Often we “think” we know what our competition is doing, but do we really? It’s important to have a real sense of how your business compares to the competition when it comes to factors such as customer service, product and service offerings, and general appearance of your location or your website or marketing materials.

Check out our Knowledge is Power Guide, and read on below!


Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your competition. Assuming that you’re doing things differently/better than they are is only going to set you up for failure. Checking out your competition (online and in person) is often a great source of inspiration for bettering your business or patting yourself on the back for the things that you are doing well. Below, we’ve outlined 3 different ways to “experience” your competition.

Store Tours

The best way to know what your competition is doing (and not doing) is to experience it first hand by touring. Be a secret shopper of your competition!

Here are the basic steps for conducting a successful Store Tour:

1. Select Your Topics- What do you want to explore? Customer service? In-store signage? Product offerings? The world (or, at least your neighborhood) is your oyster.

2. Store Tour Key Steps – Divide your employees or leadership into teams, and visit various locations. Each team should (stealthily) take notes, prepare a casual presentation and share findings with the other teams. Next, use the information from all your teams to drive change in your business!

3. What to Look For – Based on your industry and the topics you’re looking for, you need to make a list of specific items to look for. For example,  how many types of cupcakes do they offer? Is there an open kitchen? How helpful are the sales associates? How does their location look, feel, and smell? How does this differ from your location?

4. Details – At every business you visit, you should be looking for certain details that you can compare across industry (What’s your first impression? How is the product presented? What signage do they use in store?)

5. Back at the Office – On the same day as the tour, each team should share their assigned topics, where they went and their key findings. Next, think about what your business should start doing, stop doing and continue doing based on the neighborhood tours.

All of these “small” things add up to one big thing – the customer experience. And how a customer feels when they are in your location might make them always decide to come back to you for what they need, or check out the competition because they are dissatisfied.

For more information on how to conduct a Store Tour, check out our Store Tour Guide!

Social Media

Another great way to stay on top of what’s happening in your industry (and more specifically – what’s happening with your competition) is to follow them on social media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram or other outlet – following your competition is an easy way to get daily insight into what they’re up to!

And, if you want to increase or adjust your social media presence or other marketing activities, taking tips from your competition will help you do just that! What are they doing better, worse or differently than you? Are there any behaviors that you want to emulate? For example, do they regularly use Twitter to resolve customer issues or do they run monthly Facebook promotions?

Monitoring your competition on social media is an easy way to get marketing ideas for your business! While you don’t want to be a copy cat and do everything that they’re doing, you may be able to modify a few of their marketing tactics for your own business!

Experience Products and Services

As opposed to scratching the surface of the competition (just visiting the store or looking at their Facebook page), we recommend that you book an appointment at your competition’s spa, or make a reservation at their restaurant. You’ll see how having the full experience of your competition really lets you know what they are doing well and where they have opportunities, and thus gives you ideas for growing and differentiating your business. You can take this back to look at your spa, restaurant or retail location with a fresh set of eyes. For an example of this immersion surveillance, check out the article we wrote about our experience at a local spa in Alexandria!