“In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you.”—Victor Kiam
One of the prime concerns for the average small business is the threat of the ever-present competition. In an economy where the competition often seems fiercer than ever before, this concern is completely justified. So how does a small business address the competition in their market? As directly as possible!
You may wish that you were in a marketplace where you were the sole supplier of design services, but that is a fairy tale that is never going to come true. Stop sticking your head in the sand and pretending that the competition is not there. Instead, check out these compelling reasons why you should not just stop ignoring the competition, but know your business competitors and actively take note of what they are up to.
1. Know Thy Enemy. In the 6th century, Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu knew that no battle could be won without knowledge of the enemy. The same holds true when it comes to winning business in your market. Take the time to conduct a thorough listing of who your direct and indirect competition is for every project that you aim for. Knowing exactly who are up against will be your first step toward victory in the war of business.
Pro Tip: Finding your competition does not have to be time consuming or exhaustive. In fact, it can be as simple as performing an online search using your firm’s key search terms and adding the relevant geographic identifier. Example: “municipal water civil engineer Austin Texas.”
2. Monkey See, Monkey Do. One of the most time consuming and costly facets of business can be the development of new services and profit centers. Understandably, it takes precious resources to come up with new ideas, research them, determine profitability, and then advertise them to your existing and prospective clients. So seeing what your competition has already invested in can give you a head start on the development process. Don’t feel ashamed about muscling in with similar or better products to those already on the market. It has worked for some of the world’s largest corporations, such as Apple and Google.
Pro Tip: Appropriating an idea that is promising and nascent in your market can be beneficial and as easy as subscribing to your competition’s newsletters and press releases. This has the added the benefit of transforming your competition into your messenger of innovation.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Poach. One of the most prized assets in any technical design field is personnel. It can be difficult to fill key positions with talented and well-established personnel in a growing economy, even one that is in recovery. So instead of racing after the scraps, look to your competition for key hires. Bringing in staff from established firms can add design talent, certifications, and prestige to a small firm, but it can also add important vendor and client contacts.
Pro Tip: Finding the peanut in the candy bar may involve more than just seeing who shows up to a bid opening. Sometimes you will have to pay attention to articles in trade magazines, meet people at community events, and openly discuss whom your clients already hold in high esteem. Make no mistake, all of these methods will pay greater dividends than want ads.
The marketplace is ever-evolving, and it is a never-ending effort to keep up with the competition. It may be easy for any business to believe that there simply isn’t enough time to research what your archrivals are up to. However, with benefits ranging from new possible service lines to reduced search time to fill key positions, it should be clear that no business can afford to not pay attention to their competition.
For more tips on growing your small business, check out 5 Tips to Nurture and Expand Your Small Business, Part 1 and 4 Tips to Nurture and Expand Your Small Business, Part 2.