How To Conduct Competitive Research

competitive research how to
If you are a business owner, you are probably already juggling a lot of hats. You have to be on top of the finances, marketing, digital marketing, product inventory, social media and so much more that it can be overwhelming. But, to be digitally competitive in your chosen market you need to spend some time getting to know your competition. You can learn all about your competitors with a little competitive research. While this might seem like we are throwing one more item on your already full plate, doing a competitive analysis will help by improving your Google rankings, social media reach, your web page, blog post, and user experience.

Why is it Important to Research Competitors?

The research you gather about your competitors is often referred to as: “Competitive Research.” This kind of research is crucial to your success as a business. It will arm you with the ability to identify industry trends and you will be able to adapt to competitor campaigns and plan strategies in order to maintain a foothold or out-compete them entirely. You will be able to see what they are ranking for in Google, what keywords they are utilizing and set up a plan of action to increase your Google rankings with search engine optimization (SEO). “By monitoring competitors on an on-going basis you get to know their behavior and so can start to anticipate what they will be likely to do next,” says Arthur Weiss, managing director of UK-based Aware, which helps businesses gain competitive intelligence. “You can then plan your own strategies so that you keep your customers and win (not steal) customers away from competitors.” Do not start panicking yet, there is good news! You can hire a company like Blue Water Marketing, who can not only conduct research on your competitors, but they can also show you how to rank higher than your competitors with SEO tactics. Here are 10 top ways to do competitive research that you can start doing today!

1. Find Your Competitors

There are a variety of ways to identify key competitors in your industry, but a good start is with Google and Amazon. There is where you will likely be where you do most of your legwork. You will start with a simple search for your business name, product ideas, and overarching business idea. From there, check out different social media channels, organizations and online communities. This is all able to be completed with no charge using basic sleuth skills. Use this time to see where you rank in Google SERP, search engine results page, and compare that to your competitor ranks. Explore and find out what search queries bring your company to the top of the SERP or what your ranking in Google is. Your goal at this stage of your competitive analysis should be to cast a wide net and discover a comprehensive view of the competitive landscape.

2. Categorize Your Competitors

As you find competitors, you’ll want to categorize them into three levels ranging from direct competitors to businesses that don’t currently compete with you, but could easily gain traction.
  • Primary Competition: These are your direct competitors. They’re either targeting the same audience or have a similar product or services — or both. These are the ones you will monitor more frequently.
  • Secondary Competition: These competitors may offer a high- or low-end version of your product, or sell something similar to a completely different audience. An example is if you’re selling handbags, a secondary competitor might be a Coach retailer.
  • Tertiary Competition: This category includes businesses that are tangentially related to yours. This will come in handy when you’re looking to expand your product catalog. These are also great companies to start link building with, as they are not your direct competitor but they are compliment your product or services.
As you conduct your research, you’ll want to keep things organized in a spreadsheet or database.

3. Document Brand Elements

Now it’s time to analyze how each individual competitor represents itself. You will want to be as detailed or as general as you prefer, and list items like their tagline to their brand colors. Just remember your goal is to identify similarities and differences, so use whatever language helps you do this. A good list of items you should be noting are:
  • Vision, mission, values
  • Strength and weaknesses
  • Similarities
  • Differences
  • Threats
  • Value prop
  • Brand promise
  • Products/services
  • User experience
  • Meta descriptions
Of course, the more detailed you are, the better you can classify your competition. But even if you do a higher-level analysis, you’ll notice particular trends in the way your competitors do things. These are the most valuable insights to help you better position yourself.

4. Do more than a simple Google search

competitive analysis There’s no doubt that any research project these days should begin with a simple Google search and visiting your competitor’s web page. But there are also a variety of tools either supplied by Google or that relate to Google’s search results and AdWords campaigns that might give you interesting insights into your competition. We recommend the following tools to help with digging deeper into your competition. SpyFu: A great resource to research what keywords and Adwords our competitors are buying. Knowing this can help change what page of Google you are on if you are not on the first page, or help you rank higher. Knowing what keywords you need to focus on when writing blog articles, or product descriptions will help with search engine optimization. Google Trends: To stay on top of the latest in your industry, comparing your business to others, and seeing where people who come to your site go. Some additional resources that would allow you to dig up more information on your competition are Keyword Spy, Hoovers, Ahrefs and ReferenceUSA.

5. Tap the social networks

effective online reputation management In today’s market, companies are increasingly using social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as marketing outlets. With a little research you might be able to pick up interesting tidbits and facts about your competition–and maybe even your own company. You can set up alerts when you are mentioned in certain social media channels as well as your competition. This is a great way to target markets and demographics who might post a negative review.

6. Go to the source

Often overlooked are your own customers. When it comes to identifying sources of information about your competition, the obvious one is your customers.Using your customers to gather information is one of the best and cheapest ways to gather real information. If you gain a new customer ask them who they used before and why they switched. You can do the same when you lose a customer–identify what they preferred about your competitor. With enough time you’ll get a very clear idea on what competitors are offering and what customers view as preferable.

7. Attend a conference

If you are in an industry that has trade shows or conferences it would be in your best judgement to go. Attending industry trade shows and conferences can be a great way to learn about who your competitors are and their product lines. Joining any associations within your industry will also provide you will meaningful interactions to gain knowledge on your competition.

8. Hire your competition

Another strategy that can be implemented is to hire employees from competing firms. Especially sales people, who knows more about the inside of those organizations than some might think. You will be able to find out all that you can about how these companies operate, and what they might be planning? Where are they taking their business? What markets are they looking to venture into? Where is the highest level of dissatisfaction with their products or services? No one has more and better intelligence when it comes to sales than disgruntled sales people. This is also something to remember with you own employees. Ask them questions about what they are hearing from the customers they interact with. What are you customers dissatisfied with?

9. Conduct a survey

If you’re interested in getting a comprehensive report of all the players in your industry, you might consider conducting a survey. Jeff Huckaby, CEO of RackAid, an IT management business in Jacksonville, Florida says “A year or so ago, I hired someone to email several of our competitors and ask them the same questions about their services. We looked at price, response time, how the sales request was handled, etc. By doing this, we learned how to clearly differentiate our sales process from that of our competition.” While learning a lot from the process and plans on doing it again, he does have one caveat: “I am a big fan of outsourcing this. You don’t want to run into someone you were spying on at an industry conference.”

10. Call them

Once you have done enough research to identify who your competitors are, you might want to try an old school tactic, call them and ask away. You might be surprised how often companies will tell you everything you’d like to know over the phone, especially if phrased in a context that makes sense. For example, if you want to know how many people work there, you might ask: ‘I’m looking for individualized attention, and my fear is that your organization is too large, and I’ll get lost in the shuffle. How many coaches do you have on staff? Oh, wow, that’s quite a few. How much support staff do you need for a team that size?’ This approach does not come off like you are doing research for your own competitive analysis but more looking to use their services.

Final Thoughts

When doing competitive research for digital marketing for your business you need to have an understanding of your competitions web presences. This includes social media, Google rankings, user experience, mobile friendly and more when looking at your own website, services and products. Doing a competitive analysis will help with increasing your SEO and helping you rank above your competition. We understand that your time is valuable, so Blue Water Marketing is here to help with your digital marketing needs, including competitive research for your competition! Contact us today to discuss how to rank above your competitors with SEO.

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Taylor Lynch

Taylor Lynch

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