Understand your competitors

How to do competitor research


Try to find out as much as you can about your competitors. Look for articles or adverts in the trade press or mainstream publications. Read their marketing literature. Check their entries in directories and phone books. If they are an online business, ask for a trial of their service.

If your competitor is a public company, read a copy of their annual report. Limited companies must lodge their accounts with Companies House.

Go to exhibitions

At exhibitions and trade fairs check which of your competitors are also exhibiting. Look at their stands and promotional activities. Note how busy they are and who visits them.

Go online

Look at competitors' websites and check the site to compare it to yours and see if you could make any improvements to yours.

Business websites often give much information that businesses haven't traditionally revealed - from the history of the company to biographies of the staff. They may provide case studies on customer success stories.

Sign up for your competitors' email newsletters to keep track of their business news like new customers or product launches. 

Use a search engine to track down similar products. Find out who else offers them and how they go about it.

Social media can offer you a lot of insight into what customers and competitors are saying. 

Organisations and reference sources

Find information on competitors using: 

What they're planning to do

Try to go beyond what's happening now by investigating your competitors' business strategies, for example:

  • what types of customers they're targeting
  • what new products they're developing
  • what financial resources they have

Talk to your competitors

You can learn about your competitors by getting to know them. Phone them to ask for a copy of their brochure or get one of your staff or a friend to pick up their marketing literature.

You could ask for a price list or enquire what an off-the-shelf item might cost and if there's a discount for volume. This will give you an idea at which point a competitor will discount and at what volume.

Phone and face-to-face contacts will also give you an idea of the style of the company, the quality of its literature and the initial impressions they makes on customers.

It's also likely you'll meet competitors at social and business events. Talk to them. Be friendly - they're competitors, not enemies. You'll probably share common problems. You'll get a better idea of them - and you might need each other one day, for example, in collaborating to grow a new market for a new product.

At the same time, make sure that you are competing fairly and do not behave in an anti-competitive fashion. Fixing prices or agreeing not to compete is illegal. This includes activities with a price-fixing effect, such as discussing your pricing plans with competitors.

Listen to your customers and suppliers

Make the most of the contacts you have made with your customers. Ask which of your competitors they buy from and how you compare. Use your judgment with any information they volunteer. For instance, when customers say your prices are higher than the competition they may just be trying to negotiate a better deal.

Use meetings with your suppliers to ask what their other customers are doing. They may not tell you everything you want to know, but they may have something useful to say.