Competing businesses are one of the big challenges in any industry or niche. You’ll never get uncontested access to customers, advertising space or raw materials – there’ll always be someone else in the same space, competing for the same oxygen.

Competition can be big or small – new businesses hungry for a share of the audience you’ve cultivated, or huge players that could crush you by rolling over in their sleep. Amazon doesn’t need to know you exist to out-compete your business fatally!

The best way to deal with competition is by understanding your competitors. When you know what they want and why you can make plans around that understanding – whether those plans are simply to find spaces in which you can co-exist, or to get ahead of them and deprive them of the resources they need to succeed.

Professional Help

One of the best tools in your arsenal when you’re trying to understand your competition are professional competitive intelligence and analysis consultants. These experts have access to the skills and knowledge to give you good advice about what your competitors may be planning, to identify the most important other businesses operating in your niche, and to wargame different outcomes in different situations so you can make some informed guesses about how your competitors will react in real life.

It’s a complex and highly specialised discipline, which is what makes it ideal for consultancy work – even very large firms would find it hard to justify full time hires in the space, but businesses at all levels can justify an injection of strategic competitive intelligence at the right time.

Making Decisions

When you have that vital improved understanding of your competitors you can use it to inform your decision making process. One of the key areas you can use it in to make better decisions is timing. If you can predict when your competitors will be launching deals, publicising new products and beginning big marketing pushes, you can schedule around them. If you want to maximise your return and lower your spend, you can schedule your own pushes for times when you’re not competing for ad-space and attention. Two equally sized competitors trying to do the same thing at the same time just blunt each other’s response – you both get a bad deal.

Of course, if you’re much more heavily resourced than a competitor (something else competitive intelligence can help you find out) you might choose to avoid that whitespace on purpose. If you’re able to consistently outspend a competitor during a key marketing cycle, you deny them customers and build their costs, potentially forcing them out of your market! Just beware of the next business up the ladder trying the same thing with you.