Whether you’re aware of it or not, if you’re in business, you have competitors. And these rivals are hungry to capture the marketplace and to take away your customers in the process. This is normal in business, but to what extent are you willing to research your competitors and gain an advantage over them?
With the help of software tools and the latest technologies, companies now have the capability to learn more about competitors than before the Internet emerged in its current form.
Why Does Competitive Research Matter?
Competitive research is a tactical research process that specializes in the collection and analysis of information about rivals in the marketplace. It’s vital for finding out what your competitors are doing and what kind of threat they are to your business.
The crucial thing that you need to be aware of is all the aspects that go into the competitive research equation, such as:
- Who are your competitors?
- What are the services or the products that they sell?
- How big is their market share?
- Are they using the same strategies as you?
- Do they have an aggressive market approach?
- How big of a threat are they?
- How do they affect your company?
Why Do You Need to Research Your Competitors?
If you think that competitive research is merely googling and browsing through websites is competitive research, you’re way off.
Most businesses research their competitors prior to a product launch. But, that is not the right approach if you want to sell a product successfully. The analysis needs to be part of your routine if you don’t want to miss out on useful information that can take your business to the next level.
The data that you will get with competitor research analysis can help you get a full grasp of your customer’s wants and needs. There are other pivotal benefits from competitive analysis, such as:
- Identifying Market Gaps
- Discovering Market Trends
- Market and Sell Products More Effectively
Identifying Your Competitors
Before you start with competitive research analysis, you must know who your closest rivals are. The best way to determine your true competitors is to divide the marketplace into a direct and indirect competition.
Direct competitors are companies that offer a product or a service that can be a substitute for your product or service. These competitors also work in the same geographic area as you.
Your indirect competitors sell products or services that are not exactly the same as your products or services but, they solve the exact same problem that you solve for your target market.
When you compare yourself with your competitors, you need to keep your focus on direct competitors. But, don’t ignore indirect competitors either. They can easily move into your marketplace territory and sell the exact same product.
That is one of the biggest reasons why you must regularly perform competitive analysis. The market can shift in a flash and if you don’t keep your eyes open, you won’t notice the market changes and miss out on customers.
What Will You Compare?
If you want to recognize your real competitors, you have to know what to look for. Specific aspects you need to focus your attention on are:
- Products/Services – The perfect place to begin your comparison is your competitors’ products and services. You need to examine their entire range of products, the quality of their services and their pricing packages.
- The Sales Process – If your opponents are better at selling products that are similar to yours, then you should examine their sales process and the channels that they use to push their products into the
- Marketing Campaigns – The easiest way to assess your competitors’ marketing efforts are through their websites. Check how they run their blog and if they offer lead magnets like e-books in exchange for an email subscription. Do they use videos and infographics in their content? Do they publish guides and data? Most importantly, what type of online or offline marketing campaigns do they use to reach their customers?
- Audience Participation – If you want to measure how your competitor’s content affects the target audience, you need to keep in mind how the audience reacts to it. Check your competitor’s social media profiles and find out if a certain type of content or a topic resonates better with audiences. Measure the number of likes, comments, and re-shares of posts.
- Email Tactics – Check how your opponents integrated sign-up forms on their websites and the specific CTAs that they use to ask people to enter their funnel.
- SEO – You’ll also want to assess how competitors optimize their content and website for search engines. Conduct competitor research for SEO and see how they use their main keywords in the page titles, URLs, article titles, header tags, and in what condition their internal linking is.
- Smart Ways to Effectively Conduct SEO Campaigns: Preparation (Part 1)
- Smart Ways to Effectively Conduct SEO Campaigns: 12 Tactics (Part 2)
If you want to truly estimate your competitor’s pros and cons, you need to conduct a SWOT analysis. This means that you need to pay attention to your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges.
A few simple questions to get you started are:
- What does the competition do well?
- Where is their advantage?
- Do they have weaknesses and where?
- What is your advantage over them?
- What market opportunities have they identified?
Assess their strengths and weaknesses and vice versa. This will help you build your position in the marketplace and see which segments in your business need improving.
1. Usability Examination
Before they decide to use your service or purchase a product from you, consumers will check out your website. They do the same with the competitor’s websites too. So, how can you ensure that you have the best possible online experience for the users among your market rivals? Performing usability tests can help you out.
You can conduct a survey of a few participants. Ask them to review your website and the websites from your biggest competitors. If you don’t want them to be biased towards your website, don’t tell them which one is yours.
Start the survey by asking participants to enter a Google search query. Tell them to use the words that they’d normally use when they search for a range of products or services that you and your competition offer in the market.
Then, evaluate what results show up on SERP. Why do people click on certain results, and why not on others? If they don’t click on your website, you need to ask them why.
Next up in the usability examination is the 5-seconds impression test. For each website, give the users 5 seconds to look at the site and then ask them how they’d describe the site, and what is their overall experience while navigating it.
This will provide you an idea of what type of impression you give when a user clicks on your page compared to your opponents.
After the impression test, give participants an assignment. They need to solve a problem or answer a question with the help of the websites that you’ve chosen for them. After each session, consult on how the website can be improved, what was bad and what they enjoyed about the experience.
When the participant finishes the survey, the most important question to ask is:
“Which website/company was the best experience for you and why?”
It is really fascinating to see how users react to you and to your competitors’ websites in real time. You can tell what makes them happy and what makes them annoyed in the webpage’s UX.
2. Value Proposition Analysis
To develop a value proposition that is aligned with your competitive advantage, you must assess how your competitors position themselves first. To evaluate your unique value proposition, you’ll need to rely on the “POPs, PODs and POIs” framework.
- Points of Parity (POPs) – These are the characteristics you provide that matter to your prospects, and that you also share with your competitors.
- Points of Difference (PODs) – These are important features that you offer to your prospects that your competitors don’t.
- Points of Irrelevance (POIs) – Characteristics that your customers don’t care about.
You need to focus on your PODs if you want to uncover your unique value proposition. You need to look for things that are unique to your business. While your competition tries to be everything to your target customers, you need to tailor your product to match the customer’s desires like no other competitor does.
3. Interviewing Competitors’ Customers
You can get some of the most valuable information about your competitors directly from their customers. They’ll let you know if they’re satisfied with the product/service or not, and they’ll also let you know why they’ve chosen them over you.
Again, you can tap into your network and conduct a survey. You need to find the customers and ask them what they know about your competition and if they can introduce you to other customers that use your rival’s products. Look for the following answers:
- What made them look for a resolution to the problems?
- What were their buying criteria?
- The main reason why they chose your rival?
Having this data will give you a strong direction in which to take your business if you want to beat your opponents in the marketplace.
4. Design Audit
The webpage design is just one segment of your competitor’s puzzle, but, it can be the most powerful one they have.
If you’ve previously asked your target customers in your survey about the best websites that they’ve visited in your industry, you can compare those to your own products and services pages.
Follow the trends that the most powerful competitors in your industry use on their sites. Analyze their landing pages and the overall UX. Ensure that your unique value proposition is highlighted as well as theirs.
5. Analyze the Numbers
You can discover a lot about your competitors by researching their web traffic stats. To do this, you can use SimilarWeb, a tool that can display traffic volume and sources and organic and paid keywords.
Another tool that can help you assess your competitor’s SEO is SEMrush. SEMrush will help you uncover which of your opponent’s keywords perform the best. You can also get a lot of information about their advertising, organic and paid strategies, and link building tactics.
When you’ve done competitor keyword research and you know what keywords worked for your competitors, it is much easier to develop a copy that will resonate with your target customers.
6. Functionality Analysis
You can get a lot of insight into the online functionality of your competitors by examining the tools that they use on their websites. You can install the Ghostery extension. This examines the tags that reside on a given website.
You can assess your competitors and rank them with the tools that they use. If they use Google Analytics, a very common tool, you’ll give them two points. Google Tag Manager could also be worth two points. If they use heatmaps, give them four points. And, if they use A/B testing tools, give them ten points because those are the tools that bring them the most relevant data.
Your competitors that scored the most points are the ones that you need to watch.
Additional Tools to Help You Out
Now that you know what to look for when it comes to competitive research analysis, here are two additional tools that can help you out even more.
One of the most popular and useful tools for tracking websites and content analytics is BuzzSumo. You can use BuzzSumo to look for trending content or content that your competitors use the most.
There’s a reason why Ahrefs is among the top analysis tools online. Their main focus is SEO and content analysis, and you can use the tool to analyze competitor keywords (organic and PPC), backlinks, traffic stats and more.
Google Alerts can send you an email when a competitor’s URL, name, or the competitive company’s CEO and management are mentioned online.
You can set a limitless number of alerts for your marketplace opponents and it is completely free to use.
To conclude, as soon as you’re done with a complete audit, you need to start analyzing the data you’ve uncovered. Highlight every piece of insight that stands out. Look at your strengths and weaknesses and compare them with your rivals. Learn where they’re better and see what you can use from their successful approaches.
Remember that competitive analysis should be a regular process for your business. Just remember to use your competitor’s strategies as an inspiration to create better and more effective tactics that will make your business grow to No.1 in the marketplace.
Stand Out from the Competition
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