Evaluating Your SWOT Through Competitive Shops

mystery shopper

Every good business plan has a SWOT analysis, a honest evaluation of the company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Without an evaluation of these elements of your business, whether it is a new business or one that has been around for several years, the plan is really not complete.

While developing or revising a company’s SWOT analysis, a complete look of the competition is necessary.  By preforming competitive shops you can make sure that you are taking into account the companies that are trying to take your customers and your sales.  Now, I have blogged before about competitive shops before (take a look here and here), and I have specifically mentioned developing a in-depth SWOT analysis.  However, you cannot have one without the other.

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Using Market Research In Start-ups

start upLater this week, I will be teaching a class at Wake Tech Community College about finding job opportunities with start-ups and early stage companies. It is a class I have taught before with a lot of success and positive feedback. We discuss a variety of topics related to working with and understanding the general culture of start-ups, learning how to find them (as they are not necessarily well known) and profile ones that are hiring in the Triangle area.

We also look at the fact that, although any company could go out of business any day, start-ups tend to do it more frequently because of the market, newness of the companies, and just the general failure rates of newer companies. We specifically look at EvoApp. Now EvoApp, based on everything, should have been a company that was to be a survivor. It had a great idea when the company had started. It also had investment from solid individual and group inventors. It also had high profile customers and solid mentor-ship.

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Getting On The Tech Bandwagon

Business and TechnologyI have had a realization within the last week.  And that realization is that not everyone, including business owners are on the technology bandwagon.

Last week, I wrote about the reasons why restaurants should have a mobile website.  And I posted the link to the blog post on the Restaurant Network LinkedIn group to share my blog and opinion.  Typically when I do this, I will get a fair amount of traffic to this blog and occasionally I will get a comment that reiterates what I have stated or thanking me for the post as they got something new out of it.  However, as of the writing of this post, there are 23 post.  And not all of them agree with me. Read more of this post

How To Do Comparative Market Research

ComparingWhen meeting with business owners, there are two questions I ask of them.  The first one is who their best customers are (their target market).  The other question I ask is who they think their competition is.

Many times I get vague answers to who their competition is.  I feel like the reason this happens is because they are unsure of the word “competition” in relation of their business.  According to dictionary.com, the best definition in regards to business, competition is “the rivalry offered by a competitor (opponent)”.  Based on this, if your potential target market could go to some other business, hey are your competitor.

Here are some things I would recommend in order to develop and implement a good competitive analysis for your business.

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Five Reasons To Do Market Research

Research DefinedThere are many reasons to conduct market research.  It is mainly completed on the basis of services and products that the company is offering.  Although the number of reasons are literally limitless from broad position projects to determining the best version of a logo, there are five main reasons: Read more of this post

Market Research Helps Business Plans

Over the weekend I met someone whose son is opening up a new franchise in Florida.  In our discussion he had mentioned that although his son had a business plan, he felt his son needed a little additional research in his plan.  I told him that, unfortunately, this is a common situation.

In a slightly dated, but still relevant, 2009 press release, from Michigan CFO Associates, it stated that 90% of small business owners do not do anything to jump start their stagnant businesses.  Other findings from the research were:

  • 99% of businesses have no written plan for growth.
  • 98% of businesses fail by the 10th year.
  • 80% of businesses fail because of under-capitalization.
  • 23% of businesses price their goods or services correctly.

When developing or revising your business plans, there are several areas where market research can be used to improve your business plan.  The two main ares where research can best help your business plan is for competitive analysis and developing your target market.

  • Competitive Analysis:  I have written a number of times about understanding your competition.  By doing a comprehensive, independent look at your competition, you can develop a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) for each of your competitors and yourself.  With this analysis, you can identify areas where your business model is better than theirs and areas where you may not want to compete against because their company has a competitive advantage.
  • Target Market Development:  The only thing that is more important about knowing your competition is knowing your target market.  You can do this in a number of ways.  Talking with your current and past customers are a great way to get to know them better.  This can be done by interviews or surveys.  During your discussions with your customers, be sure to identify why your customers buy you over your competition.  Also, get to know them from a segmentation aspect.  For example, if you are a B2C business, know who your best and typical customers are from a demographic perspective (martial status, age range, kids, household income).  On the other hand, if you are a B2B business, knowing the industries, employee count, revenue range and growth are the metrics you should be grouping your customers in.

How have you used market research to improve your business plan?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies. He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes. He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research. He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“. If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

Eight Things I Learned About Business At The Masters

The 2012 MastersDon’t be jealous sports and golf fans, but I had tickets to Wednesday’s practice round to The Masters.  Although I am a self proclaimed hacker, I truly enjoy playing as much as I can.  It is never enough, though.

Afterwards as I reflected on the day, the sights, and the sounds, I realized that my day was a lot like a typical day at work.  There are things I saw and experienced there that can be applied on a daily basis in a business.  Here are 8 things I learned about business at The Masters.

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Even In Down Markets, Businesses Need To Figure Out How To Grow

Believe it or not, businesses can grow in down markets!

This is especially true for small businesses.  However, many businesses are still in survival mode.

As the general population gets larger, the development of niches became more of a potential; especially with the recent trend of buying local.  However the “buy local” can actually be developed nationally and internationally.

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the launch party of Feelgoodz, a 100% recyclable and biodegradable flip flop, in Raleigh.  It was great to see the store and meet the owners.  However, after reflecting on the event, if someone had told me five years ago about a company being successful in this space, I would have thought they were crazy.  Here is a local company that is being successful by developing a niche.  However, their “local” niche ships worldwide.  Here is a prime example of how a small business is being successful by developing its own unique niche.

What are you doing to grow your business instead of just survive?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies. He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes. He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research. He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“. If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

Differentiation Is Key

The ability to differentiate your business from your competition is directly proportional to the success of your business.

Strategically planning out a thoughtful differentiation, both offensively and defensively, was a common subject heard by food service professionals attending the 2012 Chain Operators Exchange, or COEX, last week.  This can be done through a number of avenues.  Leadership, convenience, service, marketing, and operational efficiencies are all realistic possibilities for businesses.

Pintrest Red Logo

Copyright 2011 Pintrest

One way many restaurants have been attempting to differentiate themselves has been brought on the the recent success of Pintrest.  A recent nrn.com article highlighted that the restaurant industry can use Pintrest, which is all about the pictures, to give restaurant users a “wide latitude in communicating menus and philosophies.”  Ideas that were highlighted in the article included posting pictures of your restaurant’s food, pinning complementary industries photos.  However, further discussions included getting engaged with those liking what you are putting up.  This is where the value for social media can be realized.  By providing followers useful information, recipes similar to that which you sell, and commenting on followers post and pics, you become engaged with the customers that are already interested in you on a completely different level.

What are some ways that you differentiate your business from your competition?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies. He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes. He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research. He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“. If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

Underestimating Your Competition

Competition MoneyYou need to read! 

OK, now I have upset the people who either do not like to read or have the time to read.  But in order to get new ideas, perspectives, or strategies, you need to be constantly educating yourself.  This can be done by reading, listening to “books on tape” or watching TED videos.  Also, this needs to be in areas outside of your industry and field.

I just finished reading You’re Not Sellin’ They’re Buyin’ by Tom Woodcock.  I had the fortunate experience to listening and meeting Tom at a recent conference in Raleigh.  His presentations lead me to read his book on sales.  (I know, I know.  A market research guy can read a sales book.)  He looks at how to deal with competition and he writes, “The biggest mistake you can make concerning your competition is underestimation.”  I have written about competition before.  Although his reference in the book is in relation to sales reps from different companies, this maxim transcends the purpose written into all industries.  By underestimating your competition, you seriously put yourself behind the proverbial 8-ball mainly because they are not underestimating you.

Unfortunately, it is likely that we have underestimated our competition at some point.  This is just a sad reality.  I know  I have done it on more than one occasion.  And it has come back and beaten me nearly every time.   

What ways have you  underestimated your competition?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their market and customers though a variety of market research strategies.  He has over ten years of experience of market research for strategic planning purposes.  He is the Director of Research at Rhino Market Research.  He shares his thoughts about market research and business concepts with his blog “Pensare…Understanding Market Research in Business“.  If you would like to discuss this blog or how J. can help you understand your market and customer needs, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

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