketing, these sources can give you an idea of their reach and help you determine whether they are likely to be much direct competition and who their target market is.

A good example, which applies particularly to me, is portrait photographers. Now, I am going for an unusual concept with a pretty unique product, which rather limits my direct competition. But research on more mainstream photographers is still useful. By checking out the people in my area, as well as provincially, nationally and internationally, I was able to get an idea of common products on offer such as the standard photo studio products and how people are trying to innovate in that. This gave me points to show how I was doing something very different and examples to share.

I was able to see if anyone was doing something somewhat similar (of which there were few) which helps define my unique marketing features. It also helped with pricing as I could see what the market rates were and the ranges people were charging, based on service and product variations. By paying attention to the copy on their sites and blogs etc, I could see who their intended market was and how they were trying to reach them and tailor their messages. This let me eliminate them as direct competition and it can help you define your unique niche.

In my case, given I was trying to do things differently, I also tried to look at who would be possible alternatives for competition. Portrait artists in other mediums such as painting are an example. Fine art photographers who weren't doing portraiture were also looked at.  Artists and professional organizations, business articles, marketing reports and business websites mentioning art in particular were also useful sources of information. 

By being a little creative and trying to find tangential data, I was able to get more info to support a business plan for a non standard business idea, which is something to really look at doing to for your own business.

No comments:

Post a Comment