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Stay One Step Ahead of Your Competition

This story originally appeared on PR Newswire's Small Business PR Toolkit

Successful authors and marketers know their competition. This may seem obvious, but by keeping tabs on your competition, you are not only keeping yourself informed of changes in your industry, but you are also gathering information to help differentiate yourself. It’s important to note that I am not suggesting copying, but rather developing a keen awareness of your market. What do I mean by that? Before I entered this business, I immersed myself in the market, the books and other people in the industry, which helped me to differentiate myself in products, services and pricing.

Henrik Sorensen | Getty Images

Don’t know where to start? Below are strategies that you can implement both on and offline to help keep your ear to the ground, understand your market and keep tabs on your competition.

Online intel

  • Google: Let’s start with the basics: do a Google search of your market and make a list. Start looking at some of the major players there. Are there names that you see over and over? As you scroll through the search results, look at the various social media platforms that they use to interact with their followers, and what sort of topics they write about. As you begin writing your list, ignore the big brands because it’s likely they will be successful no matter what they do; instead, look for the smaller names that populate on the first page. Why? Because they have to try harder. And that’s where you will likely find inspiration. As you compile your list of competitors, be sure to register for their emails, newsletters and to follow them on social media. Beyond the information you will glean, this is a great way to begin networking with the experts in your market.
  • News alerts: Sign up for news alerts on sites like and These alerts will help you stay on top of changes in your industry. You should also pay attention to where your competition shows up; this will alert you to any new platforms that you could be missing out on.
  • Amazon Reviews: I’ve talked previously about how you can use a book to generate buzz for your business. Before you start writing a book to do the same for your business, make sure you tap into Amazon to understand what types of books are already out there. Log onto Amazon, search for books in your market and focus on the reviews. What are readers saying? What do they like? What don’t they like? What did they want more of? Is there a need that has yet to be filled? Answer these questions as you’re writing your book to stand out from the crowd.

Offline intel

  • Bookstore Research: Again, if you are planning to use your book to generate buzz for your business, you need to make sure that you fully understand your competitive landscape. Similar to your research Amazon reviews research, and Google searches, this is a great way to understand what is going on with your topic right now, and how can you differentiate your point of view from others in the conversation.
  • Industry Events: Attending industry events is a great way to learn more about your industry and network -- you might even have the opportunity to meet the people that you have been following online. Typically these events will offer lectures that will keep you up to date on industry trends, which will help you to stay ahead of the curve. One final tip: make sure to pay attention not only to material presented, but also any questions that come from the audience after the fact. Why? I’ve found that questions are often the best way to generate ideas for new blog topics, books or emerging trends.

By implementing these strategies both on and offline, you will have the information to understand your competitive landscape, stay ahead of changes in your industry and differentiate yourself from your competition.