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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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

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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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.

How To Use Surveys To Determine Why Buyers Buy

Market Research SurveyUnderstanding why your customers buy is the key to your businesses growth and success.  Buy understanding this, you can market these as your strengths.

By doing some research with your customers, you can determine why they buy from you and not your customers.  You can also determine any number of key items that are important to your business like the frequency of their purchases, level of satisfaction, chances of referral, and, maybe most importantly, likelihood to be a repeat customer.

To do this, develop a survey with your key points. 

Tip #1: Do not make the survey to long!  Length is determined by the type of business you are in.   The desire for keeping the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) in tact is easily overtaken by the desire to gain insight.  Make the survey with just the basic questions on a scale system.  I recommend a 1 to 5 scale as it fits easily and customers can make quick assessments. 

Tip #2: Make the survey anonymous with the option to get customers to fill out name & contact info at the bottom.  Use this to develop your customer database for more in-depth surveys and as a marketing tool.  (See this blog post to see ways you can to do this.) 

Tip #3: USE THE DATA!  I cannot count the number of times I have heard of companies, large and small, that collect information, then do not do anything with it.  Develop a database to enter in the information.  From there you can use the charts and graphs to visually see the information.  You do not need to go out and but a high-end database program like SAS or SPSS.  Use what you know like Excel, Access, etc.  If you don’t know, get someone to do it for you. 

Once you do all this, you can determine the key reasons why customers shop you and not your competition.  Once this is figured out, market these strengths as competitive advantages.

What ways have you used to figure out why your customers buy from you?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their 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 customers, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

The ABC’s of Business

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New HouseOwning and running a business is not as easy as reciting your ABC’s, but the basics of business can be just as easily remembered. 

Here is the first three letters:

Always
Be
Closing

Regardless of your position withing your organization, if you and your employees are always closing (sales),  then you are already ahead of a large percentage of your competition.

This attitude is especially needed in micro and small businesses.  Sometimes their very survival is based on an ABC closing.

In what ways does your organization promote every employee to ABC (Always Be Closing)?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their 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 customers, email him at jnolfo@rhinomarketresearch.com.

Don’t Forget That Shopping Competition Is Important

CompetitionBack in my early professional days, I worked for a very large national retail company.  As I was learning the systems of the company, my boss, the store manager looked over at me one day and said, “Let’s go comp-ing.”  The puzzled look in my face forced the explanation.  “Competition shopping,” he replied.  After gathering some paper and pen to write things down, he said something to me that has forever stuck.  “The competition is always doing something right, or they would not be is business.  We just need to know what it is.”

Ever since then, I have used that as a mantra when talking with marketing and sales people about competition.  They are always doing at least one thing right.

Also, when thinking about competition, you also need to look at what you are doing right, and wrong.  What is your true competitive advantage?  You need to have more than just one.  Imagine your competitive advantage as legs of a chair.  Having only one or two will not give you a lot of stability.  Three starts to do so.  However, the more legs, the stronger the foundation of that chair.

You need to research your competition from your customer’s perspective.  By looking at the competition, and objectively evaluating those areas in relation to what you have to offer, you can see where your business is better and where the competition is better.  But then, you can understand that disadvantage and work to rectify it or mitigate it as much as possible.

What are the ways you shop your competition and how do you compare yourself to your top competitors?

–J. Nolfo helps companies understand their 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 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 customers, email him at jnolfo@ymail.com.

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