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This rain! It is really getting fairly tedious now. Especially when it causes roads to be closed. Particularly vital roads that I need to use to access my old house back in Dorset, to let a man into it, to sort out our water meter.

Had to do a massive detour with two exceedingly grumpy boys in the back of the car; and we all know how fun that is. I resorted to feeding them snacks in order to keep them happy. Lots of them. Hence not a lot of lunch was eaten by either, but hey. You gotta do what you gotta do. Sadly, I had no snacks left over for myself, which put me in (admittedly, a rather disproportionately) bleak mood. Seriously though, I need to have snacks literally every hour at least, otherwise I expire. I am like the human equivalent of Bertha.

(Just for those who need reminding, this is what Bertha looks like. She’s a machine that never stops eating. Ha ha!)

But anyway, enough about my embarrasingly rapacious appetite, and my grumpy boys. Next sesh for setting up your own business on it’s way!

No. 4: Checking Out The Competition

A little bit of researching the market goes a looooong way, believe me. And you’d be amazed just how much you can glean about a business, just from using your trusty friend, the Internet!

1) Google it!

The obvious place to start. Want to sell hand-knitted bloomers? (well, why not, someone out there must be up for buying a pair, I bet). Then type it into Google and see who comes up. Check out their websites. Assess your own reaction to them – would you buy from them? (if the answer is an emphatic ‘no’, then probably lots of other people will think the same…which is a good thing for you…)

How many people come up? This will give you a good idea of whether you are in a really niche market, or competing against hundreds. Just a quick FYI here – it’s not necessarily great to type in your product in Google and for nothing relevant to come up. This might indicate that perhaps, its because no one wants what you are thinking of offering. Not definitely, but maybe.

2) Snoop, snoop, snoop!

If you identify a company that you think is going to be your main competition, you can easily access lots of info about them, on websites like Companies House and http://www.checksure.biz. You can even purchase cheap reports that tell you really quite useful knowledge like their turnover…which will give you a great idea of whether they are finding the Big Idea lucrative or not! If they aren’t, chances are you probably won’t either, unless you can offer something better etc.

3) Talk to your competition…

Yes, this seems a bit barmy, doesn’t it. But this is such a good idea, particularly if you are a local business. For example; thinking of opening a florist in your town? Go to another town, and check out other florists! See what they do, what they offer, and talk to them about what works. They won’t see you as a threat if you aren’t in their ‘customer area’.

If you are not location specific, go undercover! You’ll be amazed what you can find out. Obviously though, its good to show respect for their business. I’m personally not into this whole ‘dog eat dog’ ethos that some businesses practice. There’s plenty of pie for everyone to get a slice, in my opinion! And the customer always chooses the honest seller over the cut-throat one, trust me.

This may all seem very time consuming to begin with, especially when you are raring to go. But it really does pay off to have a good awareness of the market you want to sell in, and the competition you face when you are in it.

The next step? Hmm…let me see. Shall we next have a look at pitching your idea? You may not even need an official pitch (if you are financing it yourself for example) but I think it still pays to do one anyway. Join me tomorrow to hear why!