When Oscar Wilde said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he could have been referring to the highly competitive world of small business startups. Understanding your competitors, what they are doing, and where you can be better are all keys to making your business a success. There’s no point in learning things the hard way, so here are some things you should turn to your competitors for help with.

Avoid Reinventing the Wheel

Your competitor’s product or service can tell you a lot about what you should and should not do. You can get answers to basic questions about things like target markets, pricing, product features, and distribution channels. While you shouldn’t copy them exactly, you can get an estimate for how to be competitive by knowing what they are doing.

While researching their company, make sure you pay attention to both their failures and their successes. If something didn’t work, you don’t want to repeat that mistake and suffer consequences that could have easily been avoided.

Strategize Your Next Move

Looking at your competitors will help you get a feel for what is going on in the market. If there are a lot of people jumping into a specific industry and there is a lot of demand, then this is a great time to start your business. However, if most of the businesses are struggling, then you may want to hold off.

Competitor research can also affect the SEO strategy of your business. Your competitor research process should include a look at the strength of their SEO. WebMarkets recommends looking at your competitor’s page rank, keyword densisty, and volume of links. Understanding this information can help you target keywords more effectively.

Figure Out What Customers Really Need

There is no end to the number of upgrades you can make to your products, but that doesn’t mean that you should always go that far. As Toby Scammel points out, continually adding features and reacting to every demand from a customer leads to a product that is so bloated that you can’t really do anything with it.

Look at what products are selling well and what customers really aren’t interested in. You can also look at different packages your competitors offer to see what works best together and what doesn’t.

Find What Makes You Unique

Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. Every product can be improved. Studying your competition gives you the opportunity to exploit their deficiencies and establish your niche. You also need to know what your competitors are offering so you can market yourself properly. If you are doing the same things, but your marketing is better, you are going to have more success.

Competition isn’t just a good motivator; it can also help you find your footing when you are first starting out. Don’t be afraid to look around and figure out what other people are doing and use that as inspiration to help you get to where you want to be.

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