Boss Lady

How to research your competition


You may not know it, but your competitors are researching you. No matter what business you are in, you will have competitors — and don’t be surprised to find they are ‘mystery shopping’ you to size up what you do. Also don’t be surprised to find the unscrupulous ones will copycat you. It’s always galling to find that the idea we had for a service or product has been copied and that the sneaky copycat is out there marketing your original idea.

However, while copycatting is unfair and underhanded, researching competitors is simply smart business practice. You need to identify and size up your competitors. Identifying your competitors is not seeing what they do and then copying it; but instead understanding the following:

  1. The demographic they are targeting
  2. Their range of services or products
  3. Options and alternatives they offer
  4. Where they are located
  5. Are they online – free delivery / charge for postage

Competitors are not always direct or next door! You have to think as a customer who has a certain amount to spend, and where are they going to spend it; food, entertainment, beauty, clothing. The list is endless.

When you undertake a competitor research you need to see it from the view point of the customer. So, how do you go about this? Create a Positioning Map / Comparative Analysis. To identify and understand your competitors you need to make a direct comparison on what their service or product is with what you are offering (or planning to offer).

For close on two decades my Mystery Shopping company has researched companies and their competitors and I can’t stress how important it is to measure the service delivery of your competitors, whether you are in a “unique” business or one of many, you only have one chance with todays’ customer. Your competitors may have great inspiring quotes, slogans or values printed on their website and marketing material, however, it’s just words and if management and staff don’t have the same values or fulfil the needs of the customer as promised then the customer will move on and certainly won’t recommend.

If you were thinking of doing a little “mystery shopping” yourself here are ten questions to consider when going to each competitor:

  1. Were the staff groomed and dressed according to company policy or to service (e.g. clean uniform and finger nails for someone serving at a cake shop or a beauty salon)
  1. Did the staff member welcome you with a smile and acknowledge you if they were serving someone else?
  1. Did the staff member answer your questions and provide options or alternatives?
  1. Was the transaction handled with confidence?
  1. Was the order repeated back to you so as to check all items had been ordered (e.g. meal order)
  1. How long did it take for your meal to be delivered and did all meals come out together and were they according to the menu description or your order?
  1. Did you receive a follow up call after your enquiry, purchase or service to see if you were happy, to receive feedback or to offer other options for future purchases or book another appointment?


If your competitor is online:

  1. Complete and submit the enquiry form online. How long did you wait for a response and was it personalised or just “cut and paste”?
  1. Did the order arrive within the guaranteed time frame?
  1. Were all relevant contact details correct on their website:
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

With the your findings compare “apples with apples” identify the differences that will then provide you opportunities as well as show you your strengths.

Ask yourself what are you going to offer that is going to attract prospective customers and have them returning that is different from your competitors? It may well be a new product or a service experience that will have the customers talking.

Recently I purchased a bunch of Jonquils for $5, expecting the florist to wrap them in a simple piece of paper, she created an experience that had me posting on social media telling friends and family and knowing that I will definitely be returning. Why? Because she wrapped those flowers in beautiful paper with a sponge to keep them moist, a lovely bow and flower food, chatted with me and even offered a card thinking they were a gift.

If I was a competitor florist I would seriously be thinking how can I create a VIP experience that she is providing?

About Michelle Pascoe

Michelle Pascoe is a Professional Speaker, Trainer, Coach & Author who lives and breathes her passion for customer service, mystery shopping, and team motivation. She is an experienced businesswomen and specialist in every aspect of service operations and processes, and their impact on the customer experience. As an international speaker and accredited trainer and assessor, Michelle combines her extensive experience and specialised knowledge with an absolute commitment to igniting the potential in each and every individual so they can achieve outstanding results.

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