How to Generate Innovative Ideas Technique:Know Your Competitors Better Than They Know Themselves
Overview:Another technique that many businesses try to do, but few do effectively

Your Competitors Can Help You

Analyze your competition. Most businesses think they do this, but most (especially small businesses) do don’t do this well.

If you are a product company, buy your competitors’ products. Use the products; read the manuals; disassemble the products and look at the quality of materials and construction. Call up your competitors and pretend to be a prospective customer. Did you have a good experience when you contacted your competitors?

When you go to online review sites to see what people are saying about your business, take a few extra minutes to see what people are saying about your competitors. You may see something that represents opportunity for you.

These are old and well-known tactics, but I’m always surprised at how infrequently small businesses use these easy and low-cost approaches to get ideas for how they can be better than their competition.

A few years ago, a friend used some of these techniques for analyzing competition to help him launch a business that became very successful.

He lived in a small town in southern New Mexico. His long-term employer was on the verge of bankruptcy and he needed to find a new source of income. He thought that there was a market opportunity in installation of residential solar panels.

He had never installed solar panels before. He wasn’t a licensed electrician. There was well-established competition – several companies in town had been offering solar panel installation for many years. But only about 10% of the houses in town had solar panels installed, so there was a significant available market.

He called every solar panel installer in the area and asked each of them to prepare a quote for installing panels on his home. He asked a lot of questions. He looked at their websites. He got literature on the panels and inverters that they used and did research on the panels and inverters.

He wrote extensive notes about his experience with each company, and then identified areas where he could improve on the experiences. He found a line of panels and inverters that had features that were better than his competitors.

He developed a website where his customers could track on an hourly basis how much energy their solar panels were generating and how much money they were saving on their electric bill. (This is common now, but it was novel at that time.)

A complete list of all the areas he identified to differentiate himself from the existing competition would make this article too long. The gist of the story is: Eighteen months after he launched his business he was the largest solar panel installer in town and he maintained that position until he sold the business and retired.

A careful analysis of his competition allowed him to identify ways to differentiate his business and be very successful.

Every business tries to analyze their competition. How well do you do that? Do you analyze your competition to help you generate new ideas for your business? If you would like to implement some of these techniques in your organization, please contact Clint to help you get started.