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Small Business Target Marketing: Learning from the Competition




A very common challenge with small business marketing is that they struggle with differentiating themselves among the potentially many competitors within the same geographic footprint.  There is a finite number of prospects within your geographic footprint, so knowing how to position company and brand is key to growing your business.

The answer to this challenge is to become an expert on your competition.  Ask yourself, “Who are your competitors and what do they say about themselves?  How do they position themselves among the companies and brands within this common space?  Do you all share the same geo? (restaurants, real estate agencies, retail, and a variety of other small businesses are all vying for the same limited prospects)”


Who are they?

You probably already know?  But if not, look around, research online, buy a list of businesses within your area, and start there…

Rank them from best competitors to worse.  Who offers the lowest prices?  Who offers the best quality?  Who offers the best service?

You may also find valuable information about competitor businesses by looking at what customers say about your competitors online.  What do the reviews say?  Good ones and bad ones?  What does this teach you?



You can also learn a lot about how your competitors are marketing themselves by looking at their social media activity.  How are they using social media?  Are these other mediums saying the same thing?  Are they using “remarketing, or site retargeting”.  You can also sign up for any promotional offers from their website, or instore registration.  This will give you a lot of intel on how often they communicate with their clients, and how to be position your company.

And BB Direct can help you with better understanding the businesses you deem as competitors.  If you have a long list of businesses, or need one.  We can enhance this list with firmographic data to teach you a lot about the size of the business, how many locations, SIC which will help you understand their product offerings, and website URL so you can dig into the details of their products and services.

Research, take and compare notes

Some competitors may only compete on certain products, but not others.  A better understanding of those competitors can help you with offering other products and services as well.

Get on the list of your competitors so they can send you direct mail, email notices, newsletters, product and service promotions.

Buy their product and attempt to learn as much as possible. 

Talk with a sales person, preferably their best salesperson.  You can do this buy inquiring about talking with someone, but boast about how big your order might be.  They’ll put their best person on the largest orders.

You want to try to get the answers to the following questions:

How are they pitching you?  What vocabulary are they using?

  • Fill out their forms, get a contract to review, time how long it takes for them to return your calls.
  • Get pitched over the phone, in person, etc.
  • Give them your most difficult challenge and see how they rebuttal
  • Ask about their competition
  • Collect everything you can at their physical location
    • Print advertising, price sheet, menu, business cards, website location.
    • Take pictures of their location
    • How were you greeted?
    • How was their service?  Did they cross sell/up sell?

Are they positioned to sell only a certain type of customer?

Are they consistent?

Who do they cater to?

Are they testing or marketing consistently over time?

Do they require a commitment? Contract?

                What’s the out clause on their contract?

What is their unique differentiator?  Low cost leader?  Customer service?  Quality product?

What products and services can you compete with successfully, and which ones will you have trouble with?         

Differentiate your company and brand

Look at your existing customers and try to understand how they made their way to you, over your competition.  Ask them specifically, why did they buy from you?  And how do they feel about the competition?  If they’re repeat customers, they like you and will appreciate why you’re asking them.  Tell them exactly what you’re looking for.  There’s a great chance that they will happily help you.

Your goal is to look for an opportunity by finding a niche that you can call your own.  The best place to start is asking your existing customers.  What do they see in your business, among the options they have?  Look for differentiators that easily describe your brand and business among the competition.