Understanding your company’s competitive landscape is crucial if you want to build an audience for your business. It is about understanding the business environment outside your business so that you are in the best position possible to grow your business. Competitor intelligence can help you to quickly identify your niche and grow faster.
The kind of information you might get when you research your competition include but are not limited to the social media channels they use, pricing, value proposition, key customers and product features. Here are 6 ways that you could effectively use competitor intelligence to plan your marketing strategy.
Customers who buy from them
Many company websites reveal who their customers are – particularly if they have big-name clients e.g. Fortune 500 companies. When you do your research, take note of your competitors’ existing customers and profile them. You can use a spreadsheet for this and include information like the industry, employee size, revenue and organisation culture e.g. innovative, traditional, conservative etc (if you can figure that out).
Don’t worry if you have some blanks. The idea is to build a reasonable picture of who your ideal customers are – or who are not. Another angle you could possibly take is to notice who is not their customer. Are there any similar companies that do not buy from them? Can you find out why and who those companies buy from instead?
Key social media channels
When you develop your marketing strategy, you will need to include the social media channels that you will engage an audience. With a limited budget, time constraints and a small pool of resources, it is ideal to pick 1-2 channels instead of trying to be everywhere.
Researching already established competitors will provide clues as to which platforms are most relevant to your industry and audience. The beauty of social media is that you can also look at the profile of followers and see who else they follow. This will give an idea of their interests so that you can engage in richer conversations with them.
Content that resonates
If you have many players in your marketplace, there is a lot of knowledge that you can tap into to create a marketing strategy. Some experimentation early on is important to help you identify what works for your target market. But researching your content market and learning what works for your competitors makes your experimentation more focused and your learning curve less steep.
Try different content formats such as long-form blogs, videos, infographics and pictures. What brings the most engagement? Check out questions that your competitors most frequently answer for its customers. You can build a list of content themes as part of your marketing strategy – remember to put our own spin on things!
Pricing that adds value
This is not about copying your competitors’ prices. You need to differentiate yourself and add value. But knowing what the top 3 players in your industry charge vs their services vs customer loyalty will give you some great insight into what the market values are and their existing business models.
For instance, the SaaS market uses predominantly subscription models. Products range from freemium models to over £2,000 a month for complex enterprise products. A good understanding of the pricing regime in your industry allows you to deliberately pitch yourself as a credible alternative. It also gives you the insight to find a better business model that works.
Value proposition and key messages
You should have a unique message to your audience. The message needs to be clear, specific and should offer a value proposition. For instance, will you save time for your customers? Will you provide customised support? Will you be the most affordable long-term? Through competitor intelligence, you will know the other messages being shared so that you can differentiate your message to engage your ideal customers.
One of the biggest steps you need to take is to go out and get customers. For this, you need a sales strategy. Ask yourself: Will I approach existing customers of my competitors or will I approach new customers who are not currently using a product like mine? Competitor intelligence will help you to understand your competition’s offering so that you can engage existing customers if that’s where you decide to start. This is sometimes called a competitor displacement strategy. Acquiring new customers will also be easier if you spend time studying your competitors’ successes and failures.
Remember that the learning curve in business is steep. Competitor intelligence could make it flatter and easier to climb.
This article was originally published on the Upwork blog on 03 October 2017
Feature image by Maico Amorim on Unsplash