Tailor Marketing to Your Competition

One of the best sources of marketing information is just around the corner.

Take a close look at the competition and tailor your marketing in response to what you see. It doesn't matter whether your business opponents are doing it all right or are in worse shape than you, you can learn from them.

One automobile dealer keeps close tabs on leading rivals by getting their Dun & Bradstreet financial and business operations reports. When one of the dealer's key competitors started slashing prices and offering heavy discounts the dealer matched the moves with no worries. Ordinarily he would have avoided a price war, but from the D&B reports he knew that his rival couldn't sustain losses for long. Since he had deeper pockets, his company was able to survive and ultimately broaden its market share.

Securing financial reports on your competitors is only one way to keep on top of the marketplace. Other excellent sources of information are trade publications, industry associations and area business groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, you can often get a wealth of information by talking with your suppliers. The owner of one personnel agency even bought stock in her competition so she could get the company's annual report and other valuable documents.

Hiring employees from the competition can also yield invaluable intelligence, but be wary about asking them to break legal agreements that prevent them from disclosing proprietary information.

The Internet is another great way to find out what your opponents are doing. Check out their websites and any sites that cover your industry.

Of course, there's always the direct approach — just ask. You can't expect direct competitors to reveal trade secrets, but they might swap advice.

The late Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, would regularly visit his competitors' stores. He started doing this when he first started in business and continued it when his stores were a blazing success. Walton believed in learning from everything and regarded his competitors as the ones who could teach him the most.

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