Starting a new business is always challenging, but it’s even more so when you don’t have a good plan to follow. If you’re considering starting a new business, it’s a good idea to do some market research and scout out your potential competitors.

You can take note of their successes and failures, and keep those in mind when implementing your own business model.

Starting a New Business

Here are five questions to ask you when learning about existing businesses.

What Have They Done Right?

All businesses that have turned a profit must be doing something right. That means they’re doing something that you can imitate in your own business.

Identify what these businesses have done to become successful. Maybe they have great customer service, or an inexpensive line of products. They may also be tech-savvy and have a wonderful website with exceptional online ordering services.

What Can You Do Better?

No matter how successful a business is, it can always be improved. Figure out how a competing business can be better, and implement that change in your own business.

Maybe your competitors’ prices are a little too high, or maybe their customer service leaves something to be desired. Perhaps their facilities are a little outdated, or the higher management has made some misguided investments lately.

In any event, find out. Don’t just identify areas where you could perform better, but also form a plan to do so.

What are Their Customers Saying?

Customer forums are great places to gain valuable information about similar businesses. Say you want to open a counseling center similar to the 12 Palms addiction rehab center. Go to review sites like Yelp and Google Reviews, and take note of what customers are saying.

Are they happy with the size of the staff and length of the sessions? Do they feel the center’s approach has been effective over time? If so, you may want to offer similar treatment plans.

Chances are there will be at least one glowing and one critical review. You have plenty to learn from both kinds. The negative reviews will give an idea of the business’s weaknesses, while the positive will show you areas you should emulate.

How Do They Use Social Media and The Internet?

You should be just as accessible as your competitors are on the Internet. If they’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. you should be too. Take note of what kinds of things these businesses post and how they attract customers’ attention. (Note: A successful post may have lots of likes, shares or retweets.)

You should also identify sites where competitors don’t have accounts. Create a page on these sites as you get started and secure a different niche in the market.