Keeping an eye on your competitors
Very few businesses do it all right, all the time. I know I don’t. I am pretty sure you don’t. And it is exactly those times when your business (and worse, your clients) are prime targets for your competition. Remember, your competition might be down the road, in the next town over, or across the country. We live in a globally connected world now. But the converse is also true: when you spot a competitor dropping the ball, you have an opportunity to shine. I do not advocate stealing clients; but if you can define your value properly, clients will make the decision on their own. That is why it is critical to periodically do a competitive analysis on “the enemy.”
Examine their website
After targeting your competition, take a look at what they are doing online. Be sure that you use your consumer eyes and not your travel eyes to gain insight into the experience they offer. Take a look at some key areas:
- Are they a quality business? Do they effectively represent the product? Or do they cookie-cutter standard ones?
- Are they thorough? What information is included? What information might be missing? You may want to include (or exclude) information to move the sale.
- What are their calls-to-action? Are they looking to sell? Entice? Gain subscribers? Followers on social media? Are these calls obvious, clear, concise, and (most important) honest?
- Are they blogging? How frequently? What type of posts are they making?
- Social connections: Are the social icons (both sharing and following) in logical places?
- Technical aspects: We are an increasingly mobile society. Is the website responsive? Can you read it on a phone or tablet?
Everyone has a different view and these are really just the tip of the iceberg to get you thinking about your competition.
Identify their market position
This might be a little trickier. You may know or be able to surmise what they believe to be their position in the market. If they are positioning themselves (About Us) to be the leader in luxury travel, yet feature FunJet and Apple Vacations trips, there is a disconnect.
Also, how do they differentiate themselves from you—if at all. “My love for travel and exceptional customer service” does not cut the mustard. If they are specializing in the Caribbean, look to see what special training and certifications they have. All of this will enable you to most effectively position yourself. For example if they are the leader in Caribbean travel and have the people and training to back it up—you may want to look to a different angle, destination, etc. It is difficult, but not impossible, to compete with the best. To make sure you are on top of it now and in the future:
- Subscribe to their newsletter
- Follow their blogs
- Follow them on social media
- Make a phone call and see how you are treated
See what others are saying
We all know that review sites can be dicey. Some reviews are fraudulent, others are inaccurate, and others are legitimate. Take a look at your competition and see if you can spot any trends. If you see that they seemingly do not return calls fast enough, maybe you can promote your value with “all calls returned within the hour.”
Check them out socially
If your competitor has a healthy social media following with engaged fans, that is a good sign that your product is in demand. You will also be able to see how they interact with their customers and, more importantly, how the customers feel about dealing with the business. People are very brave behind the anonymity of a keyboard!
If their following is large and healthy, you may need to up your game a little. Emulate them. If their following is anemic, don’t rest on your laurels. It could be that they are bad, there is no demand for their product, or they are just not using social media—it happens believe it or not!
And finally, just keep your ears open. If you are dealing with a local competitor, you will eventually hear something. It could be rumor, fact, or embellishment, but all are valuable. And as Michael Corleone famously said: keep your friends close, and your enemies closer!