Monday 29th Oct 2018
Competitor Activity: Staying Ahead of the Game
No business operates in a vacuum; even if you have a relatively niche product or service, your customers and clients could still take their money elsewhere. This is even truer for those who operate in more fast-paced, cut-throat industries, where it’s a simple case of staying ahead of other businesses in your market. If you’re a recruitment services provider for instance, the chances of you occupying your own market niche are slim to none. All that matters is how you stack up against your immediate competitors. For this reason, companies that keep a keen eye on their competitors are often the ones that find they succeed. By understanding what they do well, or struggle at, you can react accordingly and take the initiative.
A process of analysis is always a good place to start. Even if you don’t have a dedicated marketing department that can take care of this for you, whether because you’re a bricks-and-mortar high street shop, or you’re a start-up with few employees, you should still give it a go. There are plenty of resources out there to help you - you don’t need to be an expert - and we’ll give you a brief overview here.
Start By Gathering Information
Looking at their product offering is the first place to start. You need to compare it to your own, and try to establish why the product(s) or service(s) (in isolation) might be chosen over yours. This is naturally going to be easier if you sell physical products, but if it’s a service, you can still objectively compare and benchmark what you can bring to the table with what they’re selling. If you’re serious about this, then it’s definitely worth looking at having a third party help you. This could mean using focus groups or user testing services to really identify any gaps.
Next is the advertising and marketing side of things. You need to investigate all potential channels to find out what they’re doing. This isn’t easy, and will very much depend on your market, but it’s potentially a very valuable exercise indeed. Unless you’re bricks-and-mortar only, the easiest place to start is online. This is where most businesses will spend their marketing budget, and it’s not too difficult to find out find out what they’re up to either. Search marketing is big business these days - see how well they’re ranking for important keywords in Google, and whether they’re paying for Google Ads.
Beyond that, you’ll need to find out how else your competitors are marketing their products and services. Investigate whether they’re using trade publications, word-of-mouth or other networks to sell their offering. If possible, find out how successful this has been - have they being doing it for a long time, or does it look to be a test?
The third area in which you might want to carry out investigations is into their company as a whole. Where does it operate? How many branches does it have? How many employees does it have? The answers to these questions can help you build a picture of what you’re going up against. If they’re very large, that might give you opportunities to outmanoeuvre them. If you’re larger than they are, you might be able to win on price.
Formulate a Plan
Once you’ve done all of your competitor analysis, and you can clearly see what they’re doing, what’s working for them, and what isn’t, you can fine-tune your own strategy or come up with a new plan.
In some cases, this might mean replicating some marketing strategies that have been successful for them. If they’ve got the run of a particular channel for instance, then it’s certainly worth giving them some competition. If you can take some of the business that they’re currently acquiring easily, then you’ll not only increase your revenue; you’ll push up against them too. In other cases, this fine-tuning might mean actually changing the product you offer. Can you change it to give potential customers more of a reason to choose you?
And that’s the crux of this exercise - identify any reason why your competitors might be able to attract customers and clients that you can’t, and do something to remedy the situation.