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Are You About To Get Eaten?

By Bob McElwain
Posted Friday, June 27, 2003

Successful business people often hate change. The mere thought of making one frightens them. It flat scares some silly.

They know what they have, and are unwilling to take even modest risk for greater gain. Their fear is they'll lose some of what they already have.

If you hold such a position, you are vulnerable to more aggressive companies. You may wake up to the fact that somebody is gnawing away at your customer base much too late to do anything about it. While this is true both off and online, a web based business can be devoured far more quickly than one offline.

What Is Required For Survival

If you want to continue to succeed, you must be one of the few who do the gnawing. You must continue to expand your customer base and increase your profits. While some growth can come from selling to people who had not previously considered your products, the easiest and most direct way to acquire new customers is to steal them from your competitors.

Then, of course, you must hold them. Which often amounts to building ever greater customer relationships that support them in every possible way.

Direct Versus Indirect Competitors

If you are selling power mowers, those who sell hand mowers are competitors, but only indirectly. You can push this further, and note those who offer gardening services also compete. While you need to keep an eye on innovations by indirect competitors, your major concern is those who compete directly.

Are Your Competitors Tracking You?

If you haven't considered this, you may be about to be "eaten." You must assume at least one or more of your competitors is tracking you closely, looking for ways to bring those tasty morsels that are your customers to their table. To win out, you must move more quickly and effectively than they are able to do. Else your business will be gobbled up a bite at a time until what remains is swallowed whole.

Is Polish Needed?

Never overlook your site. Continuously ...

- Examine pages to be certain each is doing its job.

- Evaluate the entire site to be sure it is flawlessly accomplishing its purpose.

- Check your CR (Conversion Ratio); be sure it's at maximum, and holding.

- Reconsider your methods of supporting customers to be sure no option has been overlooked or under utilized.

It's easy to become so familiar with your site that you begin taking it for granted. Within your marketing plan, make certain you have the above and similar things clearly underlined. And that you regularly recheck all aspects of your site and business. Then ...

Spy Routinely

Tracking your competition on the Web is so much easier than it is offline, it's a wonder everyone isn't doing it. Doing so will give you a distinct advantage over all who do not.

Use Alexa which is free. Among other things, it reports visits to a site by other Alexa users. While likely not representative of all visitors, the counts reported can be compared over time and changes noted. Clearly a surge in counts suggests an aggressive company is doing something right, and you need to discover what it is.

Track Link Popularity

Visit http//MarketLeap.Com Enter your URL and that of your competitors. You will see at a glance how many inbound links there are to each one. As above, an abrupt jump in links suggests the company is doing something you ought to know about.

Take a giant step forward by checking sites linked to your competitors and arrange a link swap with them as possible. If need be, create a directory of links as a *service* to your visitors. Note the emphasis here on benefiting your visitors, rather than your profits.

Put A Magnifying Glass On Their Sites

A casual look at a competitors site is of little value. The better plan is to visit weekly and examine it closely, seeking to detect all changes. Even something minor can give you an important clue of benefit.

Be Imaginative

The whole of this topic was not covered above. For example, subscribe to your competitor's newsletters. Visit their forums regularly. There are a vast number of things you can check on.

Buy a product now and again. Or ask a friend to do so, if you've worn out your welcome. And somewhere in all this, get a handle on how they are handling complaints and returns. And their general level of customer support.

Continue to explore in every way possible. In the increasingly hyper-competitive web world, big fish swallow up little fish at an ever increasing rate. You must be the "biggest" to survive. Not the biggest company, just the best at what you do. Size matters hardly at all.


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