In addition to the established companies in your sector, email marketing has new ones starting up all the time. The positive news is that most seem to start with a poor business plan. The bad news is that those that last beyond the first few weeks might well be working from a good business model so might well be a problem.
There are simple steps you can take to ensure you keep ahead of the new and at the same time challenge the old.
1/ Who are your competitors?
You probably are already aware of the big businesses, but you should also check for the new ones to see if they are likely to hurt you. Google is your friend here, as are local and business specific magazines. Wander around trade fairs to identify those who make your feel uncomfortable.
2/ Do they need watching?
It isn't all about price. Ask yourself if they have any good ideas. Are they particularly innovative, trying something new that is showing signs of success, and what is their level of investment? The last is not always an indicator of effectiveness of course, just longevity.
3/ Who are they targeting?
If they are not after your demographic it does not mean they won't be in the future. Are they after one that you were unaware might be profitable? If so then they are scary.
3/ What are their plans?
Where they are at the moment is one thing, but where do they see themselves in two years and five? Do their plans threaten yours?
4/ What do they do well?
Now you have identified the threat, work out why they might encroach on your business. Is it that, as they are small, they can respond quickly to an opportunity? Check out their email marketing campaigns.
5/ How can you negate the threat?
Now the fun starts. With almost every advantage there is a weakness, one that can be exploited, but only if you know about it. Research is everything. Get to know them, their marketing emails, their newsletters and their website. If you are wondering were to go from here, it is for the throat.