“The weakness of an enemy forms part of your own strength.” - Sun Tzu

Competitor analysis is key to understanding the pulse of whichever market your business is operating in. Any smart business owner recognizes the value it brings. From keeping a keen eye on your competitors, one can reinforce their own business strategy.

A multitude of other benefits come with observing your competitors, but for now, let’s jump into how to go about things.

So, here’s the plan.

1.Know the Competition

First, define the competition. Your competitors are split into 3 main groups: direct, indirect and replacements.

Direct: Competitors that offer products the same products as you

Indirect: Competitors that offer different products, but address the same needs.

Replacements: Competitors that offer different substitutes to your product and compete for your customer’s budget.

For instance, if you’re a gaming chair manufacturer then your competition would be other gaming chairs (direct), office chairs (indirect) and beanbags, lounge chairs, sofas or armchairs (replacements).

To understand your market, it’s important to know what your competitors and customers are up to. However, it is important to note that not all competition should carry equal weight. Analyze, study and build your list of competitors.

Now, develop a schedule for monitoring and stick to it to stay up to date on any changes, promotions or new product launches by your competition. Naturally, more time should be dedicated to tracking your more dominant competitors. For instance, check in on your top direct competitors daily, indirect competitors weekly and your replacement competitors monthly to have a broad sense of the market. This schedule should realistically fit into the allocation of your company’s resources.

Depending on the availability of your resources, you could choose to focus on the entirety of your competitors or to zoom in on a particular niche. Hence, it is important to be clear on how much capital or human resource you are willing to allocate to the task. Large companies can afford to have entire teams dedicated to tracking their competitors’ movements, but if you’re just starting out, then having an intern constantly e-stalking the competition might not be the best use of manpower.

Why not consider Proxycurl to provide a dashboard with a live stream of the information you desire?

2.What to Monitor

Now that you know who to monitor, figure out what to monitor.

Marketing these days is not what it once was - and in a good way! Brands are everchanging and adapting to keep up with the times, so it should be no surprise that marketing effects reflect this. From traditional physical ads to influencer marketing, here are some channels that you can consider adding to the watchlist:

Social Media

To begin monitoring a brand’s social media presence, a good step in the right direction is to consider where they are the most active. Some examples of typical channels include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter while less conventional channels include Reddit, Linkedin, and Quora. Some things that are noteworthy are follower counts, audience reach, frequency of posts, use of paid ads and promotional material.

If any of the above seems to be getting good engagement, you may want to consider studying and even mimicking their approach.

To gather sentiment in scale, consider using a web scraping tools, such as Proxycurl.

Content and website

Brands will sometimes publish informational content to educate the customer on what their offering is. This is known as content marketing, which is known to enhance the marketing funnel. Content marketing may take the form of videos or text posts on a blog or social media. Sometimes, content marketing and social media marketing are closely intertwined. The typical goal of content marketing is to stimulate interest in the product, rather than explicitly selling a product.  When it comes to competitor monitoring, observe what content the competition is being put out and ensure that yours a cut above theirs. This could mean higher video production quality, more informative and descriptive content, a display of more in-depth research or even better SEO strategies. Another thing to note is where their content is being shared. Again, this should boil down to engagement.

It could also prove useful to benchmark your website against your competitors’. As your website is likely to be the first point of contact for your customers, ensure that your homepage is well-equipped to put your company’s proverbial best foot forward. At the very least, the website should provide basic information about your company, contact details, and your offerings. It is best if the site is aesthetically pleasing and easy to maneuver.

Influencer marketing

This new-age form of marketing once raised marketers’ eyebrows but is now a staple component of many successful marketing strategies. Brands are willing to shell out large amounts of cash to gain access to influencer’s base of followers. Reportedly, Kim Kardashian earns up to a steep $500,000 per Instagram post.

So, observe which influencers have been promoting your competitors’ products. These could be reviewers, industry bloggers or a celebrity with a large following. Note the frequency and type of ad being published. Observing so could give insight into your competitors’ marketing strategy and budget. You can then contact influencers in the same ballpark to engage with for your own marketing campaign.

3. Getting the right tools

After determining who and what to monitor, you need to figure out how to conduct the data extraction in a systematic and methodological manner. Here are some suggestions on how to keep a keen eye on your competitors:

Web Tracking tools

A relatively straightforward and free way to get updates on your competitors’ online activities is Google alerts. Plug your competitors’ names into the search query and then decide which sources you’d like to draw from and the frequency of notification updates. Sources include news sites, blogs, videos, forums and more.

There are alternative web trackers that show where your competitors have been discussed in the news, forums or reviews too. For instance, Meltwater.

From there, try to get a sense of what type of PR your competition is up to. When you find stories about them in the news, ask yourself why your brand isn’t being featured, and what you can do to change that. Perhaps your brand could be the one with the next glowing review in that industry publication.

Be their customer

This approach seems fairly obvious, albeit being rather menial. Connect with your competition on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and whatnot. This could allow you to track their brand and its key leaders to get a sense of their activities. Sign up for their email and direct marketing campaigns. You could then see how their offers compare to yours.

Social listening tools

As mentioned earlier, social media is now an integral part of most successful marketing campaigns. So interest in the competition’s social media is only natural. This should be used in tandem with a suite of other relevant tools. Some options include Hootsuite and Tweetreach.

SEO tools

As with social media marketing, most companies have caught on to the importance of a good SEO strategy by now and have incorporated it into their marketing strategy. It is, however, highly competitive. This is because to rank higher, you have to knock another website down.

One key part of SEO is choosing the right keywords to rank for and which backlinks are being generated. Some other concerns could be noting if your competitor is ranking organically or purchasing paid adwords. There are numerous tools that you can use to help your own SEO campaign and monitor your competitors’, one such example is ahrefs.  Entering a website will show the site’s organic, targeted keywords, as well as what their top competitors are ranking for.

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Conclusion

To summarize, here’s are the 3 steps needed to begin monitoring your competitors’ marketing efforts. First, determine which competitors are noteworthy enough to be monitoring. Second, familiarize yourself with their marketing strategies. Thirdly, select an appropriate range of tools to monitor and analyze their various marketing efforts.  You’re likely going to need more than one tool to capture a wider picture.

Ask yourself which brands are drawing time, money and attention from your brand. Then, work to fix that to ensure that your brand experience outshines your competitors. Adjust, monitor, rinse and repeat. Determine the best ways to engage your customers.

Oh… And if doing multiple facets of the above seems too tedious, email us and we can help provide a live data stream for your marketing research and analysis.

Good luck!