We typically start every project with a competitive marketing analysis and it always helps us and our clients tremendously. What’s interesting is that, from time to time, a client will tell us that they don't think they need a competitive marketing analysis because, “Our product is so unique in the marketplace we really don’t have any competitors."
Other common excuses we hear:
- We already know who our competitors are.
- We don’t have the time.
- We don’t have the expertise.
- We don’t know how to get started.
- We don’t know what information to look for.
- We don’t know how to use the information once we get it.
Yes, you may have a very unique product — but you are naive to think no one else is solving the same problem as you. An old, but still relevant, example of this is Southwest Airlines.
When Southwest entered the market, they weren’t just aiming to disrupt other airlines, they wanted to target an entirely new audience: car travelers. If air travel could be competitive in cost to driving a car on vacation (including a hotel room, maybe), more people might choose to fly. Southwest didn’t see their competitors just as other airlines, but as any other modes of transportation that competed with air travel as well.
Your potential buyers and users are looking for (and finding) other ways to solve the same problem your product solves. When you frame your competition in terms of “Other Solutions to the Problem We Solve” instead of just “Another Company that Does What We Do,” it helps you see the marketplace differently.
Creating a competitive marketing analysis doesn’t have to be complicated! It’s more important why you do this than how you do it. No one is going to grade your competitive marketing analysis reporting. This is for you and your organization — no one else! Let's get started.
Benefits of a Competitive Marketing Analysis
A competitive marketing analysis differs from a typical competitive analysis in that we’re not calculating things like size of market, market share, share of voice, etc. Those things are important but, for our purposes, we’re looking for marketing-related aspects of the competition. All of this can inform your own strategies in these areas, which is the goal of the competitive marketing analysis.
Here are a few reasons we start client engagements with a competitive marketing analysis:
- To gain insight into their unique value propositions, selling features and benefits, and overall tone and voice from a messaging standpoint.
- To learn more about their company culture, values, mission, and people.
- To assess their depth of content and quality via social channels and blogs.
- To get a feel for their overall branding, visual identity, imagery, and how they “display” themselves in the marketplace.
- To help you find what makes you different; ultimately, to look for Blue Oceans.
Now, let's get into what to look for as you begin to explore how your competitors market themselves. There is a plethora of tools out there to help you “spy” on your competitors from a marketing standpoint.
Let’s look at a few and talk about the kind of insight they provide:
Tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Social Mention, and TalkWalker are not only good for tracking conversations about your own brand, but for tracking your competitors as well. The danger: On Twitter alone, just 3% of tweets mention brands or companies by name or handles, leaving 97% to track by other means. Solution: “Listen” in social channels using top keywords, instead of just looking for company name.
SEO and SEM
Woorank, iSpionage, Moz, and Spyfu are some of our favorites, but there are many more. The insights here are vast: they can tell you how your competitors are advertising online (including their actual ads, keywords, and associated landing pages), ad spends online, SEO analysis, and more.
Design, Messaging, and Branding
Here’s where it gets fun — and a little time consuming. Though there may be tools for this, the easiest way we've found to gather this data is to visit your competitors' websites. We went through an exercise last year that was very helpful, especially since we are visual learners. The assignment below is a step-by-step guide to the process that we went through:
- Identify your six or eight top competitors.
- Take screenshots of their homepages and sample interior pages.
- Print them out and pin them to a “wall of competition.” We used a massive white board.
- Highlight things that may have an impact on your brand.
- Add these points of interest (taglines, unique value propositions, core messaging, feature and benefit lists, etc.) to an Excel spreadsheet.
You now have a visual map for comparing and contrasting. I could go on about doing a competitive marketing analysis. But honestly, if you just do that last bullet point, you’ve done more than most. Don’t worry so much about magic formulas or grids of data. Just get started. Sometimes the best strategies are born from great tactics.
We’ve created a competitive marketing analysis template in Excel, which we can customize based on our client and project. Download our free competitive marketing analysis template here. If you have any thoughts or questions (or excuses we forgot to mention), we’d love to hear them.