Study Your Competition

I’ll never forget the marketing person from one of my biggest video production contracts. After I won the contract, I met often with Paula, the marketing person, to outline a script and to plan the video. At one point I asked something about my competitors for this job. She surprised me by asking if I’d like to see the proposal from the second runner up. You bet I would!

When I studied it, I wondered why they didn’t win the bid. They sounded good and this was a very good proposal. Reading that proposal helped improve my later proposals quite a bit. I could see ways my proposals could improve. It was almost accidental that I got to see my competitor’s proposal. I would never have asked to see it.

But most any successful business studies their competition. It’s an essential part of business intelligence. The first question to ask is who are my competitors. You should be able to name them off the top of your head and provide a summary of what they offer, their strengths and weaknesses.

Online Tools to Study Your Competitors

Start with Google. Study the competitors’ websites. It can hold many clues about their business. Check your competitors presence on social media especially Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter

SpyFU is a site that helps research what keywords and Adwords your competitors are buying,
Google Trends can help you to stay on top of your industry, and compare your company to others.
Google Alerts Set up alerts for your competitors as well as your company to see if anyone’s talking about you.

Also check local business directories and your local Chamber of Commerce. For each competitor you find, you’ll want to know what services they offer, their prices, how they market their services, who owns the business, how many employees and lots more. Do lots of searches for the company name and the owner. Are they advertising in local business or consumer publications. Are they buying Google Adwords, Facebook ads? How is their SEO? Any clues as to who is doing their SEO work?

Speak To Them

Call them on the phone. You’d be surprised how often companies will tell you everything you’d like to learn over the phone, especially if the question is phrased in just the right way or in a context that makes sense. They may have a specialty service you’d want to hire. You are likely to meet them at social and business events. Talk to them. Be friendly. They are competitors not enemies. Anyone who has done business with them or knows them is someone you should get to know. You may have some of the same suppliers – narrators, motion graphics people, rental houses, etc. Ask questions.

Keep a business journal about everything you learn about your competitors. What are they doing better than you, what are you doing better? Don’t blindly follow what others are doing. Not all is as it appears. There may be important information you don’t know. Hidden income such as an inheritance, wealthy spouse of other factors could account for what appears to be a successful business, but is actually financed from another source. A well-connected relative could explain how some contracts are won.

Study Your Competition to improve your business.

For more help building your video business see Professional Video Producer.