Use Your Competitors to Your Advantage
By Zachary A. Rose, CEO of Green Education Services
When you first start out, it can be intimidating to be up against companies that have been at your same business for so much longer…especially when they are substantially larger. But this can also be a HUGE advantage for you.
Here are 3 tips on how to use your small business status to your advantage.
1. Competitors’ websites have far more intel than you may realize.
Your competition has spent plenty of time analyzing, predicting, graphing, and “excel-ing” their current business model and there is only so much of that which can be hidden from the public eye. Many companies wear their trade secrets right on their sleeve (aka website) and it is ripe for the viewing…so go look at it! Browsing your competitions’ websites is one of the most useful ways to understand how your competitor’s tick. There is nothing wrong with reading their marketing materials, seeing how their forms work, checking what platform they run their site on, etc. all in the interest of better understanding what is working for them and what very well may work for you.
2. Call them. Ask questions. Repeat. Gatekeepers (i.e., the employees who talk to the outside world) are the ultimate source of information that you cannot find anywhere else. They are cc’ed on internal emails, read many of the memos that go out between staff members, and generally know far more than you could ever imagine about how their employers’ businesses work. So why not give them a call and ask some questions?! I own an education company and in deciding how we should schedule classes, we set up hours of meetings, analyzed populations, checked local county requirements…and we ended up with entirely too much data and not enough facts. So we got on the horn and started asking our competitors’ eager-to-please receptionists all the questions we could think of…and we got answers – really, really, detailed answers, which to this day influence how we schedule our classes. It turns out that the competition really had no idea how to set up their classes and we figured out what they were doing wrong then pounced. (This probably goes without saying, but don’t mar your business’s success by stepping into unethical territory and lying about who you are when you call! A lot of information – like how classes are scheduled – is public. You just need to call to get it.)
3. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The bottom line is that sometimes you simply will not be able to catch up to a competitor, so why not play nice? We were getting creamed by a much larger company and got to the point where we were literally just going to give up on that vertical…but we instead gave our competition a call and asked if they would like to partner. They were quick to say yes and we had an agreement in place by the next day. The result is that we are actually BEYOND pleased with the results: we’ve maintained a solid revenue stream, substantially reduced internal demand on staff members, and have since partnered with other companies in a similar capacity. Furthermore, it’s changed the way we do business and is actually a part of our investor package which has been met with extreme enthusiasm…and a few dollar signs.
Zachary A. Rose, AIA, LEED AP is the CEO of Green Education Services , a top green jobs training firm with classes in over 50 markets across the world. Zachary started GreenEDU after losing his job as an Architect in December 2008 and has since bootstrapped his way to gross revenues of over $2 million a year. Zachary also recently started Rose Strategy Group to help businesses achieve their marketing goals. Zachary took the FastTrac GrowthVenture program in 2011 and credits much of his recent success to what he took away from the program.
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The views, opinions, or expressions provided by Zachary A. Rose do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or expressions of the City of New York, the New York City Department of Small Business Services, and/or NYC Business Solutions.