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8. Keeping an eye on your competitors.

All businesses have competitors, both local and international. But while most companies understand they’re not alone in what they do, many fail to mine the rich source of market knowledge their competitors provide. That’s why you must get to know your competitors. You’ll see what they’re doing well, and not so well, and you’ll also discover where you can set yourself apart and market your unique strengths.

Keeping an eye on your commercial rivals is such a valuable business activity that it should be a structured part of what you do. By developing a competitor analysis, you can tick off every aspect of what the competition is doing and compare your performance in key areas. A typical competitor analysis should include:

Identifying your competition:

You need to know how many other businesses are sharing your space, and that includes local and international organisations. Without doing a thorough search at this point, there’s every chance an unknown company could be achieving great things that you’re unaware of. You must have intelligence on your primary competitors who sell the same product or service to the same market, and that includes customer profile, revenue, marketing etc.

Keeping an eye on secondary or tertiary competitors can also pay dividends. For example, a secondary competitor might sell a different product but in the same category: a winery is a secondary competitor to a brewery as they both want their share of the hospitality dollar. Meanwhile, a tertiary competitor might not be in the direct competition right now, but that might be the case in the future if you expand your product or service offering.

Once you know your competition, it’s time to research their products or services in comparison to yours. How do you stack up in terms of quality, or price? Do you sell something they don’t? If so, there’s a point of difference that should be exploited by marketing your niche product. Are you superior in any way? Or inferior? Knowing the answers to questions like these can guide your marketing strategy as you seek to capitalise on your strengths. At the same time, this knowledge can tell you where you need to pick up your game.

Research their marketing:

One of the biggest reveals of a typical competitor analysis is how the competition markets their offering. They could be going down a track you’ve never thought of, or they might be doing the same thing as you, only better. Marketing is such a wide and varied field involving areas like market research, pricing, branding, budgeting, and positioning. Still, it’s worth putting in the effort and observing the big picture of what your competitors are up to. They might be doing something in one area that is giving them the edge, so go into this research with a fine-tooth comb.

Know where they’re advertising:

Yes, advertising is part of the overall marketing plan, but it needs to stand alone as part of your competitor analysis because it is such an important component. By knowing where your competitors are directing their advertising efforts, you’ll also see who they are targeting: it could be a big slice of consumers you haven’t connected with to this point.

Check out their social media:

Take a look at the most successful businesses in the modern marketplace and it is a near certainty that they have one thing in common: they’ve all got their social media marketing just right. You can learn a lot of lessons on how your competition handles their digital marketing – and you can cast your net worldwide when looking for social media inspiration – so check out all the platforms they’re on. Look at the sort of content they post, and how often they do it. Note their use of graphics and video, and how they connect with their customers. In particular, how well they handle negative reviews in a social forum could give you some great examples of winning PR.

Compare your SEO:

In the digital age, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can make all the difference. Check the SEO strategies applied by your competitors and gauge how their search page rankings compare to yours. If they rank higher than you do, it’s time to revisit your SEO plan.

Go to their website:

Great SEO will lead traffic to your website but will that be the end of their journey if your site is challenging to navigate, poorly designed, or slow to load? These are all critical SEO factors, but without comparing your website with your competitors, you might never know how bad (or good) your website is. Checking out your competitors’ websites will give you that vital knowledge. If it is time for a website redesign, then it might also be an excellent time to upgrade all of your other marketing material as well and bring the whole lot up to scratch.

Study their reviews:

A simple Google search for each competitor will show you their reviews. There is so much to learn here. It will reveal their strengths and weaknesses, according to their customers. You can use this information to pick up your own game in certain areas or to promote yourself as a strong alternative in areas where your rivals are weak.

Competitor analysis is the sort of exercise that can force you to swallow your pride a little. Knowing that the competition is doing something better than you can be a blow to the ego, but it’s also an opportunity to improve and compete on a level playing field. On the other hand, this analysis can confirm that you’re on the right track with what you’re doing. But valuable information like this won’t become apparent without knowing what the competition is doing, and that’s why this sort of study is so helpful.

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