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Know Thy Enemy

Ignorance isn't bliss when it comes to your competition.

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This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Do you know what your competition is up to? If not, you could be headed for trouble. A study by professors at UCLA and Stanford University showed that most business owners are clueless about the competition. Almost 80 percent were blind to their opponents' actions--which means lost customers and market share that can cripple a business before it even gets off the ground.

The first step to understanding your competition is to know who they are. While this may seem obvious, it's more complicated than you think. There are two ways to define competitors. One is by strategic groups--competitors who use similar marketing strategies, sell similar products or have similar skills. By this definition, you might group Nissan and Toyota as competitors within the car industry.

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