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Research Your Competitors!

When identifying business competitors who are in competition to your business, you’ll want to start with your product, brand, service, and or business. A thorough understanding of your overall business and the value it provides to your audience or customers.

What should research include?

From my experience in creating competitor analyses myself, I have compiled a list of the top 10 components every competitor analysis should include:

1. Feature matrix: Find all the features that each competitor's product or service has. Keep this in a competitor insight spreadsheet to visualize how companies stack up against one another.

2. Market share percentage: This helps to identify who your main competitors in your market are. Don't exclude larger competitors completely, as they have much to teach about how to succeed in your industry. Instead, practice the 80/20 rule: 80% direct competitors and 20% global top competitors.

3. Pricing: Pinpoint how much your competitors charge and where they fall on the quantity vs. quality spectrum.

4. Marketing: What type of marketing strategy does each competitor employ? Look at competitors' websites, social media presence, the type of events they sponsor, their SEO strategies, their tag-lines and current marketing campaigns.

5. Differentiators: What makes your competitors unique, and what do they advertise as their best qualities?

6. Strengths: Identify what your competitors are doing well and what works for them. Do reviews indicate they have a superior product? Do they have high brand awareness?

7. Weaknesses: Identify what each competitor could be doing better. Do they have a weak social media strategy? Do they lack an online store? Is their website outdated? This information can give you a competitive advantage.

8. Geography: Look at where your competitors are located and the regions they service. Are they brick-and-mortar companies, or is the bulk of their business done online?

9. Culture: Evaluate your competitors' objectives, employee satisfaction and company culture. Are they the type of business that advertises the year it was established, or are they modern startups? Read employee reviews for insight into company culture.

10. Customer Reviews: Analyze your competitors' customer reviews, recording both pros and cons. In a 5-star system, look at 5-star, 3-star and 1-star reviews. Tip: 3-star reviews are often the most honest.

Also, I recommend including information in your competitive analysis about related trends in your market and region. This will give you a more complete picture of the entire competitive landscape.

A competitive research is the backbone of a strong marketing strategy. After all, if you can’t identify your competitors and their marketing tactics, you’ll struggle to differentiate yourself and your product from the crowd.

But how do marketers identify their primary competitors and their strategies? Here is our five-step strategy for how to identify your competitors, research your competition, and channel it into powerful marketing that meets your customer’s needs.

1. Social Media

Try visiting their social media pages and see how often customers engage with their content. A good place to start is the most popular channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus and YouTube. Have they completely filled out their profiles with nice photographs and compelling text that describes what they offer?

How often is your competitor posting? How many fans and followers do they have? Are people responding to the content by liking, sharing or commenting on it? Are they relying strictly on organic posting or are they buying sponsored posts as well? Take note of the content people are responding to and use that knowledge in your own strategy.

2. Advertising

Try searching for various keywords and see if your competitors show up in the sponsored listings on Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Bing. Look for their business name as well. If your competitor is using search-based advertising, they are likely bidding on their own name as well.

3. Solicit Sales & Customer Feedback

Ask your customers are the key to unlocking your direct competitors. Once they’ve decided on your business and product, you can ask them which other businesses/products they were evaluating. Customers often reveal unexpected competitors that aren’t even on your radar.

In addition, during the sales process your sales team can also ask your potential customers which businesses they are considering. If they haven’t decided on your product yet, your team will be able to speak to their needs better if you know which businesses or products they are considering.

4. Market Research

Take a look at the market for your product and evaluate which other companies are selling a product that would compete with yours. Talk to your sales team and find out which competitors they see come up often in their sales process. From there, you’ll be able to take a closer look at those companies, their product and marketing efforts, and create strategies to outperform them.

5. Check their website:

  • User experience - A competitor's website is a good starting point for evaluating how well it’s doing online. Start by looking at what the company offers and compare it to your own products and services. Is it easy to understand what the business offers within the first few seconds? Does it have a unique position that differentiates itself in a way that matters to the consumer? This will help you evaluate how well the company is branding itself compared to you. It's also a good idea to try looking at this first impression through the eyes of a potential customer and take note of what you see. Is the website design simple and clean, or is it cluttered? Can you find the information you are looking for quickly, or do you have to search for it? What is the checkout experience like? All of these variables can give you a picture of the strengths and weaknesses in your competitor's online presentation and give you clues about what you can do better.

  • SEO - You can get a sense of your competitors' SEO strategy by checking their on-page keyword strategies and the inbound links pointing at their sites. Start by doing some quick searches on a private browser and seeing how they rank. Remember that search engines use many signals to deliver results for each query, and your SERPs can look very different from someone else who is doing the same search. Finding the exact pecking order of rankings is difficult, but you can get a sense of where you stand alongside your competition.

The best indicators of SEO strategy come from looking at data that's visible to users. Check the page titles, meta descriptions, and on-page copy.

If a competitor has a blog, you should see how often it is updated and what topics they write about. Most businesses that are serious about inbound marketing update their blogs at least once a week. Check their social media sharing buttons and see how many likes and shares they get. This will give you an idea of how well their content resonates with the audience.

Once you have looked at all of these variables, you can piece together a clearer picture of your competitors and how you can position your business against them. Remember that even the best players can't be everything to everyone. Your competitors might be tough to beat on some aspects of the business, but chances are they have left opportunities open to you. Doing good competitor research will show you those opportunities and help you adjust your strategy accordingly.

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