What You Don't Know Can Hurt You:
When a prospective client receives an email from your sports business, visits your training academy website, or sees one of your posts on social media, odds are they’re not doing it in a vacuum. In fact, according to Adweek more than 4 of every 5 consumers will do online research before making a purchase or deciding on what company to do business with, and most potential clients start by using a search engine.
There are all sorts of reasons why clients eventually settle on company “B” vs. companies “A,” “C” and “D.” Maybe company B has more types of instruction, or they have better trainers, or they give discounts for returning athletes. Maybe company B has a stronger brand mission, or their website layout is more attractive or easier to navigate.
Of course, if you’re company C, you wouldn’t know that B is offering more types of athletic instruction - unless, that is, you checked them out. It’s understandable that you might not have - it’s only human to fall in love with our own business and to remain stuck in the habit of doing things the way you always have. But you can’t let that blind you to what your competitors are doing and what you need to improve.
The training that you offer, and how you turn that into a compelling brand narrative, isn’t a stand-alone. It’s part of a large tapestry that includes your business and many other businesses like yours. You can’t effectively compete, or differentiate your business, unless you know what the other guys are doing.
Build It into Your Business Plan
You wouldn’t drive from New York to Los Angeles without a plan, buy a new car, or invest in stock. In the same way, you need a plan to market and grow your business (one that you update from time to time), and that plan needs to include a competitive analysis. Your analysis begins with a complete list of your main competitors, along with their strengths and weaknesses compared to your business. What training programs do they offer? Do they offer camps, 1-on-1 lessons? How much do they charge? What’s their website like, and what’s their online reputation?
How Do I Gather All That Information?
There are plenty of ways to get the dirt on your competition. For example, you can do an information search for any of your competitors. If they have stocks traded in public markets, the law requires that they share a wealth of information, and all that information is publicly available. If they’re a small or private training academy, that kind of financial information won’t be easy to come by, but there are still things you can do to build your competitive analysis, including the following 5:
- Scout them out: think of it this way—if your prospective customers can find out what your competitors offer and how they sell it, so can you. You can even get the goods on them by becoming one of their “prospective customers.” Visit their websites and root around, fill out their online forms to get on their email list, sign up for their newsletters. You can also use free online tools, like those offered by Spyfu—just type in a web address and find out every competitor’s top keywords, what pay-per-click campaigns they’re running, and how much they’re spending on those campaigns.
- Check out their social media pages: most good sports businesses have a page on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Visit those pages to see how they’re marketing themselves, what content they link to, and what their athletes are saying about them online.
- Let your fingers do the walking: sounds pretty basic, but a quick check of the Yellow Pages of your local phone book can be a treasure trove. What businesses are listed there, and what do they say about themselves?
- Read online reviews: you can learn a lot about a company by reading customer reviews on sites like Consumer Reports and Yelp. For example, if you go to Yelp, you can type in “basketball training academy” (or whatever more precisely defines your business) along with your city. You’ll see a list of the major businesses in your area. Click on the name of a business to find out what customers are saying about them (and, by the way, about you).
- Do a comprehensive internet search: if you enter the name of a competitor in a search engine, more than just their website will turn up - and, if they don’t have a website, odds are they’ll turn up on other websites. Look for press information, articles that mention them, any additional reviews or blogs.
Anything Worth Doing…
If it sounds like doing a robust competitor analysis takes some time, well, it does—but it’s well worth the time and effort. Knowing who your competitors are, what services they offer, what they say about themselves and what their clients say, is arguably the best way to effectively adapt and market your own business. By analyzing your competition, you can make sure you offer training that's more marketable than their training, and that what you do, you do better than they do, and that your messaging breaks through the background noise to drive sales and grow your business!