You know what makes your organization well-suited to meet your buyer’s needs, and you’re intimately familiar with your company’s quality, service and every detail of its offering. But, when it comes to marketing this information to your audience, are you sure you’re doing everything possible to maintain an edge over your competitors?
Do you know precisely how competing organizations are reaching your potential customers, nurturing them and driving them to convert?
It’s critical you’re aware of everything other key players in your industry are up to. The more intel you have, the better you can anticipate their efforts and remain several steps ahead.
A thorough competitor analysis is essential to your marketing success and the first step to earning a larger slice of the market share.
Whether you’re completing a marketing competitor analysis for the first time or looking to enhance your existing strategy, here are five steps you’ll want to take.
Depending on your industry, there’s a good chance you're among hundreds (if not thousands) of organizations offering a similar product or service. But remember: not all of these companies are your direct competitors. Some companies may be serving an entirely different audience.
Before you move any further in your analysis, it’s essential you can identify your top five direct competitors. That is, the companies your customers would choose if they weren’t buying from you.
There are two ways to narrow down your list of competitors, and we recommend using both:
Start by searching for the product or service you provide. Then, carefully evaluate the top results and identify which organizations not only offer the same solution but market to the same buyers as your company.
For example, if you’re a mid-size office supply company that sells exclusively to small companies in the southeastern United States, you probably wouldn’t be competing with a local office supply store in Seattle.
Your sales team
If there’s one department in your company that’s well-educated on your competitors, it’s your sales team. They know where lost opportunities are going, and can likely list several competing organizations in seconds. Additionally, find out which competitor’s prospects and customers are leaving in favor of your product or service.
Keep in mind, your top competitors may change as new organizations enter your market. To keep your list current, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate at least once per year.
Once you have your list of your top five competitors, the next step is to complete a website analysis. Visit each competitor’s website and pay particular attention to the following:
Consider the design of the website, as well as the customer journey.
Is the design simple, aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate on a variety of devices? (Check all websites on both desktop and mobile.)
Is there a clear path that seamlessly guides you from one element or page to the next?
Is the messaging personalized or tailored to the audience, explicitly calling out key challenges and needs?
Is it immediately obvious what the competitor is offering, or do you have to dig to find details about products or services?
Is contact information readily available or buried and difficult to find?
Consider the path to conversion and how many opportunities a visitor has to submit a form or make a purchase.
Are the calls-to-action placed at natural places throughout the buyer’s journey, or do CTAs seem aggressively “salesy” and out-of-place?
Does the competitor offer visitors plenty of chances to convert?
(If you and your competitors also have an app, it’s important to analyze that as well.)
What types of content are your competitors creating to attract, nurture and convert prospects? Consider the quality, subject matter and tone of their content, as well as the frequency with which they publish, and then compare this to your content strategy.
Be sure to evaluate the following:
As you browse your competitor’s content, look for gaps within your strategy. For example, if you notice many of your clients are regularly publishing case studies, this could be a hint you should showcase your customers’ results more often, too.
Additionally, look to see whether your competitors leverage guest-blogging either by publishing content from other thought leaders on their site, publishing their content on other sites, or both. A good guest blog strategy not only strengthens content credibility, but it can help with search engine optimization (SEO), too.
How well are your competitors ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant search queries? And which keywords are driving the most traffic to their websites? An SEO competitor analysis is an essential part of your overall competitor analysis and will help you answer these questions.
First, start by choosing from one of the many SEO competitor analysis tools (we recommend SEMrush, Screaming Frog, SpyFu or SimilarWeb). These tools will help you identify which search terms drive the most traffic for your competitors compared to your website, among other useful data.
Next, examine how competitors use those search terms across their website to ensure they’re ranking for the appropriate search queries. Consider the following:
Are they regularly publishing fresh content centered around these keywords?
Are they including the keywords in all relevant places (such as in the title, meta description, URL, subheads, body copy and in any hyperlink anchor text)?
Are they leveraging LSI (latent semantic indexing) by including related terms and synonyms?
Also, consider whether your competitors are having success with any keywords you aren’t ranking for but would like to. If so, add them to your master keyword list and begin developing content centered on those terms.
Where are your competitors engaging with their audience outside of their website? While many companies maintain at least some presence on all major social media platforms, most organizations spend the majority of their time and effort on just a few platforms. Find out where your competitors are enjoying the most engagement.
Also be sure to review your competitor’s engagement across all platforms and compare this to your social performance. If you discover they’re earning higher rates of engagement than you, you’ll want to dig deeper and evaluate their strategy.
Pay particular attention to things like:
Post subject matter
Quality of content (i.e., messages and visuals)
Identify which of their posts generate the most activity, such as likes, comments and shares, and use this information to update and optimize your social media strategy.
A competitor analysis is crucial for a better understanding of what your audience wants, and can provide clues to why some prospects are choosing your competitors instead of you. The combined data and information you gather can help you identify what you can focus your efforts on to outperform your competitors and any white space you can fill in the market.
Bottom line: Once you know more about your competitor’s strategies, you can close gaps and ensure your marketing efforts are optimized to drive maximum results.