No matter how unique their product or service, every business has a competitor (or more than one). This is probably a good thing because it means no CEO or business owner can become complacent or believe there’s no threat to his or her company’s well-being.
Competitors are a fact of life. The trick, in terms of crafting your company’s marketing message, is knowing what the “other guy” is saying and how well their message is being received by the target audience.
Here are five tips for staying on top of your competitor’s marketing strategy:
1. Monitor changes in their website. Just as your business has put a great deal of time, energy and resources into building a customer-friendly website, so the competition has also worked hard to craft a high-functioning business website. When was the last time you looked close at the competitor’s web pages, scrutinizing the look and feel of the site, its content and images, and so on? Try viewing their site through a customer’s eyes. See how well you can navigate from home page to purchase page (and everywhere in between). After taking this “tour,” make a point to stop by every couple of months and see if they have added new functions or changed their design. Watch for any changes, subtle or otherwise, in their key marketing points.
2. Track their activity on social media. Presuming your business has a vibrant social media presence, it’s safe to assume the competition reaches out to followers on several platforms as well. Which platforms do they favor—Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.? What does their business profile look like? Does it appear to convey a more compelling or emotional message than your own profile page? There’s nothing wrong with choosing to “Like” or “Follow” your competitor on social media. This way you can keep track of any special offers or announcements they share with their customers, as well as any big changes in their marketing approach.
3. Analyze the content they offer. Whether it’s blog posts, podcasts, customer testimonial videos or webinars, the content your competitor offers to customers and prospects might be coming across more effectively than your own. Generally speaking, it’s possible to determine how widely an article or case study is shared among followers, which will give you a better idea of what type of content your customers value most. (It can also spark your own creative impulses to come up with value-added topics.)
4. Set up a Google Alert. This is an easy way to monitor how often your competition is mentioned online. Type in a handful of industry-relevant keywords in the Google Alert (including the name of your own business) and regularly check on who’s talking about competitors and why. This may be quite valuable in assessing how well the other guy’s marketing message is performing in the eternal hunt for new customers.
5. Look at competitors through a customer’s eyes. Marketing expert Jim Joseph suggests engaging in “shopping trips to try out your competitors’ customer experience, both online and in-store.” Study and analyze their approach to customer service, along with the quality and variety of their products and services, and how they are “sourced, merchandised and priced.” This will tell you a lot about their marketing efforts—and where they may be cutting into your customer acquisition efforts as well.
The information you gain from monitoring the competition shouldn’t just be compiled and left on a shelf. Use this research to pinpoint any areas of deficiency in your own marketing efforts and make changes as necessary. Look for new ways to attract prospects through social media and upgrades in your website. Do everything possible to make your own customers’ buying experience as unique as possible. See how well you can leave the competition in the dust.
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