Your company is typically not the only player in your market that's having an effect. Therefore, to see where you're going in your industry, you must learn from the fellow companies in your industry. After all, you can't compete if you don't know what the other players are doing. Your customers will compare you to the competition, so know where you stand and update your plans accordingly.
Evaluate your competitors and understand how their marketing strategies are reaching consumers and affecting their buying decisions. Start by identifying the largest companies in your area that directly compete with you for customers, and then move on to companies that indirectly compete with you.
Always be informed of your competitors' new promotions by signing up for their newsletters and promotions. Use a free e-mail account from Yahoo! or Hotmail so that your competitor doesn't see your company's Web site on its e-mail list.
As you scope out your market, start developing a sense of the overall feel that your competitors present as their marketing message, and look at the ways they use to communicate that message. Then ask yourself these questions to compare their strategies with yours in these areas: