In a perfect world, you could operate your business successfully merely by offering excellent service at a profitable price.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that perfect world – at least not yet 🙂 – and you cannot operate within a vacuum. As soon as you carve out a piece of the market, somebody else looks at it and dreams it could be there’s. As fast as you secure clients, somebody considers how they might be able to lure them away from you.
That is the nature of business and denying it is a fool’s game. If you try to operate as an island, you will wake up some day swept away in a tidal wave from your competitors.
So how do you stay current with your competition? How do you get to know them so well that you can anticipate where they might go next or what they might do next? How can you take steps that allow you to hold and grow your share of the market and win more customers?
Whether you run a huge bookkeeping practice or a solo firm, these are the challenges that must be considered by everyone.
Start by being aware of each competitor in your marketplace
You don’t have to be a private detective to gather intelligence about your competitors. Even the person with the most limited investigative skills can do a Google search on companies in their area that offer bookkeeping or accounting services, for example.
From that you can generally learn basic data like the products offered, who is offering them, hours of operation of other companies, and occasionally even their billing rates.
You may find them first on Facebook and then move to their websites or vice versa. Either way you will learn the details they want the public to know about them.
There are clues from the way they present themselves online whether they are aiming at a particular kind of client (landscapers, restaurateurs, retailers, health professionals, etc.) and how they are packaging their standard service offerings.
You can see how they accept payment and if they are making any significant promises about speed of delivery or tax preparation turnaround time.
In addition to a simple “Google Search” there are other tools you can use to gather additional in-depth insights into what your competitors are up to. And the added bonus is that these tools are free…and, as we all know, it doesn’t get better than free. 🙂
Use Google Alerts and Google Trends
Many companies take up the time to set up Google Alerts to see if their company name comes up on the Internet and if someone is talking about them, and that is an excellent strategy.
But you can also set up alerts on all your competitors to see what is being said about them and what they are up to. This simple strategy can keep you from being caught off guard by a client suddenly asking for a service similar to your competitor’s and leaving you floundering as you try to figure out what they are talking about.
Google Trends can also be very useful because it helps you stay on top of trends within your own industry as well as those industries you may be targeting for growth.
While you are still searching with Google tools, check on any special reports from analysts or experts in your industry so you can be aware of what is being discussed or predicted.
Set aside a small portion of time each week to check what your competitors have posted on their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter social media sites. You not only get to see the messages they are sending about themselves, but you can monitor what their clients are saying about them.
Use a Twitter list for more information
There is another way you can learn more about your competitors other than following their Tweets on Twitter.
It is to use something called a Twitter List.
And Twitter lists allow you to categorize people on Twitter and place them in groups, or lists. You can set it up for your competitors, for example, so that you can view the public Tweets of just the accounts in that particular list that they post.
It’s a great time-saver. You may be following several people on Twitter but this separate list allows you to easily pick up this group of Tweets from competitors that particularly interest you when you just don’t time to look at all of the people you follow.
But there is a secret to using lists to check out your competitors and this is why it is so popular and effective.
Twitter lists can be either public or private. The public ones, as you would expect, are visible to Twitter users on your profile. If you add a person to your public list, they will be notified.
But if you make your list private, you are the only one who can see it. You can also add the name of a competitor, for example, and he or she will not be notified. You don’t have to publicly “follow” them; you can have them on your list and read their postings without them being aware of it.
You can see why Twitter lists have become such an efficient tool for business people wanting to see what their competitors are saying without letting their competitors know they are being stalked, sorry, I mean tracked. 🙂
However, and this is very important, be aware that you must designate whether your list is public or private at the point where you create it. Make sure that you do it right or it could be a little embarrassing.
Another way you can use the Twitter list tool is to search Twitter for the profiles of people in your industry you want to follow. If they have a public list, you can subscribe to their list, which can be interesting in itself.
Admittedly, you must also be conscious as you go about adding people to your private list that they could be doing the same thing to you, so never post anything you don’t want your competitors to know about you.
If you want to get started and create a Twitter list, private or public, here is a great step-by-step guide.
Thank you for reading. I hope you found some value. Until next time, take care.
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