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Understanding your competition is a crucial business activity for any entrepreneur or someone who’s serious in doing business online. However, is it really ok to research your competition? Is it right? Ethical?

Most handmade business owners track competitors and assess the competitive landscape on a regular basis. You may have simply visited their Etsy page, Facebook page, Instagram profile, etc. But some sellers take it to the next level by hiring professionals or buying software..

But it doesn’t always have to be a complicated, time-consuming, and expensive process, particularly given the new wealth of data that can be assembled using the internet.

Here are some basic ways to check on your competition without being too technical:

Suppliers

If you have the same suppliers with your competition, it could pay to ask them some simple questions. You don’t have to directly ask about your competitions because that would be very annoying. I suggest that you use this opportunity to get to know your suppliers as well.

While they may not tell you what your competition ordered, ask other questions. For example, if you ask them how many units of a certain product have been pre-ordered for the next month, you might find out not only what your competition might have ordered, but what other products your supplier might be bringing in as a result.

Join Craft Shows

Do not join craft shows just for the sake of spying on your competition. Attending industry trade shows can be a great way to sell your products but also a chance to learn about who your competitors are and what they’re offering.

You can visit your competitors’ booths observe their interactions with customers, pick up literature, and check out the quality of their products. It is also a great way to make friends with them because you have the same exact interest. That is a great opportunity to learn from each other!

Social Media

Looking at tweets, Facebook comments, blogs, and other media mentions of your competition is an easy, cost-effective way to stay in tune with and in the know about the public’s sentiment about your competitors.

Even if your competition isn’t social media savvy, it’s a good bet that they produce newsletters that you can sign up for to get the latest news and updates on things like new products or services they are introducing and what events they might be attending.

Customers

Customer interaction is one of the best ways of spying on your competition. If your new customer mentioned that she’s from your competitor, find out why they switched to you (i.e. The reason they were dissatisfied so you can offer better experience). Do the same when you lose a customer, ask them what they preferred from your competitor.

If you gather enough of these information you’ll get a good grasp on what competitors are offering that customers view as preferable. You can then adjust your own offering to beat that of the competitor.

These tips might sound very inquisitive and somewhat crazy but that’s what works for some other sellers. If you are wondering, here are the pros and cons of researching competition by Renae Christine:

So what do you think about researching competitions? Do you think it’s unethical? Or do you enjoy your strategies? Please let us know in the comments.

Gary Capps

I live in the one of the most beautiful places in the world on the Sunshine Coast in Australia with my wife and our 2 dogs, Poppy and Mia. Since 2009 I have helped over 15,000 handmade business owners to grow their business with our software and free tools designed for todays entrepreneurial artisan.

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