You have probably heard of the very popular saying keep your friends close, and your enemies closer? When you find yourself in direct competition with other businesses, you would find that saying incredibly true.
Since you are competing with other businesses in your industry, you need to know who’s doing things right, who’s doing things wrong, and what they’re doing to keep their clients happy.
Competitive research should be an integral part of your marketing strategy to keep you one step ahead. Having a good digital marketing strategy can boost your blog traffic by as much as 232%.
If you want your business to have healthy finances like Buffer above, then you have to really optimize your marketing strategy.
A comprehensive competitive analysis is integral to your digital marketing plan. This is essential if you want to maintain a competitive advantage in reaching and selling to your target audience. When you have an in-depth analysis about your competitors, you stand to gain:
- An understanding of how your existing and potential customers rate your competition.
- A positive identification of your competitors strengths and weaknesses.
- A mechanism to develop effective competitive strategies in your target market.
To carry out an analysis of your competitors, you will need to adhere to the following steps:
This can be achieved by simply carrying out survey or issuing a questionnaire. This can provide you with valuable information about your competitors. You have the choice of hiring a marketing research firm to carry this out for you or you can do it on your own.
The only problem is hiring a firm can be expensive and therefore difficult for small and medium sized businesses.
If you do decide to carry this out on your own, these are the questions you should be looking to get answers to:
- Who are my top three competitors?
- On what basis am I able to compete?
- What are their positive/negative attributes in the eyes of consumers?
- How can I distinguish my business from my competitors?
- How do current customers view us compared to the competition?
Here is an example of what your survey should look like. These are the questions you should look to ask your customers. You can ask the respondents of the survey to rate the following features of your business compared to your competition as fair, good or excellent.
Gather Competitive Information
By gathering competitive information I mean going for secondary sources. This is a good starting point especially for small businesses because this information is readily available and the general public has access to it. Books, articles published online or in journals are all secondary sources of information.
Secondary sources are great because they inexpensive and most of the time free. These are some secondary sources you should really pay attention to.
The brilliant thing about advertising is that it not only tells you about a competitor’s price and other product information, but it provides an indication of your competitor’s entire promotional program and budget. When examining a competitor’s advertising campaign, be sure to note the following:
- Publication, frequency, special offers, product features and benefits.
Also take note of sudden changes in their advertising campaigns. If you notice that your competitor suddenly places an advertisement in an industry that neither of you are currently selling to, it’s a real indication that they’re trying to reach a brand new market.
It’s also important to notice the design of your competitor’s advertising campaigns. What kinds of images do they convey? How do your own images compare? Are their advertisements in color? Even if they’re not, a clever advertising campaign can mean that your competitor is an innovative, fresh company.
- Sales Brochures
Perhaps your competitors have sales brochures. They are great because they provide a wealth of product information.
You can learn how your competitor is positioning their product and company and the features and benefits they’re using to sell their products. Try to obtain all new sales brochures your competitor publishes. Significant changes in the content will indicate that new strategies and tactics are being employed.
- Newspaper, magazine and online articles
Articles in newspapers, magazines and on the internet are a good source of information you can use to get an idea of what your competitor is planning for the future, how their organization is run, and what new product information or innovations they have.
Journalists may also uncover and reveal unflattering information about your competitor that may prove valuable to you. Be on the lookout for product reviews; they will reveal a competing product??s strengths and weaknesses.
Analyze Competitive Information
Once you’ve gathered all of the data you need, it’s time for analysis. You should analyze to determine product information, market share, marketing strategies, and to identify your competition’s strengths and weaknesses.
Conduct a product evaluation.
You should know from your data and customer feedback what product features and benefits are most important to your customers. A product’s or service’s competitive position is largely determined by how well it is differentiated from its competition and by its price.
In that regard, make a list of product features and benefits in order of importance and make a table that shows whether or not your competitor fulfills them. Your analysis should look something like this.
This is an example a business that sell photocopy machines will look at the benefits and features when making purchasing decisions.
You can begin to tick which features your competitors currently have as they are pretty straight forward. You either have the feature or you don’t. You can also begin to compare the other features and benefits
Determine Your Own Competitive Position
Once you have followed the above steps, it should be pretty clear to you where you stand be it a market leader or a follower. Knowing about your competition and where you stand allows you to do three things:
- Identify key areas of competitive advantage and review the competitive landscape for your products and services
- Summarize the major problems facing your business and the appropriate actions that need to be taken to rectify the problems.
- Integrate demographic analysis with your marketing strategy to strengthen your position in the market.
Peeking over at your competitors can be an effective, if unexpected, way to improve your own digital marketing. Here’s how to take a creative look at your market to improve your understanding of your audience and find new ways of reaching out to them.
Now that you know how to conduct a proper competitive analysis, it is time to put it use. Just because your business is competing with other businesses and battling for the same customers, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them.
Start with your indirect competitors
You already know who your main competitors are. Maybe you already keep tabs on what they’re up to both online and offline.
But what about your indirect competitors? You can learn a lot of things about digital marketing from them. An indirect competitor is a business in your industry that is marketing to the same audience as you, without selling the same product.
In that regard, here are 5 things you can learn from your competitors regarding digital marketing.
1. Reputation management
Whether you are online or offline, your reputation means everything. What people think of you can make or break your business.
What you can do is research other companies in your industry and read their online reviews. You can compare their reviews to yours, and see if you can pull inspiration from their customer base to make your customers happy.
They could be doing something simple that you can incorporate in to your customer service process
2. Social Media
It is surprising that some businesses do not realize that social media can be an indicator for a business’s success. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter can be great tool for your business.
Comparing your social media pages to your competitors should be done consistently on a weekly basis.
Take a look at all the different social networks they’re using, and the type of customers they’re targeting. If they have a lot of followers and are constantly updating their pages, you should also incorporate that into your strategy.
Taking their lead and engage with your customers. You will boost your online presence as well as build a loyal customer base.
What type of content is getting the most and least engagement on your competitors social media channels? How long does it take for them to reply to interactions? What kind of content do they share?
What you want to do is use that information to your advantage and do the things your competitors are not doing. Don’t just look for the things getting the most traction. Sometimes the best way to learn is from other peoples mistakes.
Your business’s web site is important because its your first line of defense. The first thing a potential customers does as soon as he hears about your business, is to Google and research as much information as they can about it.
Next to reviews online, and social media, your web site is next in line as far as importance and value to your customer.
Take some time to look at your competitors website. Really focus on their layout, images, navigation and the general aesthetics of the website. If they seem to be getting more traffic than you do, try figuring out what they have on their site that you don’t.
Taking ideas from their web site will help you design an informative and visually appealing site for your visitors.
When you type your business into Google, what comes up? Does your business appear above, or below the fold in the organic results?
Are you on page one, or page four? Where does your competitor rank in comparison to you? The way your business ranks online is important because if a customer cant find your web site, you probably wont get a lot of business.
If your competitors rank above you, It means you have to invest time in to your SEO strategy. You should also ensure that your website is properly optimized. Also figure out what keywords they’re outranking you on.
There are multiple key word tools you can use to your benefit including Google keyword planner. You can enter your competitors URL and find their relevant keywords
5. Back links analysis
The first step to link building is to use high-quality, relevant and engaging content that’s appealing to your target audience.
All link building campaigns start with good content worth linking to. Before you craft your own link building strategy, Do some research and find out your competitors links. You’re likely to find some potential link opportunities for your own business too.
If you can build high quality links to your website, it can thrust your business far ahead of your competitors in search engine results. You should also use the opportunity to look out for broken links. If broken links are left unattended, they can accumulate and affect the user experience of your website.
Now that you have a clear idea of some of the valuable information you can gain from competitive research and analysis, you should start right away.
Schedule a competitive analysis on a regular basis. Depending on what industry you happen to be in, it could be every two months or once a year. It is also important to note that competitive analysis is not a one time thing. It never stops. Only when you now your competition can you really evaluate yourself.
Knowledge is power. With the knowledge of what your competitors are doing well, and not so well, you can improve your marketing strategy and overtake your competitors and gain the upper hand.
Do you know any other things that you can learn from your competitors, let me know in the comments below.