Doing market research prior to starting your business is always wise, not to discourage you from trying but to figure out prior to making an investment whether there is merit to your ideas. Instead of feeling discouraged when you realize how many coaches, speakers, SEO experts, and more there are in the world – or even just in your city or county – consider this competition to be a good thing. This is proof positive that a need exists for people specializing in your niche market and there are enough clients for everyone to prosper. Spying on your competition can be viewed as a positive and necessary activity, as it builds relationships over time and keeps everyone at the top of their game.
Now dig a little deeper into your research and determine how many of these coaches are in your specialty. Again, not to discourage you but to encourage you to set yourself apart, create a unique selling point that will attract your ideal clients.
When is Spying on Your Competition Unethical?
I first learned about spying on your competition while working in the real estate business. The managing broker of the very first office I worked in used to share his research and findings with everyone in the office at the monthly meetings. He explained that we couldn’t easily improve our marketing strategies and sales skills without knowing what others were doing. This led to me starting my first newsletter, becoming a Notary Public, and hosting two open houses simultaneously (the properties were a five minute walk apart) and selling them both on the same day!
Smart business owners will always know what’s happening within their industry as well as locally with their competitors. In many instances, you and your competitors are vying for the same clients, so it’s smart to know who’s doing what to attract those clients.
Market research crosses the line, however, when you copy exactly what your competitors are doing. If Coach A sends out a direct mail postcard and you copy the text word for word but add your own name to it, that’s copyright infringement and unethical. Is sending out a direct mail postcard a good idea? Sure! But hire your own copywriter and graphic designer to make YOUR postcard unique.
The same is true when creating your website, sales pages, and signature classes. Always invest in your business with your own professional copywriters and designers or you will be known as a copier. Not only does that tarnish your reputation but it can get your website shut down. Hosting companies do not have a tolerance for plagiarism and unethical behavior. Can you create a class based on the same topic as another coach? Of course you can. But put a twist on it by adding your own case studies, discuss the topic from a different perspective, or offer another feature that the first coach does not – such as a private Facebook Group – to make it more appealing and unique.
Want to use some photos in your advertising? Don’t just copy an image from Google Images… NO! Either take your own photos, hire a photographer, or use royalty-free stock photos. Go one step further and check the licenses at stock photo houses to ensure that you’re using the photo correctly for advertising purposes. In general, stock photos with corporate logos, branding, or names are for editorial use only, which means they can be used in a blog post but not an advertisement or endorsement.
Spying on Your Competition for Pricing Strategies
Another very important reason to look at your competitors is to determine what price point your market can handle but this may require multiple steps. First, check their websites and sales pages. What prices are they charging? What are they offering for that price?
Next, check their testimonials and social media profiles. What does their tribe have to say? How active are they on social media? A large number of followers doesn’t mean anything if they are not interacting with them.
Lastly, search for reviews. If people are unhappy with something, they will let the world know about it online, usually more frequently than if they had a wonderful experience.
Again, doing this type of pricing research is not to copy what a competitor is doing but to determine if what you have to offer is priced accordingly. You will likely have differing ideal clients which can impact price. If you’re looking for local clients, your location will play a part in determining price. Pricing in New York City, for example, would be much more costly than in a smaller, more rural region of upstate New York.
Find out what your ideal client is looking for and struggling with, then make it known that you are available to solve their problem. This is the basis of all business relationships, and making sure you always move past the transactional part of the interaction and on to the more valuable relational part. This is a success habit worth cultivating, for sure. And this will give you an edge over almost everyone working in your niche market, whether your business in online, offline, or a combination of the two.
I’m Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, independent publisher, and serial entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of online entrepreneurship please check out my training on how to make your first income online at 3 Day eBiz (Use Code: MAKEITHAPPEN to Save) and learn how to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to building a lucrative online business.