Whether starting a new standalone business for commercial property inspections or building a commercial division within an existing company, it is important to develop and work with a business plan. Established companies should revisit plans annually, at minimum, to assess strengths and weaknesses as the business evolves and alter their course if needed. Many inspectors are so involved with booking jobs and performing inspections that they become distracted or lose sight of the importance of planning for their business. However, long-term business planning is essential to the continual success of any company.
A common misconception for not working with a business plan is a business’s small size, with the business owners adapting and responding to changing circumstances as they go. However, smaller businesses with limited resources often cannot afford a trial-and-error approach. Instead, one way these businesses succeed is by conducting their own original research, the results of which will lend the insight needed to help them achieve their goals. Research plays a significant role in planning. It forecasts and simulates a framework for future decision-making regarding marketing, pricing, ancillary services, service area, and other aspects of the business.
What Is a Competitor Analysis?
Many business plans contain a section for original research results. Part of this section is conducting a competitive analysis. Competitor analysis is collecting and using information about competitors with the end goal of finding a market edge. It allows inspectors to learn from businesses competing for their potential clients. Some information to consider collecting in a competitor analysis includes marketing and branding approaches, service offerings, pricing information, operational differences, and anything else that points to strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
Sometimes new inspectors tell us, “I can’t get any jobs,” or ask us, “Why haven’t I gotten any leads from you?” Then, upon review of their marketing and other in-house practices, we often discover research and planning still need to be done to adapt to the commercial arena, which is necessary to drum up business. This is where competitive analysis is helpful.
Competitor Analysis Methods
There are several approaches to conducting a competitor analysis for commercial property inspectors. Each serves a different purpose and sheds light on distinct aspects of competitors and parts of their business. The following are the main competitive analysis methods.
The first two methods are completed using information available online without making direct contact with competitors.
1. Competitor Survey: A competitor survey entails identifying competitors in a relevant service area and gathering various information about them. This is simply assessing factors of your competition’s businesses. This method is not about making comparisons. Some find it helpful to survey the top in their field rather than their relevant service area, which aids in determining general qualities leading to success.
2. Competitive Analysis: A competitive analysis goes a step beyond a competitor survey. It also involves identifying competitors and gathering information. Then, the next step is to compare your business with the research side-by-side. This will shed light on differences and similarities and areas for potential improvement.
The last method involves going undercover by contacting competitors over the phone or email and pretending to be a potential client.
3. Mystery Shop: Mystery shopping entails selecting a commercial building for sale, contacting a competitor, and acting as someone who needs an inspection. In this case, you experience the initial contact through the proposal part of bidding jobs with them. Inspectors can assess pricing, received proposals, and overall customer service using this method. One option is to involve an employee, friend, or family to perform some of the inquiries for you.
Remember, the goal of these exercises is to find a market edge. It is not to copy the competition. For instance, if research shows pricing for a 7,500 sq. office space between $750 and $1,700, you may decide to set your pricing in the middle or closer to the upper middle. Or you may decide to implement Google Ads if you don’t discover many, or invest in a different marketing medium if competition appears high on that platform. Alternatively, you may decide to offer sewer scopes if few commercial property inspectors in your area are doing it.
Competitive Analysis Tools
It is important to be organized and efficient while conducting a competitive analysis. This allows you to assess findings accurately and revisit them as needed. As markets change and grow, businesses will alter their business practices and pricing. Some choose to perform a competitive analysis quarterly or annually to stay ahead of the pack and continue to get work in increasingly competitive arenas. CCPIA has a spreadsheet with dedicated tabs for the competitive analysis methods described above. It guides inspectors through competitive analysis exercises and helps them stay organized.
Planning with the aid of a business plan is a form of risk control for running a business. Having a solid plan and sticking with it can help inspectors avoid the weeding-out process, which is natural in any given market. It also allows inspectors to set goals and determine strategies to achieve them. Competitive analysis is a form of planning that involves researching competitors and identifying a competitive edge. It ranges from gathering information available online to posing as a potential client to gain more information. Competitive analysis is a good planning tool for all inspectors, whether new or established, because it keeps the inspector abreast of the local market and its various moods. CCPIA has a spreadsheet that walks inspectors through exercises helpful in conducting a competitive analysis.
Additional Resources for Commercial Property Inspectors: