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Seven-step guide to mapping competitors

Map and analyze your competitors:

1. What is your estimate of how easily you could get yourself onto page one of search results on Google, and above your competitors?

Make a simple comparison of your competitors’ rankings for your top keywords. You could always simply pay for preferred placement using AdWords, but for the long run it’s always best to use good SEO and get to the top with organic results. The net is bursting with tools for finding your competitors’ rankings. Check out www.searchmetrics.co.uk

2. How many customers do your competitors have? What are their turnover rates? What are their profit numbers?

These financial figures should just be used as guidelines for optimizing your own business. If you can access reports for earlier fiscal years, do it.

3. What kind of branding and marketing channels do your competitors use?

Can you guess or measure what works the best? Could you find other channels to use, that might be more effective?

4. Carefully look over all your competitors and make a summary:

What are their similarities in terms of pricing, visual presentation, product/service features, and core concepts?

5. Note what each competitor does best.

This includes direct competitors and substitutes, too. You could decide their “bests” are anything – their company team, their product, their designs, their user interface, etc. While doing this, make a note of things you want to do in your company, too, as well as things you definitely want to do better than any competitor.

6. Now note down everything you find odd or illogical about your competitors.

This can include anything strange (or just plain wrong) about their core concept, their presentation, their pro- duct, their marketing approach – anything. Be as critical as you can. Where can you improve upon the things they are doing? Find out where they are lagging behind – and where you could race ahead. Read and make note of competitors’ reviews available online. What are their customers saying about them? What opportunity does that give you?

7. Do a final review of all the earlier steps.

Sum up everything you’ve observed and concluded. Decide which of your competitors pose the biggest threat. Make this as practical as possible. That is, note how you will use the data and your conclusions when it comes down to dealing with your competitors on a day-to-day basis. Work out what your focus will be, and set it clearly in mind – so you’ll have less tendency to become de-focused.

When you have identified what your competitors are good at, and where there is room for improvement, you can use this information to your advantage in terms of making your own offerings better, as well as knowing where to focus your attention and efforts.

When we were originally developing Billy’s Billing, we spotted a general tendency in the market: Our competition was focused on the needs and preferences of accounting professionals – not the needs and preferences of someone who needs good accounting, but isn’t an accounting pro himself.

Everyone had programs that would appeal to accountants, but there are a lot of potential end users who are not accountants. In fact, most of the true end users being targeted – that is, small business owners and people involved in start-ups – are not themselves professional accountants!

There isn’t anything wrong with providing a program for an accountant to use, but we happen to think that if you offer an accounting program that can be used by anyone – even someone with little or no accountancy training or experience, then everyone can use it successfully.

This is exactly the focus we followed in creating our program, and our idea turned out to be spot-on correct: Our customers love the product. It allows them to take care of most of the accounting steps they need to operate successfully, and gives them three important advantages:

  1. Better understanding of company finances.
  2. Saves money on an accountant, freeing up resources for “fun” stuff like new products.
  3. A real time snapshot of day-to-day finances because they are now closer to what is financially happening in their business.

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