Knowing where you stand in the market and among your competitors is vitally important for a business of any size but can offer key insights for a small business. Whether you are starting with an idea or just getting around to this piece of the puzzle, it is an excellent activity to build into an annual plan to keep things current.

Competitive Intelligence

Knowing who your direct competitors are is important. Start making a list and take detailed notes: social media profile & number of followers, conference sponsorship, direct mailings, directory listing, events, partnerships, etc.

TIP: Be realistic with who your competitors are now. Do not look at aspirational competitors, although those are good to have too, but rather look at the companies that are taking away your share of the market. Who is competing with you for business? Who shows up at the same pitches? Who actively seeks out your target audience? Those are your direct competitors.

If you have a big competitor that stands out you can make a file to house all your intel. Look at getting insights from primary sources as well as secondary, etc. past employees, press releases, annual reports, etc. Knowing what they’re doing to grow, or what didn’t work for them, can give good insight into what to avoid or what to double down. But be cautious of making decisions on these insights alone.

Market Research

Researching your market is another area that can help you know your business better. I recently worked with a client that took it upon herself to survey her target audience. I was so impressed by her initiative and was SUPER excited to work with a client that knew the value of research!

Again, you’re looking at primary and secondary information. This variety of this is key. The survey example is an example of primary information as it’s direct from the target audience mouth. Secondary information would be statistical data or data that has been compiled for you already. While secondary data is far easier, it should be used cautiously unless validated by primary research.

Exploratory research (like my client’s survey) can give you excellent insight into the broad issues whereas specific research is what’s done when you’re looking for answers to a question already identified. So if you don’t know where to start then you’re looking at exploratory. One a few questions or problems are revealed then you begin your specific research – make sense?

The options here (each have their own return rate and associated costs) are:

  • Direct mail survey
  • Online survey
  • In-person interview                    

Collecting information & data

The act of data collection and organizing it is a large one if you are new to it. If you have the knowledge and skill to cross-reference data lists then you’re ahead of the game.

A few places to start your search:

  • Statistics Canada
  • Top business listings
  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • Industry/Trade associations

Ideally, you want to know how many of your target market exist in your market. And how do you reach them? It may take a bit to catch on to the creativity of cross-referencing data but once you do – you’ll be amazed by the things you can learn about your market!

Areas of focus might be:

  • Defining your potential client (audience)
  • Local or other business (international/global)
  • Size of your market (volume and value)

TIP: A quick SWOT Analysis will help you organize a few things and help you focus on a direction. It’s an easy snapshot of your company in the market you’re chosen and can push you to find a more niche audience.

Schedule a time to regularly review your research. Coming back to it will not only refresh what you know, you will see things that you didn’t before or maybe you’ll see a need to update or fill a gap in the data.

Granted this may feel like a lot of information right now but it’s just the tip of the iceberg! Not all of what you find may be immediately useful.


Need help collecting and sorting through the data? Contact WindWater Marketing for help.