If you’re a business owner, or an employee who cares about your organization, you probably fret about “the other guys” a lot, doing your own type of competitive analysis or research when you have the opportunity. There’s such fierce and constantly evolving competition in business, it’s a wonder any of us are able to sleep with all the worrying we need to do.
But maybe we’re looking at competition the wrong way.
We’re all consumers, right? And as consumers, we expect great products and exceptional customer service from our favorite businesses. We want new and better phones every couple of months. We hope the next restaurant we eat at has the best food we’ve ever tasted. We believe our latest pair of shoes should be more comfortable and last longer than our old ones. And let’s be honest, when something goes wrong, we expect businesses to go above and beyond to make things right.
If anything, it’s consumers who drive this intense competition - businesses are simply reacting and trying to keep up with our demands.
When you switch back to the business perspective, it becomes obvious: competition is a good thing. It forces you to deliver more for the client or consumer, and keeps you diligent in providing the experiences you promise. Rather than losing sleep, you should look at competition as a way to continually improve and expand on your businesses. As long as you keep that fire to do better burning strong, there won’t be time to worry. Here are some rules for analysis the competition:
Rule 1 of Competitive Analysis: Observe But Don’t Get Distracted
Not worrying - or worse, obsessing - about your competitors’ activity is easier said than done. But remember, your business is still your business. Just because your closest competitor unveils a new product, doesn’t mean you need to release a new offering. What if the competitor’s product launch is a complete failure? Activity doesn’t necessarily mean progress, and unless you’ve bugged your competitor’s office, you won’t know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors.
The keys to observing your competitors in a healthy manner include using the intelligence you gather to make smart decisions for your own business, and not getting frustrated by what you see. At the end of the day, the most beneficial aspect of observing your competitors is using it as a springboard for creativity within your marketing campaigns.
Rule 2 of Competitive Analysis: Stay The Course of Your Vision
If you process the information the wrong way, analyzing your competitors can be a crippling experience. When you start to question your own activity and wonder whether you should do something just because your competitors did, you need to step away from the data!
Never lose sight of the mission, values and vision you had for your business. Copying a competitor’s strategy because you observe it’s working is missing the point! You started a business for a reason, and if you stray from what you set out to do, you’ll regret it. And as we mentioned, you don’t have all the relevant information; your competitor might have different goals for their business, which means copying them won’t help you achieve your version of success.
The correct way to take advantage of a competitor analysis is to use it as fuel for productivity and service improvements, and to enhance your marketing strategy and unique selling proposition.
Rule 3 of Competitive Analysis: Focus on the Competitor Data Worth Knowing
Despite the danger of getting frustrated or losing sight of your vision, there are some competitor metrics that are definitely worth knowing. For example, keeping tabs on keyword ranking trends would allow you to optimize your site for a particular keyword a competitor is ranking well for. You might not be able to usurp them as the number one search result, but if you can get on the first page, you’ll steal some of their traffic.
Here are some other areas where it’s worth analyzing your competitors:
Link Profile: if your competitors are getting high-quality links (think big industry websites and publications) then they are probably outranking you in search results. Mine your competitors’ link profiles for link building ideas and methods.
Content Freshness: in addition to quality, great content is also relevant, timely and fresh. Look at what your competitors are doing to keep their content fresh, and do them one better by creating evergreen content whenever possible.
Social Reputation and Activity: this one is easy, and likely occurs naturally if you are active with your own social presence. Either way, it’s important to know how your competitors are viewed by their social media audience.
Conversion: in the battle for web attention, conversion is critical. It’ll be difficult to get a competitor’s hard conversion data, but you can certainly go through your conversion funnel yourself to see how and where they lead their potential customers to a purchase.
Remarketing and Display: simply going to your competitor's site and then monitoring whether their ads are following your around the Internet should tell you all you need to know about their remarketing and display advertising efforts. If none of your competitors are doing these kind of ads yet, it could be a huge competitive edge for you!
Website: another easy one, but going to and using your competitor’s site is a great way to learn about their customers’ digital experience. If you know all about what your potential customers experience on a competitor’s site, you can ensure the experience you deliver is better.
That’s it, there’s nothing to it! Okay that’s a lie, it’s a lot of work, but at least you know why it’s worth the trouble - and how to avoid common pitfalls. With your newfound understanding of how a competitive analysis can improve your business, we recommend you do a full analysis once every year, and a benchmarking test every quarter. Additionally, make sure to check out our new book, Digital Minds: 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing for more helpful information on a wide range of marketing topics.
If you need help with your competitive analysis, contact WSI for more information.