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5 Ways to Learn from Small Business Competition

All businesses, large or small, need to be aware of what their competitors are doing to market and sell their products. This information can be vital to helping brands shape their own marketing strategies. Though competitive research is vital for strategic planning, it is sometimes totally overlooked by small business owners who do not understand why it's necessary.

Some businesses have very unique products without direct competitors, but it is still crucial to understand that small business competition for the same market and consumer dollars is vital, too. Identifying what other businesses are doing and what tactics the competition is using (successfully or otherwise) can help you gain an advantage.

There are five easy things you can do to get started:

Get involved in your industry's community

Join sites where people and businesses in your niche gather and network. Talk to people on forums, answer questions on LinkedIn Groups and read all the great information that is available about your market. You can find out so much about competitors and their marketing strategies simply by reading forum threads.

Subscribe to blogs and newsletters

Competitors that have newsletters offer lots of valuable insights into their company. Subscribe to their newsletters with a dummy email account so you can remain anonymous while virtually picking their brain. You can also use this tactic for competitor or industry niche blogs. Subscribe to these blogs with your RSS feed reader and read them daily.

Ask questions

Sites like Quora offer lots of opportunity to get opinions and competitive data. People on these sites are very helpful and knowledgeable about a wide range of topics, so you can ask just about anything. For example, if you make blue widgets, you might try asking consumers who their favorite widget-makers are or what color widgets they like best.

Be on the alert

You should always be “listening” to the Internet by setting up Google Alerts, Mention, or Talkwalker Alerts.

Google Alerts has been the go-to in this area for some time, but it does not seem to be as comprehensive lately, so utilizing more than one of these options would be wise so that you “hear” everything that is being said about your top keywords-- no mention of your product or anything related to it should slip past you.

Get social

Following your competitors on social media allows you to get a pretty good idea of their marketing strategy, where they are focusing their energies and areas where there is opportunity as well. You can also see how they handle problems and complaints, as most companies have now set customer service up online for convenience.

If you follow these steps to gain insight into your competition, you will be ready to take on the business world, armed with the ammunition you need for success.

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