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  • Who Are My Competitors? 5 Steps to Find Them Fast

Did you know there are over 33 million small businesses in the United States? That means that no matter where you are and what you do, at least one other company is probably competing with you.

And that’s not a bad thing! There’s plenty of room for some friendly rivalry. Competitors can even spur you on to bigger and better things. For that to happen, though, you need to know who these competitors are.

So, with tens of millions of other businesses out there, how do you find your competitors? Here, we’ll explore the benefits of competitive research, plus how to undertake it for your business.

Contents

Why should I find my competitors?

Let’s start with the obvious question: Why would you need to know about your competitors? Isn’t it enough just to build the best version of your business, regardless of what others are doing?

Learning about your competitors isn’t about fostering jealousy or embracing cutthroat competitive tactics. You can’t become the best if you don’t know what other businesses are doing.

Knowing more about your competitors can help you refine your business offerings, approach, and strategy. When you see what others are up to, you can carve out your unique position in the market.

By finding competitors, you also highlight potential opportunities or threats to your business. You don’t operate in a vacuum–your business is a part of a bigger world. What is your role in it? How can you protect others from encroaching on the space you’ve defined in the market? Alternatively, is there a need that others aren’t addressing, and can you fill it?

how to find competitors - screenshot of competitive analysis template

Get the basic marketing competitive analysis template from our friends at WordStream here.

🧠 Outsmart your competitors’ messaging with our free guide on how to create a unique value proposition from the ground up!

Types of competitors

Once you know more about your business and customers, you can look outward. When evaluating the competition, there are three types of competitors you’ll want to look out for.

  • Direct competition: These businesses offer a similar solution to a similar audience and (if relevant) in a similar geography. Think: Target and Walmart, Ulta and Sephora, H&M and Zara.
  • Indirect competition: These competitors are in your category, but they solve the customer problem differently. Think: Sweetgreen and Chipotle, streaming services and cable television.
  • Replacement competition: These competitors are in a different category altogether but solve the same problem. Think: A bowling alley and a movie theater. They both offer entertainment but in unique ways.

As for how to find them, these tactics can help.

🌱 Put your competitive research into action with our free, easy-to-use growth strategy template.

How to find competitors: 5 quick tips

The approaches used to find your competitors will vary slightly based on the realities of your business. For example, a local coffee shop will want to scope the competition in its geography. In contrast, an e-commerce brand will focus on similar online companies.

Here are some places to begin your search for competitors.

1. Fully understand your own business

Before you can ask, “Who are my competitors?” It helps to ask, “Who are we?”

Defining exactly what your business is, who you serve, and how you operate are vital steps to undertake before beginning competitive research.

Asking these questions can help clarify your place in the market before you look for competitors.

  • What do we do? What is the unique value proposition we bring to our industry and customers?
  • Who do we serve? Who are we trying to reach with our offering? What problem do these people have, and how do we solve it? (These questions guide the vital work of identifying your customer personas.)

direct competition - example audience map to get to know customers and competitors

Source

  • Where do we operate? Do we run a physical location, an e-commerce business, or both? How does that impact our reach and the geographies we serve?

2. Go online

Even the smallest, hyper-local businesses today have an online presence, so the internet is a sensible place to start your competitive research.

direct competition - google search screenshot

Begin with a good old-fashioned Google search. When you type in a query that describes your business, who comes up in the search engine results page? These other companies are ranking highly for keywords that pertain to your business.

Then, turn to social media platforms. Many local businesses are on major social sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. The social sites you should scour depend on the type of business you run; you’re more likely to find B2Bs on LinkedIn, while TikTok and Instagram are the place to head if you’re a retailer.

Next, review local listing sites. Many brands have established a Google Business Profile and Yelp profile. Depending on your field, you might also find viable competitors on industry-specific sites (for example, Angi and Houzz are places to find other home services businesses).

3. Use digital resources

Since you’re already at your computer, why not focus on digital resources that can support your competitive research?

examples of local keywords from wordstream's free keyword tool

Examples of local keywords from WordStream’s Free Keyword Research Tool.

This starts with local keyword research. Broad keyword research can give you a baseline understanding of your industry, but it won’t be as valuable as local keyword research in helping you find your actual competitors.

Think of it this way: If you are a local running goods store, Nike is technically a competitor, but there’s not a lot of value to a small local business comparing themselves to the global incumbent. Instead, you’ll learn much more by looking at other sporting goods places in your area.

That’s where local keyword research comes in. This process will help you find more direct competitors.

On a related note, you might turn to SEO and keyword research tools to help with more detailed competitive research. For example, some paid tools, like SEMrush or Moz, generate reports on your competitors and help you track their online marketing so you can optimize your own.

4. Ask your audience

Sometimes, the best way to learn about other businesses is to ask your customers. Before they picked your company to solve their problem, they probably researched other options.

Consider soliciting some customer feedback about what they learned before selecting your business. How you choose to do it will depend on the company. An e-commerce retailer may send a survey to past customers. A coffee shop owner might stand by the barista station and have an informal chat with customers as they wait for their lattes. Service-based businesses might conduct a formal customer interview to get more in-depth information.

indirect competition - customer feedback form screenshot

Besides asking your customers directly, keep an eye out for other chatter. Watch what your customers are saying about you online. This might come as a review or a customer tagging you in a Facebook thread where someone is looking for business recommendations.

All of this indirect conversation about your business can help you learn more about your competitors, too. Someone may mention another business they almost hired in their Yelp review. You might also see competitors tagged in the Facebook thread with business recommendations.

5. Hit the streets

This tactic is especially effective for local businesses, but anyone can learn about their competitors in the real world.

For local business owners, it’s crucial you know everyone else who’s operating in your industry within a shared geography.

If you run a brick-and-mortar shop, stroll around neighboring downtown areas and scope out similar businesses. Home service providers can watch for vans with competitors’ logos. A B2B founder might check out the directory in the nearby office park.

direct competition - local search screenshot

If you’re a local maker in New York City, you’ll surely find your competitors at the many winter markets that pop up during the holiday season! Source

It’s also a smart idea to attend local events. Get involved in town meetings to foster connections with neighbors, business owners, and local political leaders. Or, become a member of your city’s chamber of commerce. Take part in events for local businesses, like your town’s holiday market. Becoming a fixture in your community not only introduces you to your competitors but also helps you make friends with new customers and potential business partners.

Finally, make it a point to attend industry events and conferences. One of the quickest ways to get to know your competitors is to stroll through the booths at a national expo for businesses in your sector.

Find competitors to define your space in the market

Ultimately, getting to know your competitors isn’t about them; it’s about you and your customers. When you understand how others work in your sector, you can find innovative ways to deliver better, more unique solutions for your customers. And happier customers mean more repeat and referral business for you!

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