Why Watching The Competition Is So Important

Peter Zaborszky got to where he is by capitalising on the shortcomings of rival businesses. Today he guards against upstarts plotting his downfall in the same way.

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Peter Zaborszky got to where he is by capitalising on the shortcomings of rival businesses. Today he guards against upstarts plotting his downfall in the same way.

Dear entrepreneurs, why on earth do you want to start a business? Riches? Fame? Or something a little more down-to-earth which may lead to success? The reason I got involved with BestVPN.com and PetrolPrices.com was quite simple: a belief that I could do the job better than others were doing it.

That may sound a little conceited but, in fact, any entrepreneur in a similar position should think the same thing, otherwise why would they want to get involved at all?

When I set out with BestVPN.com, without a doubt I was driven by the business possibilities surrounding it. I’d spent months browsing the internet looking for interesting business ideas, and stumbled upon a website similar to BestVPN.com.

"Both websites have something in common: they deal with subjects that became hot topics"

I could see great prospects in it, as the business model could be applied to so many niche markets. Opportunity beckoned and I tried to acquire the operation. Alas, we couldn’t agree on the terms, but that didn’t mean the opportunity had passed – it had just changed a little. I made the decision to do it better by myself.

From the business possibilities that attracted me to the website originally, BestVPN.com has become much more than just a comparison site. In an increasingly public world, its mission is to help people understand how to control their privacy.

Reviews are a key part of the maze-like purchase decision journeys we all make, but the review websites that were available in this niche before BestVPN.com weren’t interested in engaging with their customers in the way we do.

The story around my involvement with PetrolPrices.com is a similar one. Not only is it a business I have always known has huge potential, but it helps consumers save money in a simple way. The opportunities to expand it have always been there, to ensure there’s no need to let it stagnate as time passes.

Funnily enough, I actually programmed the first version of the website during a summer job at an internet startup, while at university. I thought it was an awesome idea but, at that time, I never thought I’d actually be part owner of it later down the line. It took eight years but, now I’m running the operation, it feels amazing taking over something that I built so long ago. Both these websites have something else in common: they both deal with subjects that have become hot topics.

VPNs – Virtual Private Networks, which help secure privacy online – hit the headlines big-time when WikiLeaks and Julian Assange started leaking classified information to the media, and privacy on the internet became a hot topic. While businesses had already seen the value of keeping prying eyes away from sensitive information, now members of the public began to realise how vulnerable their online information was, be that banking transactions or emails slagging off the boss.

Over the last 2 years BestVPN.com has gone from zero traffic to 400,000 visitors a month. Quite a jump! PetrolPrices.com came into its own as the price of oil rocketed in 2012, squeezing the budgets of motorists still reeling from the effects of the recession. The prospect of shaving hundreds of pounds off their annual fuel bill prompted huge numbers of drivers to start researching forecourt prices, and finding substantial savings could be made by going to different filling stations.

Chloride Arizona

Petrol prices have been on a roller coaster ride in recent years

Even as the price of oil plummeted in more recent times, motorists remained savvy – and our price comparison website made it easy to keep saving a small fortune every year, whatever the price of oil was doing.

Both my websites have grown because they help people get better value for money without any real effort, and it is hard to see that need disappearing any time soon. Information is gold-dust, whether that’s market information helping an entrepreneur build a business plan or retail information helping consumers get more bang for their buck.

If you’re thinking of launching a business, you may be lucky enough to have an idea that no one else has thought of. But most businesses are born into a world populated with established players. These may be the most useful sources of information you have as an entrepreneur.

"I pay close attention to competitors, established and breakthrough. If I don't I run the risk of being beaten at my own game"

Study them, work out what they are good at – that’s often quite easy, as humans like to boast about their successes – and form an opinion about what they are not so good at, or about what they are missing out on. Be brutal in your assessment, because others may soon be doing the same thing to you. And also because these weaknesses are where opportunity may lie for you. I wasn’t doing something that had never been done before. I was simply trying to take a model and use it to do more, better.

With comparison websites, you can see how this approach has been taken to its next logical level: comparison websites themselves have gone meta – some of the best-known sites compare other comparison sites. And you can bet someone is trying to compare the sites that compare comparison sites.

But, whatever your business, in the end, your customers need to get value from you and they need to trust you, whether you offer a specialist service or you are aggregating information from other sources.

In an ever-changing digital landscape, then, I need to pay close attention to my competitors, both established and breakthrough. If I don’t, traffic to my site will drop and so will my revenue. Worse still, I run the risk of being beaten at my own game. And this applies whether I am launching a new business or developing an existing one.

There’s nothing better at keeping me on my toes than the knowledge that, somewhere out there, there’s a digital upstart looking at my businesses and thinking: ‘Hah! I could do that so much better.’

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Why Watching The Competition Is So Important

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