How to Make the Most of Competitor Research
Conducted in a methodical way, competitor research can give you a wealth of quantitative and qualitative data to support your marketing strategy and wider business decisions. Some businesses have reservations about researching their competitors. They may feel that they want to focus on their own offering, and avoid emulating the tactics of businesses they perceive to be performing significantly worse, or even better, than them. However, competitor analysis of any kind is always worthwhile, because if you don’t keep up to date with what similar businesses are doing, you won’t be able to offer a distinctive proposition to customers and may fall behind.
How can competitor analysis help your business?
If you manufacture products, competitor analysis allows you to gain an insight into what your customers appreciate about your competitors’ products. You can formulate benchmarks against which you can measure your own business’s growth, and distinguish yourself from competitors with a unique proposition. In addition, there may be market segments that aren’t fully served by your competitors that you can target, identifying any disconnects between what your competitors offer and what your customers need. Furthermore, there is no set limit or scope to competitor analysis. You can choose to do a cursory examination, or a deeper dive – the more time you spend on it, the more useful your findings will be, but with limited time and/or resources, you can simply pare back your approach with fewer competitors or fewer criteria to compare them against.
Where to start with competitor analysis
Deciding on competitors to include
Firstly, you will undoubtedly know certain things about your competitors and their place within your industry. This could have been collected through your customers in an informal conversation, through common suppliers, or by looking through search results for similar products or services and viewing websites. You may very well have several competitors in mind if you occupy a similar geographic area, or on the other hand, you may occupy a position in a vast market and have numerous challengers but be unable to identify those who pose the greatest threat.
To identify your most relevant competitors, you need to view them from several perspectives – take the stance of a customer. Do they offer a service or product that rivals your own? Then take the position of the business itself. Would they view you as a competitor? Out of the competitors you discover when considering this activity, choose no more than ten. If you attempt to examine too large a chunk of your possible competition, you risk them blurring into one and missing the individual strengths and weaknesses of each.
What information are you looking for?
Competitor research can be carried out from a desk, as the majority of the information that you can compare your competitors against is on the internet. The channels you use can range from online reviews to companies’ websites, to social media profiles. However, simply going on Facebook to view a company’s profile is just dipping a toe into the water. Although social media can provide you with a short overview of posts, how engaged their audiences are, and whether there are any reviews of their service, you need to carry out an investigation not only of your competitors, but of your business sector as a whole.
Get the answers to questions such as:
- What is their business profile? Are they a family enterprise, a start up, a historic company?
- What size is their business? How many people do they employ?
- How much do they charge for their products or services?
- If they sell products, how do they perform? What are their features?
- What recent marketing have they invested in? Are they active on social media?
- Are annual reports available? If so, how do their finances compare?
- Where do they operate? Do they overlap with your own area?
- What proportion of your own target audience is engaging with this competitor? Assess their brand awareness.
- Do they maintain a high standard of customer service?
These questions provide a structure to your lines of enquiry, but any information that is available can help you to identify opportunities for improvements within your own business. This is particularly pertinent within marketing, for example who you are targeting, optimising for certain key terms, and writing content geared towards answering common questions.
A key point in competitor analysis is working out how you will gather information on your competitors, and where you will gather it from. Bear in mind that this information needs to be current, reliable, and publicly available.
Using your results to best effect
Consolidate everything that you have learned about your competitors into a SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis comprises four elements:
Comparing across these points allows you to view all of your competitors with common criteria. As with customer satisfaction surveys, we recommend that competitor analysis should be performed on a regular basis as part of an ongoing process. This helps you to keep a finger on the pulse within your industry. At Mackman Research, we offer competitor analysis as part of our insight services, making us your first port of call. Get in touch with us today on 01206 625222, or fill in the contact form on our website.
SocialMention– This tool collates mentions from across social media and blogging platforms when you type in a company or keyword. It lists how often this key term is being mentioned.
Marketing Grader from HubSpot – This site gives your competitor a rating based on their blog, social media activity, search engine optimisation, and how many leads they’re generating.
Google Alerts – Get an email in your inbox every day for particular key terms, or get a daily digest of all of them.
Google Keyword Planner – Discover new keywords and find the keyword data your competitors are using.
Furkan Amil Gur and Thomas Greckhammer, ‘Know Thy Enemy: A Review and Agenda for Research on Competitor Identification.’ Journal of Management 45.5 (2018): 2072–2100.
Mark Bergen and Margaret A. Peteraf, ‘Competitor Identification and Competitor Analysis: A Broad-Based Managerial Approach.’ Managerial and Decision Economics 23 (2002): 157-169.
Tieying Yu and Albert A. Cannella, Jr., ‘A Comprehensive Review of Multimarket Competition Research.’ Journal of Management 39.1 (2013): 76-109.