The Agency for Nonprofits and Startups

How to Do Competitive Research

Not too long ago I saw a commercial where these people were at a press conference, launching an IPO, and all of the sudden, one of the reporters stands up and starts asking them, Isn’t your website exactly the same is this other thing that already exists? Embarrassed realization, IPO cancelled, comedy ensues.

If you get as far as making an IPO, you’re probably going to be okay, but the underlying point is valid: What have you done to see about your competition, or to make sure your idea isn’t already making some other people very happily wealthy?

Flip side – what if no one on earth is even looking at the same segment you are? It might mean there’s no market at all. Besides, other people working the same kind of ground you are may have learned lessons that will save you money and effort. Either way, if you don’t do any comparative research, you’re probably going to end up really wishing you had.

Some basic techniques for comparative research include:

Perform an Incognito Google search. Evaluate potential competitors’ SEO content and main message.
Use to evaluate potential URLs and see what handles are available in the social media sphere.
If you have competitors, what is their mission strategy? And what kind of people are they trying to hire? Both of these offer keen insights into what they plan to do, and how.
Use keyword tools to determine how much it will cost to advertise to your keywords, and see how much your competitors are paying for certain search terms. This can help you nail down what it’s going to cost to buy a customer.

This is not an exhaustive list, because there are a lot of things you can do, but they should get you thinking in the right direction. The most important concepts for you to take to heart are:

Research is like cash. Every bit of research you do early in the game can save you money later on.
Flexibility is key. If other people are doing something similar, chances are they’ve made some mistakes you can skip over. Adjust as necessary.

The old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” How much do you know?