The Power of Competitive Research in Marketing
The need for competitive research in marketing is more apparent now than ever - your competition is stronger, hungrier and ready to play dirty to get better results. It is time to fight back.
Do not copy your competition, improve on their offer. You have likely heard the saying “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies even closer.”
When it comes to conducting competitive research, that is not the whole story.
In any industry, keeping your enemy close will not prevent you from getting ambushed. Sometimes you do not even know who your enemies are. The “enemy,” after all, could be acquired by Amazon and put you out of business overnight. Or Google could build a competing product in your market without you even noticing.
Know Your Enemy
Studying the ‘enemy’ or maybe even a viable partner can help you understand your business battlefield. It can help you identify where the “enemies” are and how they are approaching the business. It can help you discover strategic areas where you can position yourself for a win.
A competitive research and analysis study is a process of identifying your competitors and evaluating their strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to your own business, product, and service. The goal of this study is to gather the intelligence necessary to find a line of attack and develop your go-to-market strategy.
Competitive research will not help you fund your next product or determine your direct marketing spend, but it will, however, help you develop a high-impact go-to-market (GTM) strategy.
Where to Start?
Before you can begin a comprehensive competitor research study for your business brand, you need to determine the basics first. The critical starting point is with your own brand.
The competitor research will make more sense if you run the same step by step guide on your own product or service first. That way, you have a benchmark to measure performance against.
The 8 Steps
Like with most processes, it starts with a step by step guide. But it is always best practice to have a completed SWOT analysis of your own brand first.
Step 1 – Segmentation
Break down your potential customer audience into groups based on subjects of your choice.
Step 2 – Criteria
Set the criteria that need to be followed to identify your competition. For example, a publisher would track content publishing platforms as competition.
Step 3 – Competition
Start with five main competitors to focus on that are based on your segmentation and criteria settings – but be aware of more that can be added over time.
Step 4 – Description
Take the Google description of the business you are researching and simplify for research needs.
Step 5 – Statistics
Outline the basic statistics that matter to your brand – website ranking, customer profiles, social media numbers etc.
Step 6 – Strengths
List the strengths of the competition based on your own SWOT analysis.
Step 7 – Weaknesses
List the weaknesses of the competition based on your own SWOT analysis.
Step 8 – Review
Simplified review of the findings, as well as a personal statement on your own experience of the competitive brands.
What Tools to Use?
There is no better tool than the human brain. Seriously. If you put your mind to it, your brain is the catalyst this research needs. But of course, we can support the old nugget with some handy tools to assist along the way.
The best tool for listening to what customers and audiences are talking and discussing (good and bad) about your competitor brands, always starts with Google. Try Google Trends to hear what the social world thinks of a particular product or service.
A few to choose from here, software platforms which can look at site performance, traffic and where they get their traffic from, but I always go with my favourite, SimilarWeb, for a free review that is supplemented with a paid license to dig deep.
Website SEO Analysis
Want to see how your competitor is doing in the unforgiving world of SEO? You can never go wrong with a free trial from SEMrush to get all the data and more to compile a more than adequate study.
There are, of course, a plethora of platforms out there to support any research – and with major players like Google and Amazon having to be transparent in showing the data of their keyword advertising campaigns – it has become more apparent than ever for us to peep over the fence and see what the neighbours are up to.