How To Research Your Competition
Researching your competition allows you to truly understand your business and how businesses like yours are speaking to the market. This understanding will provide you the tools needed to identify the marketing gaps and plan for the future. There are a couple of key things to go over to make sure that you have researched your competition thoroughly and to make sure you understand what is happening in your market.
Competitive research involves identifying who your competitors are and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their products and services. By doing this, it will allow you to see how your products and/or services measure up to what your competition offers and show you what type of threat they pose to your business. Many times, thorough competitive research will allow you to see industry trends you've been missing. Don't focus your research only on direct competition. Looking at direct and indirect competition will provide a fuller picture of your industry and market.
There are four major benefits to performing competitive research. These are the ability to understand your market, the opportunity to improve your marketing, the analysis that lets you identify marketing gaps, and planning for your business' future. Let's look at these a bit deeper.
Understand Your Market
Performing competitive research will reveal different patterns in the marketplace that you might not have seen otherwise. This gives you the ability to identify and then predict trends. Having the ability to predict trends in business will help improve your business' value proposition to your customers and sets you a step ahead of the competition. You should always be researching, if only to identify and act on trends before your competitors do.
Improve Your Marketing
The main concern that your customers have about your product or service is how it makes their life better. Often, the company that does the best job of explaining its benefits to its customers is the one that wins their loyalty. Doing competitive research allows you to understand why your customers are buying from you. And it will tell you why potential customers are buying from your competition instead. This can be used over time to help you improve your marketing and messaging.
Throughout the process of investigating your competition, you'll end up identifying areas of the population that are being underserved. Understanding these gaps allows you to better position your marketing messages to serve those segments of the population. Finding large gaps within a market can allow you to obtain a larger market share by speaking to that segment of the population.
Plan For The Future
The biggest byproduct of doing competitive research is what it does for your business in the future. By understanding your market and identifying gaps, you can uniquely position your company to improve your product or service itself, its pricing and how you reach your target audience with your marketing efforts.
More than a Google Search
Now that we've talked about the four main components of why we should be doing competitive research, you'll need to gather the tools and methods that you'll use to do the research. Also, as you compile this information, you'll want to put it in one place so that you can compare your competition against each other and yourself. This can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet with the pros and cons of each company, but can also be more inclusive to include their website urls, social media sites, and uniqueness about each business. Click here for a spreadsheet you can use to analyze the competition.
The first tool in your Competitive Research Toolbox is a Google Search. Doing searches with your main keywords and phrases will allow you to see how easily your competitors can be found. Additional tools, such as Google Alerts, Google Trends, SpyFu, and SEM Rush, can allow you to dive deeper into events that are ongoing in your industry. For example, you can set up a Google Alert with your competitions' company names and get any news or articles written about them. Google Trends will allow you to see current searching trends and the direction that those search trends are moving. SpyFu and SEM Rush will allow you to see your competitor's backlinks, SEO and PPC keyword focus. You can even see search engine ranking history with these two tools.
Social Media Spying
With so many different platforms for your competition to be on, it's important to look at what they are doing on different social networks. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use the Facebook Ad Library to investigate the current and past running ads a company is using there. Additionally, going directly to a company's LinkedIn page will allow you to see how a business is positioning themselves in a business targeted market. Twitter and TicTok can allow you to see up to the moment marketing messages your competitors are using. You can even use YouTube to see the types of marketing videos that your competitors are creating, just by visiting their channel. Take note of which platforms and messages your competition is using, and compare this to your own efforts and the efforts of other competitors.
Talk With Your Customers
In today's world of social media, it's really important to make sure that you are openly communicating with your customers. You'll want to communicate with them both as they come into your business and as they are leaving. This will help you to understand why you obtained them or why you lost them. You can communicate with your customer in a number of ways. You can use surveys to ask direct questions, questionnaires to understand how they think more specifically, focus groups to get a more holistic mindset of your audience, and in depth interviews to get deeply into the mindset of your customers.
When talking with your customers, make sure not to make your questions too one-sided, as this can skew your data and research outcomes. Asking questions in a biased format will certainly skew the data in the direction that the survey creator has designed it. This act doesn't produce good results and isn't really research. Try to avoid unnecessary restrictions to answers. Avoid using emojis as positive emoji's like stars, which can influence their decision process. Also ensure that your question isn't ambiguous, as different people will view the question differently. Often, you can resolve issues with having a limited set of options by providing an "other" option and allow for open-ended text in an input field. There are also a number of other ways that you can intentionally or unintentionally skew a survey, so be sure to look up how to avoid bias in a survey if that's something you are going to be using for research.
Immerse Yourself in Your Industry
To really get involved in your industry, you must increase your presence in as many ways as possible. You can do this by joining your local chamber, a BNI group, the Rotary Club, Trade Magazines or even attending industry specific conferences. You may even find it beneficial to reach out to your current suppliers and ask them what their top-selling products or services are. This can shed a light on what they are selling to your competition. You could even hire your competition or purchase their products to see how they work. This will give you an entirely different view of the competition in your market.
By performing competitive research within your industry, you'll be better able to understand your market, improve your marketing, identify gaps that aren't being served, and plan for your company's future. Using your Competitive Research Toolbox, so to speak, to find this information and culminating it into one place will allow you to compare your competitors to yourself. Observing your competition, and seeing what they are doing, will allow you to understand how you compare as a business. Talking with your customers gives you insight to understand how they think and their pain points, so you can truly help them. And once you've immersed yourself into your industry, you will have genuinely researched your competition.
In next week's blog, we'll dive deeper into how to be an industry expert and be the guide that your customers are looking for.