8 things to do when your competitor goes out of business

by Duncan Jones - Get more articles like this sent to your email here

Whether we’re in a booming market or a recession there will be a lot of competitors that come and ultimately go out of business. As sad as it is for that company and their staff it is something you can take advantage of to grow and improve your own business.

So you’ve just heard one of your competitors has gone out of business? Now what?

Well, there are eight main tactics I would get started on straight away to make the most of that opportunity.

1. Create A Unique Offer For Their Customers

It won’t be long before a lot of their customers lose confidence with the business if it’s a going concern or are forced to move to a new provider if they’re ceasing services. Your goal is to make sure that for the vast majority of those customers, you’re the best option available.

One way to do that is to create a unique offer for those customers. It may be something like matching the competitors pricing or features for the first 6 months, honouring their gift cards or credit, it may even be the first few months free while they’re in transition. Whatever you select, if it’s an attractive offer, just for those customers and it looks like you’re doing it to “help them out” it can be very effective.

To make the most of the opportunity, ensure you create a dedicated landing page speaking to those customers and the offer you’re giving them and include a comparison table so they know how you compare. One of the biggest fears the customers will have is the transition period, so your landing page should also speak to how easy it will be to migrate and the support you’ll offer to make it a simple process.

2. Create A Competitor Campaign

Whether it’s existing customers or new prospects – there will still be a lot of people searching for your competitors’ brand name and it’s important you’re there front and centre. Setup a competitor campaign in Adwords & Bing targeting your competitors’ brand name, domain name and any other searches that may be done such as for their login page. The clicks from these keywords will be extremely cheap in comparison to your generic keywords and as these customers and prospects have no option but to select another provider they can be really effective. Ensure your ads speak to your unique offer for those customers and take people through to the targeted landing page which speaks just to them.

It can be a great time to also review your other search campaign budgets and ensure they’re set high enough as if the competitor was big – the search volume for your generic keywords should all increase as their customers search for alternatives.

3. Outreach To Their Customers

Outreach to as many of their customers as you can find via phone, email, in-person – however, you have to do it. Ensure you’re empathetic and let them know you’re just contacting them to help them out for the situation they’re in and make sure that you outline the special offer you have which is just for them.

You’ll have to get creative with how you find their customers – for example, if you offer a software tool you could see every company who is using your competitors tool through websites such as BuiltWith or StackShare.

Other great places to start building your outreach list include prospects that you lost to them, clients listed on their testimonials or case studies pages (you can use the Wayback Machine to view their site if it’s gone offline), clients who have linked to them on provider and supplier pages (found through backlink analysis), clients who have mentioned them on social media, clients who have reviewed them on review sites and any other way you think of.

4. Contact The Liquidators Or Receivers

Usually once a company goes out of business a liquidator, administrator or receiver takes over. Their job is to maximise the amount of money they can obtain for creditors and shareholders. This may involve running the business and trying to improve its position or it may involve selling off assets. The name of the person running this process is usually named in press releases and is someone you should get in contact with asap to see if you can strike a deal for them which is good for you, good for the creditors/shareholders and ultimately good for the current customers.

Some of the things you could negotiate to purchase include:

  • Buying the entire business.
  • Buying the customer base.
  • Buying the domain name which you can then redirect to your offer landing page for any prospects or customers still typing it in over the coming month.
  • Buying the email database which you could use for ad targeting.
  • Buying any website content such as blog articles which you could repopulate onto your own website.
  • Buying the rights to send out your offer in an email to all of their customers.

Be creative with what you try and negotiate as you never know what they will say yes to. Start low with your offers, especially if it’s for something a liquidator is unlikely to know the value of such as website content or a domain name.

5. Monitor Social Media Channels

Customers may be annoyed that a company has gone out of business and what this means for them so it’s important to monitor social media and step in where appropriate with the offer you’ve created or to answer any questions people have about changing companies. Be careful not to sound insincere or to look like you’re posting purely to take advantage of the situation as this can backfire.

6. Take Over Their Backlinks

If your competitor has been around for quite some time, chances are they have built a lot of backlinks from a whole range of websites. These backlinks will have helped them rank higher in the organic search results and if the site has disappeared all of those websites will now be linking to a broken 404 page which is a pretty good opportunity for you to improve your own SEO rankings.

Run your competitors website through a backlink analysis tool such as Ahrefs which will give you a list of each and every website linking to them. Then you simply need to work your way through the list contacting each website owner or editor and letting them know they are currently linking to a company which has gone out of business. The alternative — linking to your website. This can be an effective way to build links as you’re helping the website owners out and they’re motivated to take action because they are currently linking to a broken page. Be sure to test your outreach messaging so that you can optimise and improve it as you go down the list.

7. See If You Can Help Their Staff

As well as focusing on your competitor’s customers, have a think about whether any of their staff could be a good fit for your business. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Simply navigate to their company page and click the staff count and you’ll be able to browse through the profiles of people who are currently working for them and filter by job title, location, and other specifics. The insights and skills that staff from a direct competitor can bring you can be significant so even if you don’t have any full-time positions available consider bringing them in on a contract basis, perhaps to audit your company in the area they specialise in.

8. Audit Your Own Business

Lastly, but not least. Audit your own business and ensure any issues that have come out in the media or the rumour mill as to why your competitor has shut down aren’t present in your own business. There are clearly reasons they have had to shut down — try and identify them and take an impartial look at your own business and see how you can use the lessons from your competitor to make big improvements to your business.

The Most Important Element…. SPEED

With each of the tactics I’ve mentioned, speed is of the essence — the faster you can get ad campaigns live or get in touch with the liquidators the less competition you’ll have from other crafty businesses implementing the same tactics. To ensure you’re first in line I’d recommend using Google Alerts, Meltwater or a similar service and setting up media monitoring for all of your competitors, and then keeping a close eye on all of the news about them.

If you’ve got any other ideas, let me know in the comments.

Duncan Jones

Duncan Jones

Head of Strategy + Growth at Web Profits
Duncan has been building websites and online businesses since the days of the 56k modem and made his first $1 online from annoying popup ads. With over 10 years experience, he leads Strategy + Growth at Web Profits and still loves the thrill of launching digital marketing campaigns, getting the first conversion and then rapidly optimising and scaling them for clients across the company.

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