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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.

 

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!

Business Start-Up Challenges & How to Overcome Them

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

There are many people that consider starting their own business yet quit before they get anything off the ground. They get hung up by their fears or other hurtles and simply give up.

 

Five Biggest Business Challenges & How To Overcome Them:

 

Self-Doubt:

Most potential entrepreneurs stop before they even begin due to self-doubt and the fear of failure. Don’t let these concerns stop you from making your dream a reality. If you need assistance getting started, it is always a good idea to reach out to support groups or mentors to help you overcome these mental blocks and give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

 

Knowledge:

Most people begin a business because of an idea and not because they are fantastic business people. There are so many resources available today to help literally anyone start and run their own business. You can easily take online courses to learn what you need to get going, watch tutorials, consult with a mentor in the industry, join support groups, hire people who have the knowledge you lack, or use software to take care of certain tasks.

 

Legal:

Legal considerations and fears are a big hurdles for some people and can easily scare away potential entrepreneurs. You do need to be aware of any potential legal problems and prepare for them but it doesn’t have to be so daunting. There are plenty of online resources that can help guide you, sites such as the U.S. Small Business Administration or Legal Zoom.

 

Funding:

Financial fears are the number one issue that stop people from starting a business.  It is also the major reason for a business closing its doors. Funding fears are everything from the fear of not making enough money to draining your savings and trying to stay afloat. Most people are comfortable with a steady paycheck from a larger corporation and do not want to take a chance on the fluctuating income of their own small business.

 

Ways to generate money:

  • Start the business on the side of your normal 8-5 job
  • Work part-time as a rideshare driver
  • Offer consulting services
  • Start by selling online before transitioning to a brick and mortar storefront
  • Rent a room in your home
  • Rent your entire home out through services like Airbnb.

 

Website:

Marketing your business takes planning, proper administration, and a bit of know-how. The main marketing tool your business will need is its own website. You can opt to hire a pro to put your site together or you can utilize the multitude of do-it-yourself options. Most eCommerce platforms have very nice drag-and-drop templates that you can use. A lot of the website hosting companies do as well. Take the time to do a bit of research before you choose how and who to build your site and select the option that works best for you.

 

Too many people allow these challenges to hold them back from starting and running their own business. There is always a way to overcome or do a workaround any problem you may face. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams.

5 Innovation Myths That Do More Harm Than Good

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Everyone has a different idea what the word innovation truly means when it comes to business.  To some it is inventing something that never existed before.  To others, it is an evolution or upgrade to existing products or services.  Innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.

In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.  There are some innovation myths that actually hurt progress more than they help.

 

The Top 5 Innovation Myths that can Hurt Your Business:  

If You Build It, They Will Come:

Regardless of what the innovation, it simply will not sell itself. Sitting around waiting for customers to flock to you, without doing anything else, will kill even the best business ideas. Customers have no clue how amazing your product or service is unless they are told how amazing it is. This means that a business owner must invest in building the company’s brand, its marketing, and its following.

 

Shooting For The Moon:

In general, reaching too far too fast can create a whole plethora of problems. Though there are some projects out there that really went for the moon, such as like Apple’s iPhone or Google’s search engine,most projects that are too ambitious will ultimately fail. It is best to take a more conservative approach and focus on ambitious that are ultimately achievable projects.

 

Allowing Customers to Drive Your Innovation:

Listening closely to your customers and implementing improvements based on their feedback can dramatically help your business grow.  With this said, do not rely on customers to create new innovations. Customers generally don’t bother to try imagining a different future or new improved products.   They simply want a good quality product at a good price.

 

Relying on Your Team for Innovations:

Regardless of your industry, your vision MUST come from the top. It doesn’t matter how smart or capable your designers, developers, and engineers are, they need to be led by those in charge. The company’s leaders, the C-level people in the organization, need to empower their team with visions of what is to come. Your team is there to support your dream, not the other way around.

 

Innovation Requires Expensive Tech:

Simple solutions are often the best ways to solve complex problems. You should be able to summarize what you would like to solve in a sentence or two.  Then you need to consider the easiest and most cost-effective method to achieve it. If the solution involves fancy tech, great. Just remember that your innovation needs to be accessible in order to be profitable. Keeping it simple makes a great deal of sense.

 

Innovation isn’t easy but if you believe these myths it will be a whole lot harder!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Part 3

 

There are many challenges with any business, including a home-based business.  To help ensure your success, establish your brand, get the word out, and build your reputation Below are some tips for Branding and Marketing your Home-Based Business:

 

Identify your target market:

You are more likely to gain business if you have a clear idea of who your target customers are or will be. You need to research potential customers and determine who may be interested in your product or service, identify the specific demographic you want to reach, review your existing industry competitors, and identify the characteristics that you want to highlight about your products and services.

 

Make sure that the products or services you offer match the needs of your target clients. Find what makes your business stand out from your competition and highlight it. Determine how you will fulfill the promises you make to your customers and how you will you make them connect personally with your business. When you are able to help people relate personally to your business, they are more likely to gravitate toward your products and services.

 

Create an awesome website:

In our technologically advanced world, your business will need a unique URL (web site address) and user-friendly website that is mobile friendly. If you are web savvy you can certainly create your site yourself but hiring a professional to get it up and going is usually your best bet. A professional will know exactly what your site needs, help you write the site’s content, and make sure it is optimized for search engines.

 

Whether you hire a pro or you decide to go it alone you will need:

A domain name or URL name:

This is your site’s address on the Internet (i.e. google.com or amazon.com). Write out a list of 5 or 6 URLs you would like for your business, as your first choice may be already taken. It is best to select a domain name that is short, easy to remember and ties in with your branding. Avoid hyphens, special characters, or numbers.

 

A website host:

Your website will need to be located on a server or “host” in order to be viewed on the web. There are plenty of reputable web hosting companies out there. Do your research and choose the one you feel is right for you and your business.  If you plan to grow your business with online sales, make sure you select a company that has the capacity you will need as you grow. Try to avoid the cheapest options, they are cheap for a reason.

 

Put together your design:

The look and feel of your website should match your business and align with its goals. Choose colors that represent your company. Keep it consistent with any other marketing materials you have already created. Make sure to incorporate a compelling home page or landing page that captures your customers’ attention right away; use concise messages and make sure all photographs and visuals are of the highest quality; make sure that you are easy to find and use a navigational menu that helps your visitors move through your site with ease; avoid visual clutter and keep your content up to date; also make sure that you place strategic calls to action throughout your website (“sign up” or “subscribe” buttons placed in notable locations).

 

Set up your store and any online payment options (if necessary).

If you are selling products or services directly on your website, you will need to setup online payment options and connect them to your new website.

 

Last checks before launch:

Before you finalize and publish your website you will want to make sure that it loads as quickly as possible. You will also need to check and be sure that it’s mobile friendly as smartphones are increasingly used for online shopping. You want your website to be easy to use, accessible, and convenient for all your customers.

 

Create a matching blog and post regularly:

The blog ideally should be housed underneath your main website. Blogs are a great marketing tool for businesses as they help you enhance your social media presence, they help you establish yourself as an expert in your industry, they help increase your customer base, they increase your company’s visibility on the web, they help develop your brand, they help your brand build trust with your customers, they help you grow your email list, and they can be valuable for gaining better and more frequent customer feedback. Blogging can also help improve your business’s search engine optimization (SEO) by increasing your back linking, adding more frequent new content to your site, and increasing overall traffic to your website.

 

Create and regularly post to social media platforms:

Social media is a great way to market your business, website, and offerings to customers. Setting up an account is totally free and allows you to directly connect with you customers’ interests, opinions, preferences, and changing needs. Social media helps you increase your brand’s awareness, helps build your reputation, creates loyal followers, improves your SEO, and increases click-through traffic to your small business’s website (just make sure that all of your social media platforms link back to your website).

 

Collect email addresses and send out regular newsletters.

Newsletters are an awesome marketing tool to help you build trust and rapport with your customer base. They establish a regular communication channel that can lead to stronger business relationships. Use newsletters to showcase your expertise in your industry; share new products, services, or promotions; highlight your company, your employees, and your clients; you can also toss in a bit of humor or appropriate holiday posts to keep it interesting and not so focused on selling.

 

We encourage Veteran and Military Business Owners to join VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association.   There are not any dues or fees charged to our members.  Here is a link to join:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

 

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