How competitive is your business? That’s not an easy question to answer because it entails a lot of factors. One simple way to get some solid data is to do a competitor analysis.

Why? Every business is judged not just on its own merits but on the merits of similar businesses in the marketplace. In other words, consumers don’t just judge you by the products and services you provide; they compare you to other businesses like yours and decide if you’re the one they like the best. That means you need to know how you compare.

To start, make a list of things you feel your company is particularly strong in providing. For example, you might have MDs or ODs that specialize in some aspect of eyecare like retina, lids, cornea, contact lenses, etc. that other offices in your region do not have. You might carry eyewear brands that are exclusive to your area. You might advertise regularly in the local newspaper while your competitors don’t. How about the optician you have that’s been with you for over 20 years and has a huge following? Put all those on your list.

Once you have the strengths, it’s time to address the weaknesses. Now it’s time to ask yourself what your competitors are doing that you feel you aren’t doing or not doing as well as them. Are they open some nights during the week and/or on weekends? Do they offer an extended warranty that you don’t? Do they take insurance programs many people would like to have accepted and you don’t have those plans? Do you have competitors that run clever ads routinely and you’re still running the same one four times a year?

Big retailers do competitive research like this all the time. In fact, they even send secret shoppers into competitor businesses to gather information.

The goal of a competitor analysis is to determine your strong and weak points in relation to your competitors. Of course, the ultimate outcome of this analysis should be a program you create to make your business more competitive. What you would ideally want to create is an improvement plan that develops and implements strategies to beat your competitors at each of their competitive advantages over you. For example, if your advertising is weak, improve it. If you don’t have the budget your competitors do, use guerilla marketing techniques and social media strategies instead. Consider offering custom-designed eyewear and advertise that fact.

You should do a competitor analysis periodically—about once every three years or more often if conditions warrant it. It’s also a great way to motivate staff because they’re all contributing to the strategic success of the office.

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