“To see ourselves as others see us.”

It was the Scottish poet Robert Burns who wrote, “O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.” If you’re a business, that little dream can come true. It’s called a competitive analysis, and we can’t think of a really good reason why you shouldn‘t set about having one done.

The Small Business Encyclopedia says “A competitive analysis is a critical part of your company marketing plan. With this evaluation, you can establish what makes your product or service unique–and therefore what attributes you play up in order to attract your target market.”

Wow. That sounds like a handy thing to have, and it is. A competitive analysis will give you a complete view of your company, your competition, and your industry. It’s a chance toLeland-Russell-21st-Century-Leadership-Man-in-the-Mirror see yourselves as others see you.

It can actually be an exciting endeavor for your company or product. Finding out what your customers really think is the best opportunity for growth you may have all year.

For starters, – and it’s a great start — wouldn’t you like to know what customers and consumers think of your brand, product and industry?

Competitive analysis will also tell you attributes that are associated with your brand – good, bad and neutral – and where you fit in. Do prospects or customers think you are a laggard or a trend-setter; do they think your company is friendly or difficult?

You can learn what messages are associated with you and with your competition, and how well your messages resonate with your audience. I’ll never forget one major study that we received – it revealed that what the company had been using as our major differentiator was really not important at all to our audience. Major changes followed.

In planning your sales and crafting a message, it’s important to know what the consumer expects from your industry and what they say they are, or are not, getting. From information like this you’ll see how to differentiate yourself.

Plus, a well-researched competitive analysis can reveal some interesting, and surprising, gaps in what consumers know about you. You may think your customers are intimately familiar with every facet of your business. Some insights from a competitive analysis may show something completely different. It could be as simple as having a product line that’s remaining in the shadows or as complex as a completely misunderstood brand offering.

What’s your brand presence? Do people know your brand, understand it, and recall it easily?

How does your website stack up against the competition? What are its strengths, and weaknesses? Is it friendly, easy-to-use, inclusive? What does it “say” about you? One of the greatest flaws of most websites is that they are built inside a company and because of that the content often does not communicate what the audience needs or wants to hear. That’s easily fixed – as long as you are willing to find out if there are any issues.

And you’ll learn some things you probably don’t know. What is your value proposition; your “reason for being” as far as consumers are concerned? A competitive analysis also is a collection of usable hard facts. An analysis will compare financial stability, market share and market growth. And it can tell you about your competitions’ customers and biggest contracts.

Surprised that everyone isn’t out there right now doing competitive analysis? Most of the time it’s because ego gets in the way, and we assume we already know all about our business and our competition.

Trust us; you don’t. It is a grievous mistake to assume what people do, and do not, know and think about your business.

When you set out on the road to a competitive analysis – and you should – you must make yourself a couple of promises. First, you must be open and forthcoming with the people or company putting it together for you. Tell them the good and the bad. Don’t hedge and don’t sugarcoat. The more open and honest you are, the more you’ll benefit from the results.

Second, read the results with an open mind. If the analysis was done properly, it will be filled with good, factual information. Avoid saying things like “That can’t be true!” or some other R-rated version.

A competitive analysis, in the end, contains powerful stuff that will help your business grow. As one of our principals is fond of saying, “any data, analyzed well, will help your business grow.”

See yourself as others see you, and you’ll see a whole new picture.

© 2015 Extend Marketing