HomeKnow-HowVetting your competition starts with a deep look into your company

Vetting your competition starts with a deep look into your company

Most startups are regularly monitoring their competitors, but they’re often neglecting to analyse their own company. If you don’t know about the strenghts and weaknesses of your own product or service, how can you compare it with another firm? That’s why you should start your competitor analysis always with an audit of your own company. Start having direct conversations with your customers and (with the help of their feedback) continuously improve your product or service.

Always remember that a strong focus improving of your own products and workflows is often much more effective than over-analysing your competitor. By clearly analysing your own company you’ll know exactly what works and what doesn’t work. If you analyse your competitors, your conclusions are mostly based on assumptions – often not even backed up by any real data. That being said, you should conduct an internal audit before having a closer look at your competition. Here are three important steps when it comes to evaluating your company:

Step 1: Conduct an extensive internal assessment

To do a honest assessment of your own company is not that easy. It’s facing your weaknesses, which is not so comfortable, but it’s necessary.

What you should be looking at during the audit, and also be discussing with your clients, is everything related to your product/service offering. This includes thinks like: What do you do best in your field? What is your USP? Do you offer an attractive rate? Is your work process effective and fast? Can you offer something that others can’t or don’t offer yet? How does your internal organisation contribute towards successfully serving clients, representatives, and sellers?

Make sure to inspect those things very thoroughly and to gather the results in the way that clearly shows you your weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. The best way to learn about your real performance is by getting and analysing the harsh and real comments from the customers. Your biggest critic is your best customer.

You have to have a thick skin during those conversation with clients, because it’s never nice to hear negative feedback. But without those conversations it’s hard to improve your products or services. Also try to have conversations with people who rejected your product or service to find out the reason behind their rejection.

Step 2: Always maintain the dialogue with your customers

After the evaluation of your company’s qualities, you should have good idea about which part of your company is in good shape and which part is lagging behind. But the auditing process is not compete yet. In reality, it is not going to be completed ever because you’re continuously in developing mode.

A good idea could be to schedule feedback meetings with you customers. During those meetings make sure to analyse and observe your client – also try to read between the lines. Just because you’re not getting harsh comments doesn’t have to mean that your customers are really happy. Your closing words of the meeting should be like: “Is there a need or concern we haven’t talked about yet? Is there something we could improve moving forward? Listen carefully to the responses of your clients, and then: take action!

Especially after a new product release, you should analyse your conversations with clients. If your clients are not convinced that you are trying to improve things for them, you need to talk with them as soon as possible. Try picking the minds of your customers about your offerings by sending them a questionnaire, or by interviewing them directly. Most importantly: never stop the conversation, and never stop aiming for improvements.

Step 3: Take action and respond quickly

During your internal audit you are going to learn about many issues and challenges related to your company. Try to immediately solve those problems which are causing negative effects. Your main goal should be to maintain and improve your relationships with clients. After every project or product milestone, talk about the good and bad feedback with your team members and figure out the problems that need to be fixed. Try turning your weaknesses into new strength, one by one. The sooner the better. Always remember that your company’s biggest enemy is not your competitor, but it’s your company’s own flaws.

Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr
Thomas Ohr is the "Editor in Chief" of EU-Startups.com and started the blog in October 2010. He is excited about Europe's future, passionate about new business ideas and lives in Barcelona (Spain).

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