- What can researching my competition tell me about my business?
- How do I keep track of my competitors and their products?
- How can I find out what my competitors are doing online?
Imagine there’s a milk brand called Melk-Milk that’s checking out their competitors.
Melk-Milk naturally looks at other major milk producers in their geographic area and see what types of marketing they’re doing, if they have any promotions, and where they sell their goods.
Now Melk-Milk has all the intel they need to stay competitive and thriving... or do they? Actually, Melk-Milk could have done more competitive research.
For example, they only looked at their direct competitors, the other major milk producers.
But they forgot about their indirect competitors – the companies that don’t sell milk but are still in the same beverage industry.
Melk-Milk's direct competitors are milk companies. Their indirect competitors sell different products, like orange juice or iced tea, but are still part of the wider beverage industry.
Knowing your competitors, whether direct or indirect, is just one part of doing thorough competitive research.
It can be hard work, but it’s worth it because competitive research can tell you a lot more than just what the competition in your industry is doing.
It can give you insights into your own brand positioning, showing you how your brand uniquely fits into your industry relative to your competitors.
Competitive research can also help you see where your competitors have succeeded or failed in marketing, which can guide and influence your own efforts. And you can spot industry trends, like new customer preferences and new product categories.
Competitive research can even help you make educated predictions about your industry’s future. These predictions, along with your industry’s history, can help you make informed decisions about the direction and tone of your marketing.
Getting organized is the first step in competitive research – so a detailed spreadsheet can be your best friend during this process. Let’s see one Melk-Milk put together.
Each competitor entry should include a business name, industry, website, and target customer.
You should also include what type of competitor it is – direct, indirect, established competitor, industry leader, or rising competitor (new brands that are doing well).
Note each competitor’s differentiators or unique selling points (USPs), like price, luxury, comfort, speed, etc. These are reasons a customer might choose this competitor’s products over another’s.
Finally, list the products the competitor sells. If there’s more than one, research whether each has different target customers and unique selling points.
It’s a good idea to include these other competitive details in your spreadsheet, too: market cap, sales, geographic distribution, leadership, growth percentage year over year, and market share.
After you have your database in place, it’s time to go super-sleuth and analyze the facts. An easy way to do this is to act like a customer.
The only way to know how a competitor makes your customers feel is to be that customer. It can help you figure out what that brand’s differentiators are. And where does that info go? That’s right, into our friend the spreadsheet.
You should also analyze your competition’s online presence. Tools like SimilarWeb and Google Trends can help you with this.
SimilarWeb helps you track competitors’ web traffic and where it comes from (referral sites, display ads, etc.), and other sites their customers visit (which tells you about their interests), and see apps they use that relate to your competitors’ sites.
Google Trends lets you explore what people are searching for in your industry. It also helps you see trends and gaps in the industry.
As you do this research, note your competitors’ missteps and successes. Both can influence your search engine optimization and marketing strategies. Also, record all the important numbers – your competitors’ sales, finances, market share, and more.
References: Google Webmasters, Think With Google, Google Primer