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An Effective Competitive Analysis : Part 1 of 3

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By Debbie Gregory.

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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.

Veteran Business Owners’ New Year’s List

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Happy New Year to our Veteran and Military Business Owners.   There are always many tasks for entrepreneurs to do and not always enough time to do them.   This is an excellent time to start with a fresh prospective, plan and focus.   You may want to reflect on the prior year and refocus your energy.   Below is a list to begin 2020:

 

  1. Recap & Forecast: Now is a good time to look at where you are and where you want to go with your business.   Review your return on investment, ROI on major projects, your finances and your goals.   Make sure you and your team understands your goals for the coming year.   This will make any changes easier.  It is a also an excellent time to  gain valuable input on what works, what can be improved and what has not worked.

 

If you have a team, you need to talk with them and develop an understanding of their roles and how they feel about them.   The New Year is an excellent tine for an annual review.    This is the time to perform your due diligence and be proactive to place you ahead of your competition.    Consider this to be your plan for success in 2020.

 

  1. ROI Marketing Focus: Your focus in determining your 2020 marketing initiatives must be what is the ROI (Return on Investment) on each initiative.  These include social media, advertising, blogs,brand building and more.  Not every marketing initiative is measurable but you should evaluate those you can.   You want to direct your money and resources to those initiatives that pay off for you.
  1. Look At Industry Trends: You need to take the temperature of what is going on within your own industry as well a industries that impact yours such as your suppliers.  This will enable you to react to changes and be proactive.   If the Trade Wars with China or oil prices affect your business, you need to take all of this into consideration and be prepared for a worst case scenario.
  1. Realistic Financial Goals: It makes a great deal of sense to put your financial goals in writing at the beginning of a New Year to achieve them.  You may want to check out SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) and OKRs (objectives and key results) formats.   This can include creating a list of objectives and key results for each area of your business (such as sales, finance, marketing, manufacturing and product development, etc.).   Each member of your team needs to have a keen understanding of their goals for the new year and how they are going to achieve them.

 

You might want look into affordable financing options for your business too.   This can make sense even for thriving businesses because the best time to look for financing is when your business is doing well.   Don’t take out loans unless you need one to grow your business and take it to the next level.

 

  1. Look at Automating Your Business: You might want to look into automated software solutions that will enable you to automate accounting, customer management and time tracking  to allow you to focus on accomplishing the real work.  Automating your finances will also provide you valuable input into better managing your cash flow and ROI and to forecast properly.
  1. Working Remotely: This is a good time to determine if some or all of your business can be done remotely.  Remote work is a trend and many believe that almost three-quarters of all  departments will have remote workers by 2028.   You may want to look at whether hiring remote workers and freelancers can benefit your business.   This is not viable for every business such as a retail store.   However, for some businesses, it can reduce the cost of office space and enable you to draw from a larger pool of talent.   We recommend that if you are considering a remote staff that you look into collaborative and communication tools.
  1. Mentors: Mentors are one of the most valuable resources for any business at any level.  Mentors provide objective advise, experience and access to a larger network of resources and people.   Almost all small business owners believe that mentors have had a direct impact on the growth and success of their business.   Those who don’t have a mentor, wish that they did.   If you don’t have mentors, the new year is a a good time to find them and start the year right.

Cookie Baking Tips

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By Debbie Gregory.

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We hope these tips are helpful to you and your cookies turn out delicious.  Let us know and send your best cookie recipes to info@vamboa.org

 

·       Select the Right Cookie

Are your cookies being mailed? Are they for a cookie swap? No nut allergies, right? Do they need to impress the kids or an office? If you’re mailing the batch, skip fragile options such as lacy Florentines or anything frosted and don’t forget the bubble wrap! If they’re bound for the classroom, be aware of any food allergies and opt for colorful options, like linzer cookies or good ol’ fashioned sugar cookies dusted with sprinkles — or even edible glitter! If trading at a cookie swap, stick to a recipe that is easily doubled  or tripled packed for ease.

 

·        Know Your Audience

If making a batch for the office or a hostess present, stick with a classic that are easily identified, packed and consumed.  You might consider sugar cookies decorated with a holiday motif. If hosting a holiday party, now’s the time to go all-out. Decorate with frosting or dragees,or make a batch of delicate tuiles.

 

·        Use the Right Measuring Tools

Dry ingredients, such as flour or sugar, should be measured using a dry measuring cup and leveled off for an accurate measurement; with the exception of brown sugar, do not pack in ingredients unless specified. Liquid measurements, such as maple syrup or milk, should be measured using a liquid measuring cup, typically glass and with a spout. Let the liquid settle in the cup after pouring to ensure that it hits the right mark.

·        Check Expiration Dates on Baking Powder and Baking Soda

If they’ve expired, you run the risk of cookies that won’t rise. Test the baking powder by mixing a small spoonful with hot water and it should bubble up if it’s still effective. Test baking soda by mixing some with vinegar or lemon juice on a small spoonful will make it bubble up if still effective.

 

·        Use an Oven Thermometer

Baking at too high or low a temperature can result in a scorched cookie bottom or a too-browned cookie top.  I often bake at a lower temperature especially with chocolate chip cookies as ovens vary and they seem to be softer and tastier too.

 

·        Use Parchment Paper or a Silicone Baking Mat to Line the Cookie Sheet

The color or coating on a cookie sheet can affect the color of the cookie bottoms. Lining the cookie sheet not only simplifies removing the cookie, but it helps with even, consistent browning on the bottom of the cookies.

 

·        Use a Cool Baking Sheet

I recommend that you give baking sheets time to cool off in between batches to prevent cookie dough from melting upon contact, before its time in the oven.

 

·        Use a Cool Baking Sheet

I recommend that you give baking sheets time to cool off in between batches to prevent cookie dough from melting upon contact, before its time in the oven.

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….

Five Minute Fudge Wreath Recipe

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Can you tell I love chocolate and enjoy making things that don’t take a lot of time and are easy to make?    This recipe fits the bill.     Again, please let us know if you like it and send us your recipes to info@vamboa.org

 

This takes only 5 minutes to prepare and another and 5 minutes to cook and makes 32 servings.

 

Ingredients:

  1. 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate morsels
  2. 9 ounces (3/4 of a 12-ounce bag) butterscotch morsels
  3. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 1 (8-ounce) can walnut halves
  6. 1/2 cup (a couple of handfuls) currants
  7. 8-inch cake pan, lightly greased with softened butter
  8. Candied cherries, red and green, for garnish, optional

 

Directions:

  1. Place a heavy pot on the stove and preheat it over low heat. Add chips and milk and stir until chips are melted and milk combined. Save the empty condensed milk can. Stir in vanilla and remove fudge from heat. Add nuts and currants and stir in immediately.
  2. Cover empty condensed milk can with plastic food wrap and center it in the greased cake pan. Spoon fudge into pan around can, making sure to re-center the can if it drifts.
  3. The fudge will set up almost immediately. Garnishes can only be added in the first minute or two to the fudge is in the pan, so work quickly. Decorate your wreath with “holly” made from cut candied red and green cherries. A wreath left plain can be garnished with a pretty fabric bow when serving. You can also use colored candy in red and green. Chill covered in the refrigerator and slice fudge very thin when ready to serve, a little goes a long way.

 

Bon Appetite!

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