competitive research
A well-balanced marketing plan focuses on areas that affect short- and long-term.

Competitive research and analysis is important for long-term success because it reveals areas of improvement and opportunities. Competitive research can spot weaknesses within your marketing structure and reveal what strategies competitors use to their advantage.

These 11 tips will enhance your competitive research and get you on the path to long-term planning.

#1 Identify your closest competitors

The first step is to identify your closest competitors. More specifically, identify which businesses are most like your business within your industry and niche. Feel free to use this Google Sheets template to keep track.

If you need help spotting these businesses, consider:

  • Industry: Businesses who offer similar products or services
  • Market: Locations where your product or service is offered
  • Strategic: Businesses who share a similar business model

When you know who these businesses are, you will gain a greater understanding of how to be more serviceable for clients. Also, it gives you an idea of what changes your business can make to stand out to attract new clients.

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#2 Research the competitor’s content

Start with the website. As the main source for attracting customers, the website is the virtual office front that tells a company’s story! Examine your competitors’ content type that convinces their visitors to take action. Look at how the website content is structured and organized:

  • Blogs: Topics, categories, images, calls to action
  • Landing Pages: Differentiation, graphics, offers, lead-generating forms
  • About: Mission and vision (differentiation)
  • FAQ/Services: How they define their process, how much do they charge

Look for ideas from their content that you can use for your website. Don’t plagiarize or blatantly steal their ideas. Instead, find a fresh perspective or a new twist. Is there anything missing from their content that could be an opportunity for your business?

#3 Use online spyware tools

Online spyware tools will help you understand your competitors’ strategies for Search Engine Optimization, performance optimization and lead generation:

Use these tools to understand their audience demographics and important marketing metrics to use for your benefit. Many of these digital tools offer a lot of information with free accounts. If you want more in-depth analytics to overtake your competition, subscribing to an online tool is one of the most cost-effective investments your business can make.

#4 Look into their social media

Stay tuned into their Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and even review sites such as Yelp and Google. Analyze the content they are promoting — including blogs, infographics, videos, private groups and more. How is your competition using social media differently than you? What ideas can you adapt for your brand? What wording do they use to describe their business, services or products? What hashtags are they using?

#5 Compare with historical data

Don’t make the mistake of limiting the timeframe of your competitive analysis. Track and record your competitive data with historical data in short windows of time. Compare this with your own marketing metrics and track trends in seasons and other important events. Keep major marketing updates in mind that might have contributed to significant shifts in data.

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#6 Google is great, but don’t forget about other search engines

Online marketing is mostly associated with Google. What happens when you search your competition on other search engines — including Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and Bing? Don’t make the mistake of limiting your search engine research to one platform. A simple search for businesses in your industry on other search engines could reveal new competitors and new insights on how to stand out.

#7 Conduct client surveys

Your customers provide all the information your business needs to stay competitive. Surveys are a great way to understand what clients want and expect from businesses. This information gives you inside information on how to become the leader in your industry. Keep the surveys short and only ask questions that provide information to help you meet your end goal. Ask open ended questions, such as “Why do you feel that way?” in addition to multiple choice questions.

#8 Discover competitor’s pros and cons through online search query

When you look for your business and your competitors on Google or another search engine, pay attention to the results that pop up. Are there new online listings that you haven’t utilized yet? Do they have earned media awareness, such as a podcast interview, news articles or videos? What images show up under a search? In Google, look at the bottom of the page to see other common searches people use.

#9 Find competitors through keyword research

Keyword research helps with everything from structuring website content, finding profitable keywords to rank for, and highlighting expensive keywords to avoid in pay-per-click advertising. It also can be used to find your most relevant competitors. Use the keywords you find during your research and plug them into your search engine to find results. Are your competitors using landing pages with certain keywords to rank for your service or product? Are there local websites with which you could cross link to raise your search engine standing?

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#10 Analyze competitors’ sales funnels

Marketing strategies help the sales funnel convert qualified leads. While you’re unlikely to find marketing strategies they use to get qualified leads, you’ll find their sales funnel. This allows your business to model a sales funnel after successful competitors. Do they offer a free consultation on their website? Do they use e-mail, website or brick and mortar? What kind of lead nurturing do they use — including drip e-mail campaigns, remarketing Facebook ads, etc?

#11 Run competitive analysis audits regularly

Last but not least, enhancing your competitive research should be a consistent effort. Much like all the other processes within your business structure, it takes time to find the best formula for competitive research. This includes making mistakes that might be costly in the short-term to benefit in the long-term. Overall, the most important reason to run competitive analysis audits regularly is because digital marketing is always changing. One major update can completely ruin any marketing progress your business has made to stay ahead of the competition. Running audits regularly will allow your business to sustain success through any updates that come your way.

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