Before launching your new product, introducing a new brand, or just planning your next campaign you have to know exactly where you stand in the market. Your current market position helps you maintain a realistic view of your marketing strategy. It also gives you an idea of what more you have to achieve.
Competitive market research is not only a valuable way to pinpoint your current market position but also a tool in unfolding your business potential. It enables you to compare your company with your competitors’ outlining strengths, weaknesses, key selling points, and differences.
Based on this information, you can gain powerful insight into market opportunities, strategic changes required by your audience. Furthermore, you can understand what your target market responds well to and what issues you need to address.
1. Define Your Competitors
When starting out with competitive market research, many marketers focus on studying only similar or lower-level competitors. While this practice will give you a good idea of where you currently stand, it won’t enable you to boost your brand’s marketing strategy.
To be able to develop your strategic initiatives and increase their effects, you have to focuson market leaders with the same audience as you and gather information on them. Such research will provide great ideas to keep your target market engaged and will point out the flaws in your current marketing strategy.
2. Analyze Their Websites
A company’s website is an incredible source of information if you know where to look. Understanding what you need to analyze to complete your competitor research will save you time browsing information.
The way the content is organized on a website will give you an idea of your target audience’s
information preferences. For example, if you’re a website development company and most competitors display the industries they serve prior to a listing of their services, this may point to the fact that customers are quite knowledgeable about what you offer (they don’t require more information on your services) and are more interested in understanding whether your services could fit their needs.
Other important data you need to find are the types of content your competitors are using. Whitepapers, buyer guides, blog posts, news, and competitive critique all appeal to different audiences. Knowing what content other brands in your industry are using to attract prospects gives valuable ideas on how to generate more leads and what your audience is generally interested in.
Let’s say you’re a provider of network solutions. This is a highly technical product and your audience has a novice to medium level knowledge of it. While researching competitors you might discover that brands that regularly post competitive critique are attracting and converting more leads than companies that don’t use this form of content. Your data may show that audiences find material explaining solutions and advantages useful and educational.
Therefore, you will know that competitive critique helps consumers make a more informed decision, which results in prospects building trust with the companies that provide them with such data. These research results will suggest that implementing a similar content strategy could be useful in generating more leads, building trust with your audience, and converting prospects into clients.
You should also (be able to) find the business model of each company in your competitor search. This could help you improve your offer and come up with new ways to reach potential customers and convert them.
There are a variety of traditional and digital business models that can be mixed and matched to create a working solution for the type of product/service you provide. These constantly update and change to respond to the market’s needs and technological advancement. Regularly having a look at what the competition is up to will enable you to stay up to date with industry trends and may help you even design innovative business models yourself.
You may, for example, see that some market leaders are using, not just a direct sales channel (website, eStore, Amazon, eBay) but also one for recruiting resellers and distributors. This partner program could suggest opening a resellers network yourself which could be helpful when reaching a wider audience and leveraging a substantial market opportunity.
3. Research Competitor-Products and Services
Competitive market research should start with checking out the most obvious places – your competitors’ product pages. There you’ll find descriptions, functionalities, specifications, key selling points and the unique value proposition each brand offers. This might help you obtain substantial insight into why market leaders are doing better than you.
Now, the tricky part. Although the website may look like it contains all the information you need about a competitor’s product or service, there you will only find a glowing description of it. Look through blogs, forums, reviews, and comments on social media for users’ opinions.
Combining what the company says about itself and its products, together with positive and negative user opinions, will help you understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. It’ll also help you formulate competitive advantages, key selling points, and value proposition.
This research also serves as valuable data for product development and service design hinting at what appeals to customers.
4. Review Your Competitors’ Content Topics
When conducting competitive market research, one of the most important things is what your target audience is interested in. Look through similar brands’ blogs and social media pages to see what they share and what are the best performing topics.
Collecting such data will provide you with insight into your current marketing strategy, giving you an idea of why certain types of content perform better and how you can boost your current strategy with fresh ideas.
5. Slash Through Competitors’ SEO Strategy
SEO is a vital part of any marketing strategy. Research how competitors are using keywords, header, alt-tags, page titles, URLs, content (keyword density), and internal links. Try to relate their SEO practices to their ranking in SERPs.
It’s also helpful to look at the keywords other brands in your industry are using. Are they short strings or longer ones? Do they use a single phrase or a subset of keywords? Have they made topic clusters or generated a large number of external links? What makes their SEO strategy successful or disastrous?
There’re many tools to help you dig deeper into SEO-related data and give you powerful insight into the competitors’ SEO strategies such as – SpyFu, BuzzSumo, Semrush, and Ahref’s Keyword Explorer.
The goal is to help improve your strategy by:
- Including in your GoogleAds campaigns keywords that your competitors use effectively to generate leads.
- Discovering high-volume, low-competitiveness keywords to reach a broader audience and generate new leads
- Finding high-volume keywords to include in articles/pages as a subset of keywords to increase your ranking in SERPs
Related article: How to Develop Better Content Strategy with Competitive Analysis
6. Follow a Consistent Approach
Different audiences use the web at different times. This means that while some people browse Facebook or read your blog during the weekend, others might do so right at the end of the workday or shortly after work.
Your competitor research will help you find out how often competitors post content and at what hours. Looking through the engagement of each publication based on the time it’s been posted, you’ll discover general behavioral patterns of your target audience.
For example, if publications posted during the weekends get significantly higher engagement, it’s a good idea to start posting on Saturday and Sunday as well.
Furthermore, more often than not online users are creatures of habit, and once they find a brand that has an established posting schedule, they start checking the company’s content channels regularly, especially on the days they usually post.
That’s why it’s highly advisable to create a well-planned content calendar and follow it consistently. It’s a highly effective marketing tactic that lets users know when post content, creates a habit, and can facilitate high engagement.
7. Utilize the Power of Social Media
An extremely important part of every competitive market research is to understand how brands in your industry are reaching out and communicating with their audiences. The channels your competitors use can be easily found on their website, most commonly in the footer.
Although, in general, social media is much more relevant for brand awareness initiatives. Some businesses, especially B2C ones, use it to convert leads. Look through their followers, and try to find a relationship between the audience on Social Media and the company’s clients. This will show you to what extent social media is relevant in your industry.
For example, the B2B cybersecurity industry is a sector where customers do not usually use Facebook or Twitter that much and, as a whole, are very private. This makes social media marketing counter-intuitive at first glance. But when you look at the company Secured Communications’s social media pages, you’ll understand that gaining brand awareness in the industry is connected to building trust with the audience.
This relationship shows that followers on Facebook or Twitter directly contribute to the number of leads you attract and your potential to convert them.
Another thing to look for is what competitors use social media for. Find out whether their posts lead to their website, or to an event they’re going to participate in, whether they share employee stories or industry knowledge. This will help you come up with ideas regarding your social media content strategy and may show what works for your target market and what doesn’t.
Competitive market research is one of the most crucial information-gathering initiatives a business can perform. Yet, to conduct it the right way and use it to improve your marketing strategy, you need to know what data to search for and how to use it.
Look for relevant info about your competitors, and always keep your strategic goals in mind. This will help you use the gathered data to come up with new ideas, develop critical thinking, understand your customers’ behavioral patterns, and think of powerful growth-hacks that will help you slash through the competition and become a market leader.