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Assessing the Competition

Do you have your eye on the market? If not, a SWOT analysis is the right start.

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis can tell you a lot about your company. And once you've conducted one for your company, you can leverage the same technique can help you assess both your market position and that of your key competitors.

Management consultant Ian Johnson recommends that you ask the following questions to understand the market and how well you're positioned to succeed:

  • Is there a need for your product? How do you know? What are customers willing to pay for it?
  • Is the market healthy and growing or stagnant or shrinking?
  • Who are your major competitors?
  • How is market share distributed?
  • Is this a highly technical industry or are sales are based solely on price?
  • What competing technologies could make the market and industry obsolete?
  • Where is the market going?
  • What must you do to be a part of any future growth?
  • How could you leverage product differentiation in the market?

Now, Johnson says, look at competitors and profile their SWOTs. What is their market share? Does one dominate the market? What is their pricing strategy? How do customers feel about them? How are their lead times, on-time delivery performance and quality viewed by customers? Are they innovators? Are they adopting new technologies? Then ask yourself: What can you see as opportunities? Can you offer better product, price, quality or service?

When you have studied the market and the competition, you can map your company's SWOT against the market and assess your position. Now you can choose where you want to go and what you have to do to get there. A few factors to include in your strategic thinking are how to distinguish your customer service and product's advantages in the eyes of customers, and whether you need to offer things like extended payment terms, discounts on prepayment or even extended warranties in order to secure business. If so, what is the cost and can the business support it?

Staying tuned to your market position and that of your competitor's is not a once-a-year project, Johnson says. Establish an ongoing business intelligence process so you can capitalize on every opportunity.

Ian Johnson is a management consultant with over 15 years in business-to-business consulting. He publishes a best practices business blog at


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