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Know your enemy

24 Sep

Competitors: Make no mistake – they are your enemy

Competitor analysis is a hot MBA topic. We learn lots of nice tools. Then we forget about them. The truth is that most small business owners and managers don’t dedicate half as much time as they should be to monitoring competition. Why? The ever present, ever invalid excuse of being too busy.

There are several reasons to know what your competitors are up to. Lets name three:

  1. You want to gain business from them
  2. They want to gain business from you
  3. You want to gain business from them

 

The oxymoron here is that in the case of small and medium organizations it is so much easier for the top brass to be close to the market, the customer, the staff.  I asked one manager during a workshop, “Why don’t you devote part of your time to analyzing competition?” He responded, somewhat aggressively, “I spend most of my time in meetings with customers!” Yet another offended attendee asked me if I had any idea what it was like trying to run a sales force. So, think for a moment. If you take away the BS from competitor analysis and put it into context for your business, what it really means is knowing what the other guys are doing. In a perfect world, you have “people to do these things”. In real life, you need to be talking to your customers, talking to your people and keeping an ear permanently to the market. If your competitors are other small medium sized companies, The Journal or Forbes may possibly not be running a feature on them. So it boils down to street savvy. And, by the way, do you really think that a colleague stuck with drawing up a competitor analysis report along with 246 other tasks is actually going to supply intel you can work with?

If you spend all your time in meetings with customers or talking to the sales force, then you have more than enough to go on. You just need to fine tune the receivers a bit. You, your sales people and everybody else in the company should be gathering information on competition. What are they charging? What is their structure? What are they paying? Are they making targets? Do they have targets? You will of course need a repository for this information, somewhere to store it in an organized manner. Find a simple way to consolidate. Then integrate competitor analysis into the sales meetings. This way it is alive. Does your sales rep know which competitor sales rep visits his top customer? The truth is out there. Ask the right questions. Run a dedicated competitor analysis workshop every quarter. Use an easy tool such as SWOT analysis. Caveat: SWOT analysis, unless the facilitator is disciplined (you) tends to yield BS outputs such as (under our strengths) “We have an excellent set up”. “We have a good sales force”. “Our service is fantastic”. And so the BS continues. Stick to numbers and facts. What can you measure? What can you compare, apples with apples. What can you action to enhance your competitive advantage?

If you were asked why don’t you live a bit, would you answer “because I’m so busy breathing”? Turn on the receivers and fine tune them. You will be surprised at how much you can learn.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 24/09/2012 in Management tips

 

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One response to “Know your enemy

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