How Do I Know What My Competitors Are Doing?
December 6, 2022
This question is one for the ages, and it’s one that businesses have been trying to answer since the day the ‘first competitor’ arrived.
In today’s world where there is so much variety for almost every product or service, the competition is stronger than ever. To maintain a successful business, it’s crucial to keep up and stay ahead of the competition
Some questions you should be asking yourself:
- When is the last time that you ran a competitive analysis?
- Have you ever taken the time to do an in-depth analysis?
- Do you know how to perform a thorough, efficient analysis of your competition?
If you’re not sure about any of these, USIM has you covered. Understanding your competition can give you powerful insights and intelligence to help your brand outpace them at every opportunity.
The Competitive Advantage
Competitive advantage is important to define before you start a competitor analysis.
Put simply, this is what sets a business apart from the competition and helps them stand out. It is the reason that people choose that brand over the rest, and it is usually based on morals, vision, and company values to help you drive your business to success.
It is not required to become an expert in competitive analysis in order to be successful. What is important is understanding the process and how it all comes back to this one question…
“Why your brand”?
What is it that sets you apart? What makes you better than others? Why should your audience choose your brand, and what will they get if they do?
Answering these questions will help determine competitive advantage providing an easier time evaluating and analyzing your competition, as well as dominating the space for brand awareness, marketing, and customer acquisition areas.
What is a Competitor Analysis?
A simple search for “competitor marketing analysis” will return dozens of results that offer tips, insights, tools, and even the benefits that come from monitoring your competition.
The competitor analysis magnifies marketing and ad spend, including how much your competitors are spending and where they’re spending it.
A competitor analysis is a process that provides knowledge and understanding on how the competition is doing, but also identifies opportunities to outperform them.
This strategy involves a lot of research to gain insight on things like:
- Marketing tactics
It can help staying on top of industry trends and ensure that a brand is consistently exceeding industry standards. This is an essential step in brand positioning and continuous improvement that deserves full attention.
Competitive Market Research
Doing this involves competitive market research. This includes finding and comparing key performance indicators and metrics that will identify the differences between one brand and their competition. It also helps establish a foundation for sales and marketing strategy that will help stand out from the growing crowd of competitors.
By the end of this analysis, a business will have insights on:
- Understanding how audience rates the competition
- What gives a brand the advantage over another brand
- How to create effective strategies for competitive marketing
- What customers need and expect
- Strategies for expanding into new markets and audiences
Benefits of Competitive Analysis
Here are the benefits of conducting a competitor analysis:
- Helps identify and express to others the value proposition of the product or brand. This is what makes a brand different from competitors. It’s the unique thing that sets this brand apart and can help inform the marketing efforts used in the future.
- Enables a brand to see what competitors are doing right. This can help in staying relevant and ensure that marketing campaigns and products are outperforming competitors, as well as industry standards.
- Shows where the competition is falling short. This is another chance to identify opportunities in the marketplace, test out new and unique marketing strategies, and capitalize of the mistakes of the competition.
- What are customers actually saying. Reviews can help determine what is missing for competitors and how a strategy can be changed or modified to meet the consumers’ needs.
- Offers a benchmark. This can determine a baseline on which to use in order to measure growth and success.
- Identify gaps in the market. Uncover market trends and develop new products and services based on that research.
- Sell your product. Ultimately helps market and sell this brand or product more effectively.
Best Practices and Steps to Perform a Competitive Analysis
The steps for performing a competitive analysis are pretty straightforward. There is some detail involved in each step, but with a structured outline of steps, it will be much easier to understand how to succeed. When using the steps below, you’re creating a process that has the ability to be replicated and used every time you need to check in on the competition.
Step 1.) Determine your competitors
The first step is to determine who you are competing with. However, don’t settle for just that existing knowledge. Take time to look at direct and indirect competitors, then cross off the indirect ones (those who don’t have the same product but offer a similar or alternative solution). Focus here should be on the direct competition.
You will want to keep indirect competitors on the radar to make sure they don’t come up from behind and become a direct competitor. However, the main focus will be on direct competition.
Step 2.) Determine their products
What products or services do the competitors offer? Every brand is a sum of its offerings and understanding what that means to the brand and for the competition.
Consider whether they’re a budget-friendly or high-end provider, what their market share is, whether they are using different pricing strategies online and in their brick-and-mortar stores.
Look at the characteristics of their ideal customers. See how they distribute products and services, as well as how they set themselves apart from their competitors.
The rest of the competitive analysis process will prove to be more efficient once the answers to these questions are answered.
Step 3.) Research their sales tactics and success rates
This part can be a little complicated, but it’s essential to success. Get answers to questions like:
- What channels are they using to sell?
- What does their sales process look like?
- Are they expanding? In multiple locations? Scaling back?
- What are customer reasons for not working with them?
- What are their revenues and sales volumes like?
- How involved are salespeople?
- Do they use reselling programs?
All these pieces will help to see the full picture of the competitive analysis including what the competition is doing when it comes to sales. This will also help prepare your own team to compete in all areas, including the final purchase stage of the customer journey.
Ask open-ended questions when surveying existing and potential customers. This will help to get honest feedback and avoid impacting people’s answers by limiting them to a yes or no response.
Step 4.) Take a look at pricing and perks
One of the major factors for customers when considering purchases is the cost of the product or service. The majority of people have to pay attention to costs, budgeting, etc. Even those who have the means may not want to spend a small fortune on these services. Looking into what competitors are charging for their product/service is extremely valuable.
This step can provide useful information to determine pricing position. This research can determine a price for products/services at a higher point due to the value they offer or may even lead to a decision to position the product or service at a lower price because of the gap in the market for affordable solutions.
Consider perks offered by competitors and how those influence purchasing decisions. For example, if the competition has a longer free trial or a huge referral discount, it may be necessary to think about doing something similar. Provide customers with unique perks if there isn’t any to compete against.
Step 5.) Check shipping costs (for product sales)
It is absolutely vital to be aware of the shipping situation for an online business. Expensive, seemingly overpriced shipping costs are the number one reason people abandon their carts and transactions online. With major brands offering tons of specials for free or discount shipping, such as Amazon and its Prime service enticing consumers with free next-day and even same-day delivery, it can be hard to keep up with the market.
Fortunately, covering shipping costs can be inexpensive if you know what to do. Figure out what your competitors are doing first and then do better.
Step 6.) Analyze the marketing of your competitors’ products
Analyzing the marketing strategy of competitors can inform a business or brand and where they should focus marketing efforts to set them apart. It is important to evaluate exactly what other brands are doing to market their products or services.
In the digital space, most of this information can be found on the competition’s website. Do they have unique content? A blog, whitepapers, videos, webinars, podcasts, infographics, and images are all critical parts of an effective organic digital marketing strategy. These different informational elements of marketing sell brands by positioning them as experts.
Also take into consideration the following marketing elements:
- Slide decks
- Featured articles/content
- Press releases
- Case studies
- Media kits
It isn’t necessary to use all of these resources, but they are important to look for to recognize what a brand is up against when it comes to marketing.
After review of the website, take note of all online and offline marketing/advertising campaigns they have. This includes PPC, social media advertising, print advertising, TV or radio ads, podcast ads, display ads, etc. It is imperative to know where and when a competitor is marketing their product or service.
With that information, how those efforts work for them give the ability to decide accordingly whether they might work for you. It helps in deciding the best marketing strategies the first time and to save a part of the marketing budget instead of using trial and error to figure it out on your own.
Step 7.) Check out the competition’s content strategy
Content remains king of the Internet. There are several factors that search engine indexers look for when ranking websites and businesses, but content is paramount. However, its not just the amount of content or just having content in general, it is absolutely imperative that this content is quality and consistently frequent content. It needs to be easily digestible content, such as blogs, infographics, regular social media posts, etc.
Businesses that succeed with content strategy have a diverse array of content types across all channels. Omnichannel marketing is essential with today’s popularity of the Internet, and that includes a distributed content strategy.
If you really want to hyper-analyze the competition look for details such as:
- Grammar and spelling issues
- In-depth information
- Tones and attitudes
These are factors used by search engines to help rank sites and brands by their content, so it’s helpful to have a leg up knowing what the competition is doing so that the brand or business can have even more success—this is the central concept of competitive analysis. Knowing what the competitor is doing so that you elevate your strategy to be a consumer’s first choice.
Step. 8) Investigate the technology stack your competition is using
There is an abundance of new technology that your business, and a competitor, can utilize to benefit from in the same way. Understanding what tech, the competition is using is vital to this type of analysis. This can speed up your own technology adoption process because you’ll already know the do’s and don’t’s as well as where to start to get an even better solution.
Consider what areas the competition excels in and what tech tools they use to do that. For example, if someone has top-rated customer service, you should find out what CRM and communications tools they’re using to get those ratings. Powerful software that you’ve never heard of or haven’t investigated already may be found in this research.
There’s a tool called ‘Built With’, a software that provides the ability to gain insight as to what competitors are using. Simply type in their URL on the site and you’ll get a list that includes third-party plugins, analytics tools, CRMs, and so much more.
Another way to get this information is to check out their job postings. Companies always list skills and competencies in their job postings, which is a free chance for you to see what technology stack they’re using to build their success.
Step 9.) Analyze audience engagement
Engagement is everything when it comes to building a successful brand online. Ensuring that the audience is engaged is imperative, but you’ll also want to understand what the competition is doing to get positive results.
Consider interactions like shares, comments, and “likes” on social media posts, reviews and ratings, testimonials, etc. Evaluate how consumers engage with the competition and what they like about it. This will allow for a brand to gain valuable insight about which topics are most engaging, what media gets the most attention, and which content fits each social media platform to maximize audience engagement.
Pay attention to whether competitors use tags to categorize content, as well as whether they’ve got social media follow and share buttons on all of their content. This can make a big difference in the cross-platform engagement of their brand, and yours.
Step 10.) Observe promotional marketing efforts
Once you’re done looking at engagement, investigate their promotional efforts. Competitors are constantly promoting their content and making sure that they get seen, understanding that can help a business decide which kind of promotion is most effective. The Internet is full of billions of brands and content pieces, and it’s important to use as many resources as possible to stand out.
There are several aspects that are important to pay attention to, including:
- Internal link strategies
- Image ALT text
- Keyword density and use
- Most-shared content
Making a list of things to focus on while you’re performing your competitive analysis will help get the marketing team thinking and ensure that there’s a clear path once started on the marketing strategy.
Ask questions like:
- What keywords are being used most often?
- What social media platforms are most popular for competitors? For audiences?
- What content gets the most shares?
- Who else is sharing content from competitors (besides audience members)?
- What sites are giving them backlinks? Do you have them also?
This essentially helps complete a full analysis of the competition’s content so that you can improve your own and make the most effective strategy for the future. It also allows for the ability to see where competitors are falling short so that you can capitalize on those areas in your own efforts.
Step 11.) Evaluating social media marketing and presence
We’ve looked at engagement and promotional marketing. Now, its key to evaluate the social media platforms, presence, and engagement of the competition. Social media is the go-to place for most people, even when it comes to shopping, information gathering, and building relationships with professional brands.
It is necessary to know competitors’ engagement rates and their presence on social media. Assessing how often they post, which platforms get the most engagement, and how their social media strategy complements their other marketing efforts.
Ensure that all social media sites are looked to see where you can (or can’t) find your competition, including:
Find how often they engage on each platform, what types of audiences they’ve cultivated on the different networks, the number of followers, and content engagement. If people aren’t commenting on or sharing content, the engagement is hard to track. It’s important to see likes, shares, and comments to help increase engagement.
Consider how viral their content is or if there are certain followers or fans that are more frequently engaged than others. Look at what they’re posting, what people are sharing, and anything else that catches your eye.
Another important thing to consider is how much content is original and how much is curated from other sources? This plays a large role in the success of social media marketing for brands and it’s important to have a good balance of both types.
Step 12.) Perform a SWOT analysis of each competitor
A SWOT analysis will help in understanding the competitors with four simple elements that you will be able to measure:
- Strengths: What are competitors best at? What are they doing that works?
- Weaknesses: What areas are lacking for the competition? Where do they fall short and how can you use that to pick up your own efforts?
- Opportunities: What are their opportunities for reaching new audiences and how are they using them?
- Threats: What threats do competitors face in their marketing efforts? Does your brand have the same threats or different ones?
Once this is achieved, the marketing team will have a much better understanding of not just where competitors stand, but what can be done to outperform, outpace, and out-sell them in every possible way.
What Kind of Tools Can Show Me What My Competitors are Doing?
When it comes to keeping up with the competition, today there are a host of tools and resources available to assist with these efforts. Reports are probably going to be most valuable in this type of analysis. There should be competitor reports in your CRM, including a variety of types of data and insight. For example, running a competitive analysis that shows all prospective deals a brand may have had where there was also a competitor in the running.
If not already, you should talk to your marketing and sales teams to implement tools and resources to help the analysis. Find out where prospects are coming from, what competitors they’re considering (if any), and why they’re considering switching to (or from) your brand.
A simple Internet search is another tool that can prove to be beneficial to this competitive analysis. Independent investigating can be done by simply putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and getting to know the competition. As discussed, it’s important to find out what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what you can do to be better than them at every single touchpoint in the customer journey.
Helpful tools for competitive analysis include:
- Quick Search
- Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and Content Explorer
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner
- Sprout Social
These tools are all designed to help get to the bottom of the competition’s efforts in regard to branding and visibility, marketing and sales, customer retention, and more.
The Best Tool is to Be the Consumer
The absolute best tools for a competitive analysis are the tools that are you already have access to. It starts with the use of the Internet to investigate and learn about the competition, which just takes a little creative thinking. And the ultimate tool to give you a clear, honest look at the competition is the ability to think like a consumer.
When you are performing a competitive analysis, do not go in with the thought process as the business owner. It will serve much more effectively if you are able to shift your mindset, clear prejudices, and think like a consumer to determine exactly how the competition stacks up.
Do some investigating of the industry, competitors, and marketing efforts. Review what kind of places you would want to engage with a brand in your quest and consider which areas are falling short, as a consumer. Try to do this with a fair, unbiased mindset. It’s tempting to knock the competition for no reason; however, you may be selling yourself short with a dishonest or biased assessment.
What Digital Reporting Misses
This is another reason why taking a consumer mindset approach is critical to the success of competitor analysis. Digital reporting is great, but analytics can only provide certain insights. They can’t say which pieces of content people felt most relatable to, or where a brand might be making an extra effort in a way that can’t be measured.
Its impossible to put the human experience on a chart. Some parts of the buying journey are unable to be quantified. That’s why it is necessary to take a step back from your role as owner and competitor and slide into those consumer shoes to investigate what the experience is like from a firsthand perspective.
The best brands perform competitive analyses regularly. The leaders of business are always trying to look at their competitors from an audience perspective to get more valuable information than you can find in any report. Use the tools that have been made available and offer great resources and intel, but don’t forget about your most valuable tool: yourself.
USIM and Next Steps for Developing a Strategy to Evaluate Your Competitors
When coming up with the marketing strategy for your brand or business, consider what your competition is doing to ensure your results stack up to or surpass theirs. A competitive analysis will help you understand the do’s and don’t’s in your industry providing one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to begin marketing plans.
Work with your USIM to create a competitive strategy that will provide positive results for your brand. For more information on how we can help provide a detailed competitive and competitor analysis, connect with your individual planning team to discuss next steps
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