Learn all you can about your competition with our guide to business reconnaissance. The perfect read to help you get ahead and stay there.

They say that knowledge is power and nowhere is this truer than in the world of business. With more brands appearing every day, it has never been more important to know all you can about your competition. These are the businesses targeting the same audiences and selling the same products, the brands sharing your space or stepping on your toes. When it comes to getting ahead, it pays to know the ins and outs of your competitors: learn from their success and their failures, know what sets you apart and what areas you can improve on. Knowing your competition gets you one step ahead, and staying up to date with them will help to keep you there.
So if you’re ready for a little business reconnaissance, get ready to rifle through the metaphorical bin of your competitors. Find out their secrets, crunch their data and get ready to come out on top with our guide to learning from the competition.
The first step to learning from the competition is knowing just who the competition is. While most businesses have their eye on the brands sharing their turf, it never hurts to have a little refresher. The easiest way to see what else is out there is to jump on Google. Search for “best fashion PR firms”, “top Australian swimwear labels” or whatever your niche may be.
Once you’ve taken stock of the playing field, separate your competition into primary, secondary and tertiary competitors. Primary competitors are your direct competition. They’ll have a similar products or services to you and will be targeting the same audience. Secondary competitors are those with similar products or services but different audiences (they could be an overseas company, targeting a higher end audience or perhaps selling to an older age bracket). Tertiary competitors are only loosely related to your business. They can be great partners, collaborators or potential threats if their business evolves.
Be aware that these categories are not fixed. Secondary competitors can quickly become primary competitors, and those tertiary brands can launch a stealth attack! Keep an eye on your competition, know who’s expanding their business and branching off into different avenues.
Now you know who to look out for, it’s time to learn all you can about them. You want to know who your competitors are targeting, how they’re doing it and how successful they’ve been. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, where you can grow and what your point of difference is.
A good place to start is social media, draw up an excel spreadsheet and fill it with information about followers, likes, post frequency and average engagement rate. You can also gain key marketing insights, what influencers (if any) are they using, do they use promoted or pinned posts, what are their social channels of choice.
Second step is to do some more intensive Google searching. Find out if celebs are spruiking their products, what kind of coverage they’re getting, what media are reporting on them and how they rank in Google search results.
If you want to get into the nitty gritty, you can dig up more info by searching Government entities that store public details. For Australian businesses, ASIC and the ABR are your go-to pages, they’ll provide basic information as well as insolvency notices and lodged documents.
This next step is all about snapping yourself out of that business mindset and approaching your competition from the perspective of a customer. Learning how audiences interact with your competitors helps to identify their strengths and weaknesses and how you can make use of these for your own brand!
So it’s time to dig out that black beret and go special ops for a day.
Head to websites and shop fronts. Take note of general appearance and location (suburbs, domain address – having a country specific domain will indicate their target market!). Was the site or shop easy to find, what are their opening hours or load times, how can you do better? Once first impressions are out of the way, begin to navigate through the space, taking note of customer service, language and tone, stock levels, post frequency, price points, delivery details and ease of navigation. Be honest about what you like and don’t like, this will help you apply your findings to your own brand and make sure your business has the upper hand!
With all your stalking intel sorted out, the final step to learning from your competitors is having a path for your future. Get your notepad out and see what you can learn from those companies who are living the dream and smashing their goals. These aren’t your competitors but are innovators and scene-stealers, companies and businesses to look up to. Think Uber and Airbnb, those brands that have shaken up the climate by offering exciting alternatives to the mainstream. Why not apply this guide to those brands, find out how they got to where they are, what their journey was and how they’re revolutionising the market. Who knows, one day they might be your competition!
Want an extra leg-up on your competition? Win coverage and score results by reading our posts on what the media love to write about and just how to contact them with that killer story.
Image credits: Raez Argulla (banner), Spy Games – Marie Claire, Target – Raez Argulla