Knowing that a market exists for your product or service is an important first step when launching a new venture, and who better to tell you about the market than your future competitors?
You can start with their websites, web searches, and the Dunn and Bradstreet reports. But if you really want to learn about a market opportunity, be prepared to pick up the phone.
You may be surprised at how much someone will tell you about their business. When starting my new venture, my partner and I learned the following from speaking to two of our competitors:
– Their annual sales
– Their biggest markets
– Their average customer profile
– Their suppliers
– Their logistics processes
– Their sales partners
– Their future product plans
All of this happened with no mispresentation and just a bit of flattery on our part. No one asked us to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The company that gave us a tour of their production facility was only too happy to do so. It helped that one of us was still a college student, but the long and the short of it is that people like to boast about their successes.
Armed with this competitive intelligence, we were able to avoid several industry "first-timer" mistakes, and our business plan was much stronger.
Will a sharp CEO always talk about the core workings of their business? Not always. But brush up on your phone skills and you might surprise yourself – as my partner and I did – at what you learn.