With 2019 right around the corner, companies everywhere are evaluating their marketing and strategic planning strategies for the upcoming year, which usually involves producing a marketing plan for each department of an organization. Assessing business objectives, advertising spends, past sales performance, forecasting, customer needs, and target market evaluations, resources, and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis are all a part of a well thought out marketing plan. However, what about a competitive analysis? Most companies will perform a surface level evaluation, which includes going to a competitor’s website and doing a quick review of their service offerings, general messaging, and perhaps some basic social media searches. However, is that enough of an analysis to leverage and propel your company further? We think not. Let’s take a more in-depth look at what a competitive analysis is and what it can do for you.
What is a competitive analysis?
A competitive analysis (or competitive research) is composed of a brand research strategy that focuses on the collection and review of information about rival companies. For any business, it’s an essential analysis for finding out what your competitors are doing and what kind of threat they present to your market share. With the instant availability of data at our fingertips, business owners can know more about their competition than ever before.
Here are some key reasons that you should include an in-depth competitive analysis in your next marketing plan.
- It helps you avoid becoming complacent
- It helps you create brand awareness
- It enables you to develop a niche and find your differentiation
- It allows you to take advantage of new trends
- It helps you understand what is working and what is not
If you want to establish an edge over your competitors, leveraging the data that we have at our disposal is necessary and most cases critical to the near and long-term success of your company.
Here are a few things you can expect to learn from your competitive analysis:
- Identify and evaluate competitor strengths and weaknesses
- Get a starting point for developing effective competitive marketing strategies for your target market and demographic
- Know what keywords your competitors rank for in search engines (SEO) and leverage that information to get a competitive edge
- Evaluate and understand how competitors are using social media to further their reach and engagement
- Know how they are using Google AdWords and social media advertising, and see what ads they are running
Are you ready to get started? Here are the things your company should be reviewing in your next competitive analysis if you decide to keep this task internal as opposed to outsourcing to a brand management or marketing agency:
1.) Identify your top competitors.
This may seem obvious, but you need to identify your top competitors. At Boldthink, we tell our clients that they have two types of competitors. The first is your traditional competitors; these are the ones that you compete with head to head on a regular basis that offers similar services and products, are in a specific geographic location (whether near or far), and share a distinct target market with yours. While you are looking at the more obvious competitors, don’t neglect to look at new businesses that are currently boot-strapping. These generally start out owning a minimal market share, but can quickly rise to the top. The other set of competitors are those that you compete with online based on a selected set of keywords. These are the online competitors that you compete with when it comes to search engine optimization. While it may not always be an apples to apples competitor, these are the companies that pop up when a prospect types in a series of keywords through search engines that are related to your offerings that you want to market.
2.) Research your competitor content.
Once you’ve identified your list of competitors, the next step is to evaluate and research their online content. This is everything from brand story, key messaging, to frequent updates.
Here are the various types of content to review:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- White papers
- Educational content
- Press releases, media coverage, and news
- Podcasts and live streaming
- Product literature
- Buyers guides
- Visual content
Once you’ve located their content, you’ll want to determine the quality of their content and compare it to yours. You’ll also want to check how often their posting and updating their content, as well as understand and pinpoint the types of topics and trends they are publishing. Are they doing anything that you aren’t? If so, make a note of what those pieces are along with frequency and metrics to understand customer engagement and identify opportunities.
3.) Analyze your competitor SEO.
Understanding a competitors search engine optimization (SEO) tactics will be vital if you are going to do any digital marketing strategy. At Boldthink, we use tools like SEMRush to see what a competitor is ranking for, how often that keyword is searched on, and how hard it is to rank for that particular keyword. You’ll also want to see what keywords your competitor ranks for that you can leverage and use to your advantage. If you notice a particular keyword bringing in a high traffic volume, perhaps it would be beneficial for you to develop a plan to integrate that keyword into your strategy.
The other thing you’ll want to determine is the SEO structure for both your website and your competitors.
Here are a few things that we are sure to look at when we do our competitive audits for clients:
- Page titles based on long-tail keywords and pain points
- URL architecture
- H1, H2, and H3 tags
- Bullet points and lists
- Internal and external links
- Image alt text
4.) Review your competitor social media activity.
If you are trying to determine what social media channels should be used for your business if at all, understanding how a competitor uses social media will be helpful in setting the baseline for your industry. Social media platforms come and go (e.g., Google+ one of the more prominent to shut down in 2018), so do some research and see where your competitors are and where they aren’t. You need to research and analyze what types of content they are posting, how frequently, how often its shared, engagement metrics, and audience size. Just because they are on social media with a profile picture doesn’t mean that they are active with engaging content.
5.) Identify areas of improvement.
After completing your research, you should now have a better understanding of what your competitors are doing. The final piece of your competitive analysis will need to be a synthesis of your findings, along with areas for improvement, strategies, and tactics on how it’s going to get done.
Although this process can be tedious and time-consuming, it’s essential in identifying where your competition may be surpassing you when it comes to marketing tactics. Developing key takeaways will not only help you identify competitor strengths and weaknesses but you, as a business, can find ways to improve your marketing plan by knowing where those strengths and weaknesses lie. Ultimately, the marketplace is an ever-changing landscape of challenges for you to solve, and the sooner you can develop a strategy based on real data and not just your gut feelings, the sooner your company will become the better option.
If you’re looking for help in creating a competitive analysis for your business, Boldthink can help. Contact us for more information.