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Competitive Analysis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Definition: Identifying your competitors and evaluating their strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to those of your own product or service .

A competitive analysis is a critical part of your company marketing plan. With this evaluation, you can establish what makes your product or service unique--and therefore what attributes you play up in order to attract your target market.

Evaluate your competitors by placing them in strategic groups according to how directly they compete for a share of the customer's dollar. For each competitor or strategic group, list their product or service, its profitability, growth pattern, marketing objectives and assumptions, current and past strategies, organizational and cost structure, strengths and weaknesses, and size (in sales) of the competitor's business. Answer questions such as:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What products or services do they sell?
  • What is each competitor's market share?
  • What are their past strategies?
  • What are their current strategies?
  • What type of media are used to market their products or services?
  • How many hours per week do they purchase to advertise through the media used in this market?
  • What are each competitor's strengths and weaknesses?
  • What potential threats do your competitors pose?
  • What potential opportunities do they make available for you?

A quick and easy way to compare your product or service with similar ones on the market is to make a competition grid. Down the left side of a piece of paper, write the names of four or five products or services that compete with yours. To help you generate this list, think of what your customers would buy if they didn't buy your product or service.

Across the top of the paper, list the main features and characteristics of each product or service. Include such things as target market, price, size, method of distribution, and extent of customer service for a product. For a service, list prospective buyers, where the service is available, price, website, toll-free phone number, and other features that are relevant. A glance at the competition grid will help you see where your product fits in the overall market.