January’s guest post: Our guest post author is Gary Addison, an experienced business adviser in the area of redundancy, pensions and other statutory entitlements and writes for a number of UK publications on these topics. He is the managing director of RedundancyClaim.co.uk.
Analysing your competitors
Business is a dog eat dog world and to be the best, you have to know who it is you need to beat – analysing your competitors is the way to do this. Whether you are at the top of your field, or are striving to get there, competitor analysis is a vitally important tool to help you get, or stay there.
While the internet opens up the markets you are able to reach, it also means more companies from all over the world can compete with you. Competitors are now not just limited to those in your city, or even in your country. Rather than being restricted to those businesses within travelling distance, it is now so easy for customers to simply hit the back button on their browser and choose from a huge number of other competitors offering the same products or services.
Competitor research gives you crucial insight into the strategy of those you are competing against, and those competing against you. If you know what your competitors are doing, you are able to react in the appropriate way to ensure you don’t get left behind and that you are positioning your business correctly. While you cannot stop your competitors competing, you can ensure their actions do not take you by surprise.
Not only can this help your online marketing efforts, but it can also assist in refining your product or service offerings to ensure you are satisfying the needs of your customers as well as, or better than, your competitors.
Profiling your competitors
Here are some ways to begin building up a profile of your main competitors and where they stand in relation to your own business:
- Go on their website and note your initial reactions – how easy is it to navigate? Is it visually appealing? Do they run promotions? Do they have any features you think are particularly useful, perhaps an interactive calculator or a clever way of contacting the company? There are various tools which allow you to monitor a website and be alerted to any changes made, such as if they launch a new product or go through a rebrand.
- Sign up for their newsletter if they have one, or follow them on their social media platforms. Knowing how they interact with their customers or potential customers can be extremely useful. Set up Google Alerts for their company name so you can be notified if they are mentioned in the press or on any other website.
- If you are looking at an e-commerce site, then complete a purchase – how easy was the process? What payment methods did they accept? How about the shipping options offered? How quickly was the item delivered to you? What did you think about how the item was packaged?
- If you are in a more service-based industry, then pose as a potential customer and make an enquiry – how quickly was the phone answered? How knowledgeable was the customer service representative? Did you get all the information you needed? Were they pushy for a sale or did they simply answer the questions you had? How about after your call – did they make a follow-up call a couple of days later?
- Use tools to track the volume of organic traffic coming to their site each day. Investigate the keywords they are ranking well for – where is your own site appearing for these terms? Could you optimise the content on your site to increase your visibility in these areas?
- Investigate the effectiveness of their paid online marketing efforts. There are programmes which allow you to see not only their monthly spending on paid search, but also allow you to view the keywords they are targeting and the ads they are using to attract clicks.
- Analyse the content they are creating. How frequently are they uploading? Are they covering topics you have failed to address? Are they using a variety of mediums, perhaps infographics or video to complement more standard articles? Check out their backlinks – are they guest posting on authoritative websites? Consider approaching these websites yourself and seeing whether they would be interested in featuring your own content.
Don’t lose focus on your brand
While this type of investigative work is important, don’t lose focus on your brand and what makes you special. The aim of competitor research is not so you can create an identikit website; take inspiration by all means and consider implementing some of their more useful features on your own site, but don’t lose sight of your own brand. In an increasingly competitive marketplace you need to stand out not blend in.
Finally, competitor analysis should not be seen as a one-off activity. Instead you should view it as an essential part of your digital marketing strategy and an ongoing process, allowing you to keep fully up to date with any changes allowing you to react swiftly, and hopefully over time give you the chance to anticipate or predict their future behaviour.
Don’t shy away from keeping tabs on your competitors; you can be sure they are keeping a close eye on you as well.