58: Why Business Owners Should Be Doing Competitive Research
Competitive research is a type of research that small businesses should be doing to monitor and analyze what your competition is doing. For animal, equine and pet based businesses it can be a way to better understand why your customers choose you over the neighboring business right down the road OR why they choose your competitor over you. Join Kim and Cara as they share the reasons you should be doing competitive research for your animal, equine, or pet-based business and the types of information you should be looking for.
Our Big 3 Takeaways
Identify the Standard for Your Industry
Get clear on your competitive differentiators
Competitive Research is Ongoing, Never Stop Competitive Researching
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Welcome to The Business Animal podcast. Saddle up for a gallop to the top of the animal industry. Where you’ll learn how to tame your wild business beast, with tips, techniques, and tools that will take overwhelm to obedience school, and have you wagging your tail with joy. And now your hosts, Kim Beer, and Cara Taylor Swift
Kimberly Beer 0:41
Hey there business animals, it’s Kim with Be More Business
Cara Taylor Swift 0:44
and Cara with Fast Horse photography.
Kimberly Beer 0:46
And welcome to The Business Animal podcast. So today our topic is one that should be of interest to to every business out there, and especially animal based businesses, because we have such a tight knit community around our animals that we often run in to many opportunities as consumers to fulfill our needs for products and services in association with our animals. And today’s topic is about competitive research. It’s about you as the small business owner as the animal based business owner, being able to recognize where you fit in to your consumers overall situation around whatever they’re trying to solve, whether it’s buying food for their animal, getting a service for their animal, or getting training or education or photography, I don’t care where you rank in that being able to know what your competition is doing. And being able to see where you fit into that bigger picture, especially in context to where your consumers are coming from both your similarities and your differences are really key in being able to understand how you fit into the market and being able to do your sales Cara, how do you define competitive research?
Cara Taylor Swift 2:06
Well simply put, I think of competitive research as a type of research that monitors and analyzes what your competitors are doing. So for animal equine and pet based businesses, it can be a way for us to better understand, first of all, why our customers chose to work with us or buy from us, but also why they chose a competitor over us. So if they’re out there choosing competitors, why are they doing that? And competitive research is a way for us to figure that out.
Kimberly Beer 2:09
That is exactly right. And you have a wonderful list here of reasons why people should be doing competitive research from an article that you found. And I think this is a great opportunity to present that to people so they know why they need to hang around and listen to our big three which are steps to get you to the place you need to be with competitive research.
Cara Taylor Swift 2:53
Absolutely. I found this great article by Elsa Berry on LinkedIn actually, of all places. But there are lots of reasons that you should be doing competitive research, here are a few of them. First of all, you can really get a better understanding of your market like what’s happening current, what is current, what’s happening out there, you can also find gaps or opportunities in your market. You know, we always talk about looking for those places where we can feel the pain point and are there things out there that are happening that people are looking for, but they can’t find access to it, this might be a great place for you and your business to jump in and kind of save the day. You can also identify your personal your own businesses strengths and weaknesses. When you compare them to your competitors, you can identify new and emerging trends in your market to help you stay current. Sometimes, by doing competitive research, you can be tipped off. So, to trends that are starting to happen, things that people are interested in that maybe they weren’t interested in before and get in at an earlier stage, I have found that competitive research can help inspire new ideas for me and for my business. You can also spend some time learning your competitor strategies, which ones are working and which ones aren’t working. This can be huge in terms of saving you costs down the line, if you see a competitor trying something that you have been thinking about trying in your business, but it doesn’t seem to be working for them. But they’re having a lot of hiccups. This could really save you a lot of time and trouble down the line either by troubleshooting in a different way or skipping the option altogether. And finally, competitive research, which we’re going to talk about a little bit below is just a great way to set you apart from your competitors. And we’ll dig into that a little deeper as we start working through the big three.
Kimberly Beer 4:29
Absolutely. So our big three for this episode are first of all identify the standard for your industry. You have to know what is out there for people and how your business is positioned in that and then number two is to get super clear on what are your competitive differentiators what you offer that they don’t offer, what they offer that you don’t offer. And then finally, just to remember that competitive research is ongoing and make some plans to make sure that you stay on focus in keeping your competitive research up as you go along. So the first of the big three is to identify the standard for your industry. Now, I know that you would like to dearly believe that your customers that you currently have are incredibly loyal, and that they would ever even interact with another business that provides the same service or product that you do. But the truth is, those other businesses that do what you do, or do something similar to what you do, they’re doing their marketing too. They’re doing their outreach, they’re getting in front of people, and there’s always the open door for them to have a conversation with your customers. Now, if the customer is always pleased with your service, and your prices aren’t dramatically different, you know, there’s not a lot of motivation for them to change. But here’s the thing, if you don’t know what is out there, it’s really, really difficult to know what the opportunities for losing customers that might exist, that you’re not aware of. So there’s a guy in score that I teach with his name is Ed, and he is he’s an awesome businessman. And he definitely has a heart for helping small businesses really be successful. And his part of the score marketing program that I teach in, he talks a lot about this competitive research part and understanding the industry standards. And he tells a little story based on cable TV, right? So when the cable TV salesman person comes to your door, let’s just pretend that happens in this day and age. So the cable TV salesman approaches you basically, and says we have 72 channels that are available. Well, if you’ve only been watching 10 channels as the consumer 72 Sounds awesome. So you think I will sign up with you. But if you don’t do it right then or if you do it and there’s an out, and then the next cable TV person comes along and says, Hey, I have 225 channels. Well, now on the first guys offer sure doesn’t sound as good as the second one. But maybe the first company has some benefits that aren’t really obvious. Maybe their services more reliable, there’s there’s a lot of other things in there. So basically, what the moral of the story is, is that there is a lot of choice out there for consumers. And you have to be super aware as a business owner of what those choices are, and how your business fits into it. Because your consumers, like it or not, are getting approached by these other businesses, they inadvertently even learn about the opportunities that are out there that your competition has. So you need to figure this out, so that you know what you’re doing and where you rank and how to combat or how to position yourself and maybe be a better word in your differentiators. So you’ve got to identify that standard. What are the standard options? And Cara, you have some amazingly good suggestions around that. So I’m gonna let you roll through those.
Cara Taylor Swift 8:08
Absolutely. The first three things you need to think about when you’re trying to identify the standard in your industry is first of all who your competitors are. That’s that’s where you’re starting this whole thing. So you need to look at three things. First of all, who do they consider their target market? Because I’m an equine photographer, and I have other equine photographers in my community, but my target is very specific. And there might be a lot of other equine photographers, but their targets may be completely different than mine, they may be choosing to do a different type of photography within that that market. So who do they consider their target market to be? And then secondly, what makes them or their services and their products unique? What is different? What What are they doing that’s different? What is their unique thing that they bring to the market? And third, you want to look at their price points, what do they look like? How are they put together? What type of you know are they charging sales tax? Do they have some kind of convenience fee? What are they what are their shipping options look like? These are all elements this is that are a great place to start. Once you pull that information together then I like to think about it in terms of you know, do you have different type of competitors that fall into different categories? Are you in direct competition or indirect competition with these other businesses for example, in the equine photography world, I am a full time photographer that specializes in creating you know wall art for my clients have their own horses I’m full time I’m professional, but I might be up against and competing with part time photographers that have a full time job doing something else. So there may be weekend photographers, the hobbyist, enthusiastic hobbyists might be somewhere in this list thinking about things like are they you know, in your industry? Are there accreditations licenses, you know, are they insured? These are all things to me that fit into industry standard and can be later turned into your competitive diffierintegrators. I’m gonna say that word 500 times, Kim, I’m gonna say it wrong every single time. So just warning you now
Kimberly Beer 10:10
No worries. We all know what you mean.
Cara Taylor Swift 10:13
So it’s a tough one. Some other things that you can look for what do their systems and procedures look like in comparison to yours? You know, what is the onboarding look like? How do you get them in your front door? What is the process that they go through? When they’re working with you, or purchasing from you? How do your systems look different? Of course, look at your pricing structures, I mentioned that above. How are their prices put together? How do they compare to yours? You know, and that’s going to be something that, you know, when you’ve got consumers out there looking, one of the things they look for is pricing. So being able to talk about that in terms of your differentiators. Here we go again, it’s gonna be big. I also like to look at things like, you know, what kind of content are they putting out to the world? And what does that look like? For example, what is their website, say? What kind of imagery? Are they using? You know, is it professional imagery? Is it unprofessional looking imagery? Does their website look really good? Do they have a blog? If they do, what are they talking about? Do they seem to have a content strategy? What does that look like? And then in terms of their social media strategy, if they have one? Are they getting engagement on their social media? And not only? Are they getting engagement? How are they responding to things like social media posts and comments, you know, and then are they responding to them? How are they responding to them? Is it professional, you know, what is their personality that’s being represented in that brand? And then looking for other forms of advertising? Are they running ads on Google? Are they in your local newspaper or magazine? You know, where are these pieces popping up that you’re seeing them, I also suggest looking for things like special promotions that they might be offering, especially if they’re seasonal, you know, it helps you know, where you’re going to be at when you’ve got these little promotions happening in your community, or in your market looking for things like, are they using email marketing? Where are they popping up on the search engines? You know, when you type in your industry information into a Google search? Where are they popping up in relation to where your business is popping up? And then I always like to think about, like, what do their point of sale options look like? And that kind of goes back to the pricing. But the big thing is, is it easy to buy from them? Or easy to book with them? You know? Do they have options available? If you’re purchasing a product from them online that gives options for people? Or is there a multiple step process that they have to go through? And how does that compare to yours? You might have a leveled system like I do, where people can’t just click a button and work with me they have to go through a process. So how does your process compare to those? I know that was a lot Kim. But these are things that I think are really important when you start doing competitive research.
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Kimberly Beer 13:56
Absolutely. And when you look at these things, there’s a couple of caveats. I want everybody to maybe maybe think of these as lenses that you need to put in front of you. As you look at these things. The first thing I really want you to examine is what do people say about that business behind the scenes? Like what is their true success? When people are talking about that business, what are they saying? Are they really truly as successful as they appear? Do they have a slick website and maybe a nice storefront or product packaging, but when you really examine things, not that many people are purchasing from them. Now, when you do that, if you look at your competitors, and you see a super successful one, I don’t want you to consider that a bad thing. I want you to consider it a good thing because you can learn a lot from that competitor about what is working in your industry. That’s when the list that Cara gave you becomes really critical because what you can do is look on there and identify where your business is maybe not fitting the bill in the same way that business is. And it will tell you what you need to step up or what you might want to shift and do a little bit differently. Now, I’m not advocating that you copy what they do, that’s not the point here, what you need to do is understand what is the secret sauce over there, that is getting people to really dig in and purchase with that business and really drive them forward. Now, again, you’re going to take all of this with a grain of salt, because you do want to understand is that business really, truly successful underneath the hood, so is everything running on the inside the way that it appears to be on the outside, and that can also be flipped around, right? So you can run into a business that really their website isn’t all that great, maybe you don’t see a lot of marketing from them. But you always hear good scuttlebutt throughout the industry about them. So also examine those businesses and say, you know, what is it that they’re doing that means that they really maybe don’t need some of those other things or need to push on them quite as hard as you have been. So what again, is the secret sauce in there, as Ed likes to say, you know, we all all create our businesses, and we try to do it from scratch. And a lot of times, we try to figure out this without looking at competition, because we’re afraid one that we’re either going to get ideas that aren’t really ours, or and copy stuff, or that we’re going to do it differently than they do. But the truth is that there’s enough market space for all of us out there for these businesses. And what your competition is doing, they’ve already learned a lot, because they’ve been in business longer than you have in that startup phase kind of thing. So if you are in a startup phase, make sure you look at your competition and really understand them and don’t approach it as I’m going to be different or kind of as a as an opposition to them. But as a learning experience to see what they’re doing right. Another thing you can do, if you have a business that is local, like it has a radius by which it serves, this is harder for people who work with people in a large geographic area. But if your customer base is in a small geographic area, find a competitive business that is not in direct competition for your market. In other words, if you live in Chicago, you know, look for the same business you have in Los Angeles, and then see if you can find some buddies that are in your same industry have your same business, and that you can talk to and say here, let’s form a little coalition so we can understand each other’s businesses better. And it’ll give you all a new perspective of the target market that you’re trying to reach. Because it’s like you’re looking through a multifaceted glass then right, you get all kinds of different opinions about what that business is for your target market. And it’s the same consumer, they just live in different geographic areas. So you’re really not cross competing with each other. So the sharing is a little bit more free and open. And it’s a really good relationship to have. I see this a lot in our photography world, where we all we have competitive businesses. I mean, technically, Cara and I are competitive with each other. But we’re in very different markets. And we’re also in very different geographic areas. So there’s a camaraderie that can happen because we can help each other without worrying about the lack of customers or somebody taking more than the other. How does that all sound to you, Cara?
Cara Taylor Swift 18:38
Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that probably one of the best decisions I made is I teamed up with two other photographers in other parts of the US, but they have very similar business models to me, where we’re providing a really elevated level of service and providing high end in product to our, to our clients. And we have weekly meetings where we cover everything from products that we are offering to our clients to how we’re pricing them to, you know, way we can add things on the types of editing packages we can put together. I mean, we go through and our attempt is that we dedicate each one of our meetings to something where we’re digging in deeper, and we share just everything I mean, we send them product things that we’ve created together and help bounce language off of each other. And it’s huge. And it’s it is about learning about your direct competition your market and what’s happening and then in seeing how you stack up and then you know that next step is what are your competitive differentiators? God I can’t say that word. Differentiators. And because the that to some way Kim I think can be the secret sauce, you know, and that can be two different things they can be how are the products and services that you offer to your community different from your competitors, but more importantly, how like you said earlier how Do consumers see you as different from your competition? I feel like that’s something you need to know too.
Kimberly Beer 20:05
It is it is. And that brings us to our number two, which is to get clear on your competitive differentiators. I have a feeling you’re going to pass your inability to pronounce differentiator off on to me so like I’m no I’m like super focused on pronouncing it. It’s crazy. So So yeah, aluminum. So it took me a while to learn how to pronounce aluminum. Okay, so when you’re looking at your competitive differentiators, so, differentiators are both things that are their positive differentiators, as in things you’ve added that your competitors don’t do. And then there’s also negative or subtractive differentiators, that are things that you don’t do that your competitors do. So if it’s something that is key in the aspect to your consumer, like in other words, it’s something that they use to make a decision purchase decision, and you don’t do what your competitors are doing. You need to have a really good reason for that. And it needs to be very public. As in I realize you’re basically what you’re saying. And in terms that are much more eloquent is I see you competitor, I see what you’re doing there. I know this is what it is. But dear consumer, this is the reason why we have chosen in our brand not to do that. And competitive differentiators are all about branding. This is all about how that conversation differs when people when you’re not present and your competitor isn’t present how the conversation goes with the customers when they’re talking about their options for whatever product or service that you and your competitor are offering. And I would like to refer you back to our episode where we talked to Meredith about branding, because that episode had a lot of really solid gold information about branding and about how to set up your brand in a really mindful way. And the differentiators are a part of that equation. It’s understanding that conversation that people have when you’re not in the room, and making sure that what you’re putting forward to the public. And also, behind the scenes when you’re working with customers really follows your brand to the point that it’s obvious how your brand is different from another you have perfect clients for your business. Your competitor has perfect clients for their business, there are plenty of clients to go around. But the key is you’ve got to be clear enough in your communication, and in the way that you do business that the consumer can easily identify which person which business that they would be the best fit with. And trust me on this. When you find the best fit as a consumer, you are much happier when the consumer is happier, trust me, dear business owner, you are happier too. You don’t want an experience where your brand wasn’t good for the person that was there, it wasn’t the best fit your competitor would have been a better fit. And then that person has a disappointing experience with your business goes and hires your competitor and is now incredibly vocal about how your business didn’t satisfy them. But the competitors did that social proof, as we’ve talked about is super powerful with consumers. So just be really aware of making sure that what you place out in the world really is your competitive differentiator, your brand differentiator from your competitors, and Cara has some awesome ways for you to learn how to do that.
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Cara Taylor Swift 24:18
Well, I would add to that, that it needs to be like an actual I don’t want to say a legit differentiator but something that’s tangible. That is something that you can see like I’m not finding the right word tangible is not the right word. But for I can give you some examples. You know, like something like one of your differentiator is something along the lines of well, we work with the best people and you’ve got that on your website. Well, okay, sure we all have great clients, but maybe you’ve narrowed it down and you can say something like, you know, we work strictly with horse owners and understand their unique needs. So that might set you aside from a business that works with other animal owners or that works with folks that don’t own animals or don’t own horses? Or maybe that works with folks that just board horses. Does that make sense? Kim, what I’m trying to say like being able to pull out what is different about you that your competitor can’t say can be a real bonus for your business. Well, another example I like to use as an equine photographer is that a lot of photographers might say something like, Well, you know, I provide high quality framing options. Okay, that’s wonderful, you know, you’re a professional photographer, that’s excellent, you have a great company that you work with, I’m sure if you’re someone that offers maybe an exclusive line of frames that are only available to a select group of professional photographers, and so maybe in your area, you’re the only place they can get that then being able to say something like, I offer an exclusive line of frames that are only available, you know, if you work with me, that can be a positive differentiator for you.
Kimberly Beer 25:50
Absolutely. And the experience here counts to not just the product, or even the actually the service, but the experience of working with a particular brand. So I am really free flow in working with my clients. I have a very open work ethic. But I and I’m not highly let’s put it in a spreadsheet, as Cara very well knows. Let’s put it in a spreadsheet and be overly prepared. So my clients like that the good the clients that I have the best luck with that we work the best together enjoy the free flow, and they actually play off of that. I have other clients where it just doesn’t jive. And that’s no problem. They actually belong with a different business consultant that has a different approach. It makes a difference in the experience that people have in the colors in the attitude. I mean, competitive differentiators are across the board, it is a very intricate research topic for you to take a look at. And what we’re trying to do here is to get you to look at both the big things and the small things that set you apart from your competition. And how can you as the business owner, play up the ones that really attract the perfect people into your business. And also make sure that people have a really clear decision to say, yep, your business is for me or nope, I’m going with this other business over here that makes a better fit.
Cara Taylor Swift 27:21
And I can’t stress enough how important it is to put your ear to the ground and listen to what consumers are saying about you. Like what are they saying about you that’s different from your competition, because that might be your secret sauce, and you just need to figure out how to leverage it. So I can’t I can’t stress that enough either.
Kimberly Beer 27:39
I can’t either. And that’s it is very true. I listened to clients tell when it’s about the photography, like or my commercial photography, I overheard one say to another who didn’t know I was sitting very near said, Oh, you have to have Kim out she has so much fun. You will never laugh so hard in your life as when you’re doing her photo shoot. And I was thinking, well, there was nothing in there about how talented of a photographer I am. But the fact that they had a good time and the recommendation worked. The person hired me so so there you go. So our big three. Number three is that competitive research is ongoing, you just it never ever stops. Part of that is because we all uplevel each other so it’s not just you doing competitive research, your competitors are doing research on you. This is a reflection, right. So as we all look at each other, we all look at our differentiators. We all look at what everyone is doing, we cohesive the industry. And overall no matter what you’re doing, that segment of the industry gets lifted up. So you can’t stop doing this. Innovation in entrepreneurship is one of the driving forces. And and I can guarantee you as an entrepreneur, you have innovation in your bone somewhere. Because if you’re having fun as an entrepreneur, that’s what it’s all about. So looking at how your competitors are interacting with their customers over time, and also all the new businesses that crop up in your area that are offering the same thing there’s there’s always the new kid on the block you got to worry about. So it definitely pays you to make this a regular and routine part of being a business owner.
Cara Taylor Swift 29:26
Absolutely. This takes us back to some of the stuff we talked about in the beginning. But you know doing competitive research is really it will continue to help you identify gaps in your industry and improve your marketing programs. It will help you find those gaps that could potentially be your thing that could help you cash in on your industry. It’s going to be your source sometimes for those new ideas and it’s gonna keep you current. It’s gonna keep you looking for emerging trends in your industry and keep you current and keep you you know, right there at the forefront of what’s happening in your industry.
Kimberly Beer 29:58
Absolutely. And it’s A fun, enjoyable ride along the way to learn all of these things and see how we all help each other grow and get better and consumers benefit from this as well. So yeah, just never stopped the competitive research and never stopped listening to The Business Animal podcast because we always have good stuff to share.
Cara Taylor Swift 30:20
That’s right. And if you’re a photographer out there or enjoy photography, we highly recommend you check out our new podcast that Kim and I have started with our pal and fellow photographer Phyllis Burchett of Phyllis Burchett photo. It’s called Cowgirls with cameras we highly recommend. We just recorded episode number two this morning, so it’s going to be fresh in your feeds very soon. And thank you guys so much for listening today. Please hop over to social media. Let us know what you think about this episode. You can find us at The Business Animal on Facebook and on Instagram and of course online at thebusinessanimal.com. We’ll see you guys again soon.
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