A few months ago, I sat in on a management meeting, where the president of our company presented a competitive analysis.
He was very targeted and focused in his presentation. He started with the companies he wanted us to chase after. He moved on to our closest competitors, and then to companies we beat out or the “up-and-comers”.
While we listened, we learned a lot about our competitors and how we differed from them. We began to admire some of them for what they did and how they succeeded. However, as we talked, we recognized the ways our company differs as sought-after attributes.
See, the real point of a competitive analysis is to learn more about your own company. Yes, of course you want to learn about your competitors – sometimes you need to take a look at the other runners on the track – but the true point is to notice what works for you and adjust strategies and tactics to accentuate that.
How We Changed
One of the things we noticed about ourselves was that we’re starting to put more stock into our website and the content we put up there, something many of our direct and up-and-comer competitors lacked. We then looked at those competitors we wanted to chase after and made a few notes:
Our management team decided that improving our web traffic was an essential part of growing and improving our business. What better way to showcase the content we’re putting forth than to aim for more eyes on that content?
So, we began, and oh how far we’ve come! Amplifying our online searches and ads, we’ve been able to boost our web traffic substantially, monitoring the endeavor with ranking software. There’s still a lot to be done, but we’re still monitoring our goals set by our competitive analysis.
Now, how can you find a way to improve, like we did?
How to Conduct a Ground-Breaking Competitive Analysis
If you go online and type that sub-header into google you’ll get a whole swath of differing opinions and steps that you need to take. Some stress compiling all your competitors’ advertising efforts. Others say that analyzing their SEO is the key.
What it really boils down to is 5 essential steps.
Beginning a competitive analysis without research is like putting together a trailer for a movie you have yet to shoot. You need to know what is going on within your industry before you take a look at what your competitors are doing. For all you know, they’re driving blind. Maybe what they’re doing works, but you can’t be certain it’s not just a fad or a fortunate accident.
Compile a list of industry trends and formulate ideas of how the market may shift. Then take a look at your competitors to see if any of them match the flow.
Create a list of your known competitors. Then, create a list of competitors you hadn’t known about before you started researching. Combine these two lists and categorize them in a way that’s relevant to you.
Our president chose to categorize them three ways: companies to strive for, closest competition, and up-and-comers.
These categories allow for a few things. First, while looking at the bigger companies, you can start to set goals. You may not ever become those companies or even be able to compete with them, but their expertise can still inspire your own strategic development.
You closest competition may hold similar insights, but ultimately this is where you’ll be able to measure up your differentiation factors. Find out what you do that they can’t. Perhaps they have to outsource something that you have in-house. That’s added value to your clients or customers.
Finally, the little guys can serve as a good testament to industry trends. For instance, start-ups in your field may be popping up because of a very particular need that they fulfill. You can use their success to estimate how important it is for you to pursue this type of niche service.
Maybe it’s the customer experience on their website. Perhaps they’re a service provider who dazzles their clients. What if it’s their marketing?
You can uncover these factors by compiling your research on each of your competitors. You can sign up for their newsletters to figure out how their email marketing looks and what their latest updates are. Do they have any testimonials that can tell you anything? You can find a helpful list of what else to look for on competitor websites here.
Based on what you’ve seen, set goals for your company. Our goal, as stated above, was to increase web traffic based on the web traffic of those bigger competitors and some secondary research we did.
Make sure the goals are congruent with the differentiation factors and strengths you found out about your company during steps 1-3. Once you’ve clearly defined these, set up protocols and checkpoints for achieving them. Don’t just leave them floating around in theoretical purgatory—write them down and delegate the responsibilities necessary to create the path to their fulfillment.
A common but deadly business practice involves starting, picking up momentum, then quitting based on mediocre results. But learning from failure wouldn’t be a cliché without truth.
Persistence is key, so if you don’t find that one of your goals is working for your, go back to your competitive analysis and try to find another that may be more beneficial.
Ultimately, make sure that you run competitive analyses at least yearly and track the goals that you’ve set for yourself and your company. This should be an ongoing process that evolves over time, and as your data becomes more robust, it’s possible that your goals may change as well.
So, what are you waiting for? Go develop your fully comprehensive competitive analysis!