The Competitive Advantage: How to Find Your Opportunities and Threats
When you begin to excel in gaining your competitive advantage, you can truly excel in your industry. And that means understanding not only your own strengths and weaknesses, but also those of your competitors.
To find out where you are today, nothing beats using the SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
We discussed finding your strengths and weaknesses in an earlier post. If you’ve finished listing your strengths and weaknesses for your business, take a moment to review them (here’s a handy dandy SWOT worksheet you can use). Next it’s time to look at the opportunities and the potential threats that could keep you from achieving your goals.
Stepping back and considering potential opportunities and threats contributes to understanding any impacts on the success of your business and the direction you take – your marketing roadmap.
Use These Questions to Get Started
If you need some prompts to get your creative juices flowing, try answering these questions about your SMB:
- Is there a need in the industry that you’re not meeting, but could?
- Is there a niche market that you’re not currently targeting?
- What do your customers ask for that you don’t offer, but could begin to offer?
- If you’ve lost customers in the past, can you explain why?
- What other barriers are keeping your business from growing?
Understanding External Forces
Your strengths and weaknesses are mostly internal issues that you can control.
Opportunities and threats most often come from outside of your company and cannot be changed. The challenge is taking advantage of opportunities while guarding your company from potential threats.
Your SWOT boils down to this: You have to use your company’s strengths and opportunities to overcome its weaknesses and threats.
You wouldn’t start on a long journey without knowing where you wanted to go. You know where there are potential issues like road construction that would delay you (threat). And, you know the short cuts that would get you there faster (opportunity).
Don’t Forget to Do Your Research
All SMBs have competitors and it’s our job to understand who they are if we want to gain that competitive advantage we talked about earlier.
They may be direct competitors who are in the same space as you. Or they may be indirect competitors who offer an alternative type of product or service.
You probably have a good idea who some of your competitors are, especially if you have come up against them for customer loyalty. But there are some other ways of doing your research.
How to Find Your Competitors
- Do a Google search on your product or service. This sounds incredibly simple, but in less than 30 seconds you can get some great information. Type in the product or service that you offer and you will see what other companies offer similar options. Not only that, you can see what questions people are asking about these products or services. Take note here, as this might be an opportunity for your business! Finally, does your business show up on the first page of the Google search for the type of product or service you offer? If not, this is something to take note of and is a possible opportunity.
- Look at the paid ads in that same Google search. Who is buying an ad and what types of products or services are they offering? These PPC (pay per click) ads show you what other businesses are offering and what they find worth paying for to attract attention. And if you see a lot of PPC ads, then you will know that there may be a pretty tough competitive landscape out there.
- Talk to your sales staff. Find out which other companies get mentioned the most in their conversations with customers.
- Type in the business or product into Google Maps. So, not only will you get a visual of where your competitors are located, you may also get to see reviews of those companies from their customers. This can be great competitive information for you to use to your advantage.
- Talk to your customers! Not only will they have looked at your competitors, they might even know of some companies that you have not identified. A client survey may be a good option here or simply pick up the phone and talk with your customers.
Why Bother to Monitor Your Competitors?
If you do know who some of your competitors are, follow them on Facebook or LinkedIn and sign up for their newsletters. And one really simple — but often overlooked — way of keeping tabs on your competition is to sign up for a Google Alert. Any time your competitors appear as a topic in Google Search, you’ll get a notice. You can go here to find out how to set that up.
Because every business has competitors, it will be worth your while to know just exactly who you are competing against. From there, you can find out where they might have gaps that your business can take advantage of.
Qualtrics outlines a few things that you should be looking for, such as what they are offering, what they are charging, who their customers are, how they are marketing, and what new products they have coming on the market.
By looking at this information, you’ll be able to find out where some of their weaknesses exist that would allow you to create a new opportunity for your own business.
In fact, by completing this part of the SWOT analysis, you may find that there are ways your business will need to change the way it operates to take advantage of these external factors.
And, there may be more external factors that affect your decisions, including financial and cultural factors as well.
You’ve Started Your Marketing Roadmap…Download our SWOT Worksheet
Congratulations! You’ve gone through a vital process in understanding just exactly what you need to do to reach your goals! While there is more to do, having your SWOT analysis is an important first step that you can share with your team. You have taken an important step in strengthening your marketing foundation.
We’ve created a SWOT template for you to download and use as you begin your own journey. Having a visual way to organize your work is incredibly helpful. It’s a great way to communicate your findings to others. If you would like to find out more about how strong your marketing foundation really is, take our free quiz and get your score (in four different areas) from one of our strategic experts. And, if you want to take the conversation a bit further, schedule a free, 15-minute call to discuss those findings. We can help you get started down the right road.
Tomato Fish Is An Indianapolis Consulting Company Focused On Helping Small And Midsize Businesses Make Good Strategic Planning Decisions.