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Scoping Out The Competition

Homebased expert Kim T. Gordon answers our reader question: How can I find out who my competitors are?

Question: I want to start a homebased business in which I would offer clients a complete home inventory of their possessions, including a videotape or digital photos. This can be helpful if they need to process an insurance claim for covered losses due to fire, theft or other property damage.

I need to know where can I find information on local competition. I checked my borough's Yellow Pages under inventory management, but the listings were only for commercial business inventory management. I need to find out if there are any businesses dealing strictly in home inventory management. Any suggestions on how I can locate my competitors? Thanks.

Claudia
Brooklyn, New York

Answer: Competitive research provides vital information you can use to position your business against competitors, create effective marketing tools and programs, fine-tune your pricing structure and locate a unique niche. There are several often-overlooked ways to track down local and national competitive information. You'll learn a lot about your industry in the process and gain important insight on issues and challenges you may have to wrestle with as your business grows.

Here are several resources you can use to begin your research:

  • Professional associations. Search the Web and association directories in the reference section of your public library for groups of inventory management professionals and businesses. Also look for associations of insurance professionals as they may have associate memberships or subgroups of members in related industries. These organizations can provide a wealth of information. Many have magazines or newsletters, conferences and local membership groups that hold regular meetings.
  • Trade publications. Become familiar with the magazines dedicated to your industry. You can find them by visiting a major public library and using the Standard Rate and Data Service directory of trade publications, the Business Publication Advertising Source. Contact the publications you find most interesting for current and back issues, and clip all ads and articles concerning home inventory products and services like yours.
  • Referral sources. Insurance agents and brokers will be excellent referral sources for your new business. Set up an appointment with the agent who handles your family's homeowners insurance for a frank discussion of your concept and the local competition. Once your concept is further established, use roundtable discussions (or informal focus groups) with insurance professionals for further testing and input.
  • Search the Web. Among the hundreds of thousands of Web sites, you'll find many for inventory management companies and inventory software products, as well as published articles from trade magazines and associations. You may even find companies or groups with which to form strategic partnerships that can help you successfully launch your new business.
Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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