The economy has been tough for a while and many businesses have been struggling, put out of business and more are likely to exit soon. If you have a competitor that is struggling, on their way out or has already exited, their misfortune can create an opportunity for you.  Here’s what to do:

Takeover Customer Orders and/or Accounts: If they are going out of business or have gone out of business, your competitor will likely be looking to monetize whatever they can. Approach the competitor to see if they will facilitate a transfer of outstanding orders or customer accounts to your business. You can offer to pay them a royalty fee on any accounts that you take over with their help, which minimizes the risk for you and gives them upside.

Buy Customer Lists: If your competitor can’t or won’t assist with the account transfer directly, or if they are in a different type of business, see if you can buy their customer list. Then, contact those customers directly to let them know what you have to offer them.

Buy or Takeover Their Points of Contact: If a customer is trying to contact your former competitor, how great would it be for them to get you instead?  You can offer to buy their website domain and have it redirected to your website.  When past customers go to their site, they will automatically be redirected to your place of business. Or try to can get the competitor’s phone number transferred to yours once they give it up.  This way, anyone calling the business will be redirected to you (much in the same way the website redirection works).  You can work on a script to let callers know that you are in the same industry and are excited to service them.

Buy Assets: If you are in a product business, competitors who are in financial trouble will often sell inventory for cents on the dollar.  See if you can make an offer on key inventory to get a great deal.  Or check with your competitor to get a deal on everything from computers and office furniture to equipment.

Hire Solid Employees: While you want to draw conclusions about the staff of a firm that has gone under, often it’s not their fault.  There may be some key employees looking for a new job who can bring insight on what worked and what didn’t and can be a strong asset for your company, either on a consulting or full-time basis.

In every challenge, there is an opportunity.  Let the tough economy work in your favor when a competitor goes out of business. While not every competitor will be amenable or have assets that are valuable to you, there just may be something there for you to profit from.