If you have a business degree, understanding your competition is one of the keys to professional success.

Coke and Pepsi. The Android and the iPhone. Boeing and Airbus. Whatever industry you’re in, you’ll have competition. If you can’t keep up, your business will struggle. But if you take the time to understand your competition—both the big players and the small—you can increase your chances of success. In what ways do you need to understand your competition? Here are five of the most important questions you should answer.

Who Is Your Competition?

It’s important to identify all your potential competitors, and not just those in your exact industry. For instance, if you’re running a grocery store, your competitors aren’t just other grocery stores. They’re every other business that people turn to for food and/or household products. Farmers markets, online food delivery services, restaurants, big mart retailers, and even local drugstores and gas stations can take business away from you. Before you can develop an effective business strategy, you need to recognize all your potential competitors.

How Strong Is Your Competition?

Once you know who you’re competing against, it’s a good idea to measure each competitor’s strength in the marketplace. Industry publications can provide a wealth of information on larger businesses, while personal observation can provide data on smaller businesses. Ultimately, you want know approximately how many customers your competitors attract, how much their products or services cost, how well their brand is known, and approximately how much overall business they generate. You can then use that information to determine where your business fits within the marketplace. For instance, if you have a natural foods store, you probably can’t compete with large grocery chains on price and overall variety. However, you may have the opportunity to attract niche consumers who want specialty foods.

What Does Your Competition Offer?

This question could also be phrased as: why would my potential customers choose one of my competitors instead? Answering this question can help you better tailor inventory, set prices, and establish services in such a way that your business has a competitive advantage. If you’re offering the exact same products and services as a competitor, customers are more likely to choose you if you have better pricing, better service, or—if you’re in retail—a more convenient location. However, you can also create competitive advantages by offering a product or service your competitors do not.

How Do Your Competitors Market Themselves?

Marketing is about standing out and about establishing an identity. You want to know how your competitors are marketing themselves so that you can choose a different look and feel, thus increasing the likelihood your business will be noticed. However, when it comes to establishing a brand identity, differentiating yourself is about more than just standing out. Your marketing message should be true to your competitive advantage. In the case of the natural foods store, marketing yourself as a provider of specialty foods is a much better way to differentiate your business than marketing yourself as a local grocer, because the former is directly tied to your competitive advantage and clearly distinguishes you from large grocery chains.

Does Your Competition Have Problems With Customer Satisfaction?

A competitor with poor customer satisfaction can present you with an excellent opportunity to attract that competitor’s customers. Trade publications can provide some clues into customer satisfaction, but one of your best resources is the Internet. A site like SocialMention.com can give you metrics on the positivity and negativity of any brand being discussed on social media. You can also look at a competitor’s social media accounts and see if lots of customers are bringing up similar complaints. If you can identify a weakness in a competitor’s customer satisfaction, you can promote yourself as being strong where your competitor is weak.

How Can You Learn More?

Building and managing a successful business requires a lot of business knowledge. If you want to put yourself in a better position to beat the competition, you should consider earning a business degree, specifically BS in Business Administration. In a business administration degree program, you can gain insight into business functions, learn how to analyze issues that impact business decisions, and gain practical, relevant skills you can apply to your current business or a future career.

If you’re currently a working professional, one of the best ways to earn your bachelor’s in business administration degree is through an online university. When you enroll in an online business degree program, you won’t have to arrange your schedule around inconvenient, in-person class times. Instead, you’ll earn your business administration degree in a flexible, online learning format that can allow you to continue working full time while you learn.

An online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration can give you the skills you need to succeed against the competition. It’s a smart way to help yourself get ahead.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online BS in Business Administration degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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