As the pandemic has evolved from a health crisis to an economic one, competitors in different market sectors is becoming more and more fierce.

There is an oversight that most small businesses make, and that is how useful a competitor can actually be. The mentality that is shared by many small business owners is that competitors need to be feared and avoided. It’s true that they are competing for the same customers that you are, but even so, they can help you far more than they can hurt you.

Learning from the failures and successes of your competitors is a built-in boost for your company, saving you time, resources and money. How can you learn from your competitors after the pandemic?

Be a Customer for a Day

See the world through your consumer’s eyes. What would appeal to you right now? After all, you are a consumer yourself. What are your needs? How has your perception of buying changed?

If you mainly rely on online sales, utilise Google Adwords or SEMRush for insight into who is competing with you for valuable digital real estate. Visit your competition’s websites and understand their marketing behaviour. 

Try to locate the customer service section on their site and interact with them. How are they responding to you? What is the service like? What are they doing and not doing? What do they need from you to help you? 

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Compare financials

Right now, everyone’s budgets are tight and most businesses are entering what we refer to as “hibernate mode”. Have you spoken to a trusted accountant or financial advisor to shed some light on how your business is faring in the industry?

What are your competitors’ sales and profitability trends? And what are their marketing expenses as a percentage of their revenue? Notice the differences in your financials and ask yourself why these discrepancies exist. 

Understand the Competitive Landscape

Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of your current and future competitors. You are all elbowing for room in the same market – and with the current economic crisis, this will be no different. How will you wrest away your share? 

Social media can be your best friend in analysing the competition. Facebook Insights has a slate of tools available for you, including the useful “Pages to Watch” section. Companies like Hootsuite also allow you to compare your social media strategy against others like yours in terms of sharing, click-through rates, and total views.

Facebook ads library is another insightful tool that helps you analyse current ads that are running for your competitors. Subscribe to their newsletters – how are they communicating with their audience? Is it working? What’s the engagement like? Are some ads only running for a few days? That’s a sign that things are not quite working and this is not something to use.

It’s also worth noting that there is a difference between using methods and styles of competing businesses to use them in your own business, and outright stealing an exact design or plagiarizing their work, brand slogan, etc. 

Make it unique to your business and make sure that whatever you do implement aligns with your values. Our competitors, for example, started printing masks and opening up shops before it was technically legal. It was a tough bullet to bite, but at the end of the day this did not align with our unique values – and this informed our decision to wait.

P.S. E-commerce is now fully legal in SA, which means we are printing again! We’re also adding a COVID-19 range to help you and your business stay safe. 

Stay in touch with your customers

Staying in touch with the community of your local businesses is one of the best ways you can see what your competitors are up to. This is a good idea in any case, but it also allows you to see if anything your competitors are doing is something that you can use for your own business.

Learn from their mistakes

Customer reviews say it all. In the same way that you can learn valuable information from your own business’ reviews, you can learn from competing business’ reviews, as well. Most small businesses are not going to be doing this kind of research, but they should be because you’re getting the information, unadulterated from the very people you are trying to reach. 

Ready, set go!

The market will undoubtedly become more competitive as lockdown gradually lifts. This is a good thing. As founder of Printulu, Alexander Knieps, says in this live video, “this pandemic forces you to adapt and change.” This is perhaps one of the greatest skills a business owner can learn.

What are experts saying?


Listen to the podcast now:

We spoke to Fifi Peters, top presenter & producer at CNBC Africa to find out what businesses are doing NOW to secure their futures in SA.

Fifi is a financial journalist who specialises in African markets. She obtained her degree in journalism from Rhodes University in 2010 and holds certificates in finance, law and media from the SA Institute of Financial Markets, the London School of Economics and the Gordan Institute of Business Science, respectively. She has worked in some of the most respected newsrooms in South Africa, including Business Day, Financial Mail and CNBC Africa.

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