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An Effective Competitive Analysis : Part 1 of 3

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

What is a competitive analysis?

A competitive analysis is defining and evaluating your major competitor’s strengths and weaknesses then comparing them with your own.

 

Why do a competitive analysis?

When you have a better understanding of your competition, the greater your chances are to outperform them.

 

A competitive analysis can be a very effective tool to help you grow your business. The more comprehensive and in-depth your analysis, the greater benefit to you and your business.

 

Types of competitors:

There are many types of competitors. You may have a fairly accurate sense of who your competition is but you might be surprised to learn that you overlooked some competitors.

  • Direct competition – These are the businesses that offer the same products and services that you do and service your target market.
  • Indirect competition – These are the businesses that offer the same or very similar products and services that you do but they target a little different market than you do.
  • Tertiary competition – These are the businesses that offer something that may vaguely link to your business but isn’t in direct competition with you.

 

Search for information about your competitors:

Begin your analysis by compiling a list of names of known competitors as well as keywords or phrases that are linked to your products and services. Once you have that list in hand, select your favorite search engine and use it to locate your competition.

 

Search engines are wonderful for helping you figure out who your competitors are as well as helping you to gather data on what they are doing. Don’t stop there! You will need to click on their sites, social channels, articles, and more to gain the information you need to do you analysis.

 

Ways to find out who your competitors are:

  • Look at the ads / sponsored listings when you do your searches
  • Use content analyzing tools to search blog posts and social media for company names
  • Ask your current customers, or prospective customers, who else they use or have used
  • Read trade publications
  • Check social media channels
  • Look at popular forums

 

Put the data in a spreadsheet:

Once you have your list compiled, you can begin your actual competitive analysis. It is a good idea to use a spreadsheet to keep all the information you collect together and in a format that is easy to read and access.

 

Obtain a basic overview of your competition:

 

Include information:

  • Number of employees
  • Noteworthy employees
  • Number of offices and locations
  • Number of clients
  • Annual Revenue
  • Products and services offered
  • Area(s) they operate I
  • Websites and social media channels they own
  • Company history and significant milestones
  • Message/Brand

 

Next, you want to take a close look at how the company sees itself. The easiest way to do this is to look at the content they put out under their brand. How do they talk about their own products and services?

 

Look closely at items such as:

  • Website copy (the text on the site)
  • Social media channels
  • Printed materials (flyers, brochures, trade materials, etc.)
  • Employees speaking at events
  • Press releases or appearances
  • Interviews given by employees or management

 

The messages they put out will provide valuable insight into what they feel is important, the key areas they focus on, and the type of customer they are targeting.

 

Ask yourself these types of questions while compiling the data:

  • What is their opening piece of copy on their homepage?
  • What features/products do they emphasize?
  • Who (what types of people or customers) are they specifically talking to?
  • How do they talk/what language do they use?
  • What are their main selling points?
  • What imagery (graphs, charts, cartoons, photos, etc.) do they use?
  • What competitors do they talk about, if any?
  • What clients do they highlight, if any?

 

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this series will go into greater depth regarding the information you should be collecting such as pricing, financial records, job postings, and their website.

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic & Cranberries Recipe

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By Debbie Gregory.

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This is one of the easiest recipes that you can make and I love easy.  During the holiday season, we have a ton of additional responsibilities especially veteran and military small business owners. It is important to make sure you don’t overdo and stress out instead of enjoying these special days with your family and friends.

 

This recipe only  takes 15 minutes of preparation and 30 minutes to cook and you have a delicious and healthy side dish for you holiday feasts  This makes 10 to 12 servings.   Please rate it too and send us your opinion and favorite recipes to info@vamboa.org

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sugar (if you avoid sugar, there are low calorie substitutes to use)
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1 cup dried cranberries

 

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Trim/clean the Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half. Arrange on 2 baking sheets and toss with the olive oil. Roast until brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and reduce until very thick.
  • Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts, then sprinkle on the dried cranberries.

 

This is so yummy but only if you enjoy eating brussels sprouts….

Hot Cocoa Cheesecake Minis Recipe

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Here is another wonderful holiday recipe for Hot Cocoa Cheesecake Minis.   These are a simple no fail mini cheesecake that anyone can make.  You might even be inclined to add a splash of Irish Cream liqueur too or skip it if you are making for children.  Please let us know if you enjoyed this and send us your favorites.

 

Ingredients:

  • 10 Oreo (or other chocolate sandwich) cookies, crushed finely in a food processor
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 pkg (8 ounces each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened at room temperature for 20 minutes
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Original Irish Cream Liqueur (optional if no children)
  • 2 large eggs

For Decorating: 

  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate(for the chocolate handles
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F with a rack in the center position. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
  2. Combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter; press onto bottoms of 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
  3. Beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand-held mixer) until blended. Mix in the Bailey’s Irish Cream, if using. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Do not over mix. Distribute the batter evenly among the cookie crust cups.
  4. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the centers are almost set. Place on a rack and cool completely. Refrigerate for two hours.
  5. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave using 30 seconds intervals, stirring with a spatula after each interval. Spoon the chocolate into a resealable Ziploc bag. Cut a very small piece off one bottom corner of the bag; pipe the chocolate into 12 small ‘C’ shapes, resembling cup handles, onto the lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid and ready to use.
  6. Remove the liners from the cheesecakes. Beat the cream and remaining teaspoon of sugar in a separate medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until soft peaks form; spoon onto the cheesecakes. Dust with remaining cocoa powder; top with marshmallows. Gently press the chocolate handles into the side of each cheesecake.

A few words of wisdom on this recipe:

  • You can top with a dollop of whipped cream , mini marshmallows and a light dusting of cocoa powder to make them festive – when in doubt add a topping
  • You will need to set aside 2 hours for chilling in the fridge but the actual assemble and bake time is less than one hour
  • Bring your cream cheese to room temperature by leaving it out for 20 minutes or so on the counter before mixing
  • Before you add the eggs, beat the cream cheese and sugar until there are not any lumps
  • Add your eggs slowly and mix just until combined being careful not to over mix
  • You can make a lower fat version substitute low fat cream cheese with it being softer

ENJOY!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Recap:

In Part 2 of our holiday preparation series we went over planning deals for your past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush. In Part 3, we will finish out the series with the graphics you will need to create, your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns, updating your holiday policies, and readying your site for buyers.

 

Create All of the Holiday Graphics & Imagery You Will Need:

It is best to create all needed graphics and imagery well in advance of the holiday season. Adding cute little holiday touches really helps people feel festive when shopping with you. Take the time to update your website, logo, headers, and social channels with fun holiday touches. You will also want to create fun graphics to go with all your promotions, deals, and bundles. Make them eye-catching, colorful, festive, and fun!

 

Plan, Write & Review Your Holiday PPC Campaigns (Pay Per Click):  

If you utilize Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns, you will want to make sure that they reflect the same promotions, deals, and discounts that you are planning to push on your website and social channels. These campaigns are also best run during the peak buying days mentioned earlier. Typically you want to focus holiday campaigns from December 14th-24th.

 

Review & Update Any Policies & Procedures That Can BE Affected During the Holidays:

Since we are specifically talking about eCommerce businesses you will want to make sure that your holiday shipping time frames and procedures are front and center on your site. You may want to consider creating a holiday FAQ page that covers typical questions your customers may have during the holiday season so they know what they can expect. Items such as:

  • Special hours
  • Last days to order to ensure delivery by December 24th
  • Dates certain types of shipping will no longer be available

 

Test & Update Your Website Security & Performance:

Security is always a concern for consumers when shopping online. Make sure that your site is ready for the holiday spending season by:

  • Having an SSL certificate installed and configured or update the one you have
  • Make sure that your hosting package can handle the holiday traffic
  • Make sure your site is totally up to date
  • Make sure your site is running properly and as fast as possible
  • Make sure that your site looks proper both on a computer and on mobile

 

If you plan accordingly, tackle any possible issues, you will have a lower stress, more profitable, and more productive holiday eCommerce season.

 

Happy holidays and we hope this is your biggest holiday season ever!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Recap:

Part 1 of our holiday preparation series went over the days you should focus on and preparing your holiday deals. Part 2 will cover planning deals for your past customers, putting together your holiday messaging, preparing your inventory and packing materials ready, and getting your site prepared for the holiday rush.

 

Prepare Special/Exclusive Holiday Offers for your Current/Past Customers:

People who have purchased from you in the past are very likely to purchase from you again. Target them with an exclusive deal! Special discounts, free shipping, or other perks offered to past customers shows them that you appreciate their business and loyalty counts with in your business.

 

Prepare All Holiday Mail/Email Messaging:

Make sure that you pre-setup all holiday-related emails and newsletters. Make sure your auto-responders are setup and ready to deploy when the holiday season begins. Put together template responses to commonly asked questions so replies are quick and easy.

 

Make Sure You Will Have the Inventory & Shipping Items:

You not only need to make sure that you have enough products to sell, you also need to make sure that you have all of the packaging materials, promotional materials, and gift wrapping materials you will need to process and ship out your orders. Trying to scramble to find these materials when orders are waiting to go out, can add a lot to your holiday stress not to mention cost business.

 

Make Sure You Have These Items:

  • Packaging materials: boxes, labels, tape, envelopes, bubble wrap, etc.
  • Promotional materials: business cards, inserts, flyers, discount cards, etc.
  • Gift wrapping materials: gift boxes, cards, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc.

 

Plan Out All Holiday, Website, Newsletter, Social Media & Blog Content:  

Customers spend a lot of time shopping around for the best deals from trusted sellers. Creating and sharing holiday-specific content helps your exposure, helps build trust, and can showcase your expertise and products. Schedule your social posts to go out more than once to ensure they are being seen. It is important to repeat your message without being annoying.  Create content that helps your customer gain interest in your upcoming deals and products.  You might consider telling your story regarding various products.

 

Content Ideas to Help Get the Ball Rolling:

  • Holiday gift guides
  • Stocking stuffer ideas
  • Last-minute gift guides
  • Coming soon landing pages for your holiday promos or products
  • How-to to make life easier, more productive, or more enjoyable
  • Product comparisons
  • Customer review compilations

 

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series – we will finish out the series with the graphics you will need to create, your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns, updating your holiday policies, and preparing your site ready for buyers.

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