The best way to seek out your competitors is to try and buy whatever product or service it is you’re planning to sell. Enter the market as a customer, and find out what options you would have.
Where to Look.
It might be tempting to just use a search engine and go by the results that turns up, but you have to remember that plenty of business still takes place outside the Internet. You should also make sure that you pay attention to more traditional methods of advertising, such as the yellow pages, or your local newspaper. It’s worth cutting out and keeping any ads you find, as they can be good to refer to when it’s time to start your own marketing.
Do What They Do, But Differently.
Notice that I said ‘differently’, not necessarily ‘better’. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to improve on established businesses if you’re doing the exact same thing as they are – they have years of experience, after all. What you’re trying to do is distinguish yourself in the marketplace, so that people who are looking for something specific in your chosen industry will come to you.
There are a number of tried-and-true ways of altering existing products to make them succeed in the market.
The Price-Quality Line. You may find other businesses that only offer a very high-quality service, and accordingly charge a premium price – or you might find ones that only offer heavily-discounted rubbish. Consider taking their products to the opposite end of the market. If you can offer a product of only slightly worse quality at half the price, then people will jump at it – and, likewise, there are always people willing to pay the most to get the best.
Provide a Service. It is perfectly possible to sell products of the exact same physical quality while providing a better service – to the customer, quality and service are almost the same thing. There are companies out there who can sell computer software that their customers could get almost for free, simply because the customers like to have the support services that they get with their purchase.
Likewise, if service is all you do, then it should be pretty simple to provide a more attentive and personal service than your competitors. ‘One-on-one business’ gives you a great opportunity to become friendly with your customers, and that’s often worth its weight in gold to them.
Make it Simpler. Many businesses offer great products, but they’re pitching them to very technical customers. If you’re an expert in your field, you will very often find that you can build a great business simply by selling the same thing as your competitors, but going to some trouble to explain and market it to a wider section of the public. Anytime you start using some new technology, the chances are that someone along the way had to work out how to make it simpler. Few new technologies or inventions come pre-packaged for consumer use.
Change the Design. Make it smaller, or change the colour, or make it easier to open and fix. There are all sorts of ways to subtly redesign a product and give it all sorts of bells and whistles that customers will really appreciate. You might even be able to buy products, modify them, and then sell them on.
Despite what the word might lead you to think, you don’t always have to be competitive with your competitors. You might find that they have extra work sometimes that they wouldn’t mind sending over to you, or you might find that they’re willing to give you advice on starting up (if not for free, then perhaps for nothing more than the cost of a few drinks!). Of course, you shouldn’t go giving away all your secrets or giving them any other advantage, but that doesn’t mean that you should keep away. Pay special attention to any problems that they say they’ve had, or anything they do that seems to sell especially well.
Believe it or not, your competitors can be your best allies in this home business game, especially if they’re home businesses themselves – over time, your competitors might even become your friends.