The Article in 60 Seconds
Do you have the drive to know details about your competition? Maybe you feel like if you knew a little bit more about them, you’d also know a little bit more about yourself. And…maybe you feel like you just don’t know where to start.
You’re not alone.
A solid marketing strategy includes a comprehensive competitive analysis. This post provides an overview of how to create a solid B2B competitive analysis in seven steps:
- Who Needs a Competitive Analysis? (Hint: you do.)
- Identify Your Competitors
- View Your Competitors’ Websites
- Discover Your Competitors’ Strengths and Weaknesses
- Study Your Competitors’ Content
- Spy on Your Competitors’ Analytics
- Stay On Top of Your Competitors
The accompanying Competitive Analysis template and how-to guide provide detailed instructions for how to follow the seven-step analysis outlined in this post.
Think About This
According to Demand Gen Report’s latest B2B buyer’s survey, B2B buyers expect you to know the entire landscape of your industry (62%) almost as much as they expect you to know how your own company fits their pain points (64%). You must know what your competitors are doing to close deals.
A study by customer insights firm Conductor revealed that 74% of marketing professionals affirmed a competitive analysis to be “important or very important,” but nearly six out of ten (57%) admitted they weren’t very good at it.
Only 40% of marketers integrate competitive analysis insight into strategy.
You can do better. We all can.
You Can and Should Analyze Your Competition
Creating a competitive analysis isn’t a luxury; it’s an essential step of a solid marketing strategy before planning efforts or budget definition for an upcoming product release.
Like a coach who watches hours of game film of future opponents, you can plan and execute with more precision when you know the plays run by your competition. You’ll have a grip on their strengths and weaknesses. You also gain a deeper understanding of your own company’s strengths and areas for improvement. There’s no better way to uncover blind spots than a deep dive into your competition.
Do you have the drive to know details about your competition? If you know more about them, you’ll actually know more about yourself. Don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. We can help.
Hint: you do.
Some marketing experts believe you don’t need to know about your competition, that your product will speak for itself. That’s short-term thinking. Your product may truly be unique, but do your customers know that?
Long-term strategy expands focus to encompass marketing your entire brand as a partnership opportunity; this includes product marketing, but it also means promoting your company and brand strengths over those your competition brings.
Steve Jobs learned from Bill Gates and vice versa. Sam Walton always walked through the competitor’s store on the day he opened a new Walmart.
You can always learn something.
The only way to know what makes you different — the thing that makes customers choose your product — is to know what your competitors are not. You’re marketing a B2B tech product, but so are your competitors. You don’t want to look like them, sound like them, or be confused with them — because you’re different.
But how do you know?
A competitive analysis can give you insights into how to market yourself differently. By turning your view away from your comfort zone and into theirs, you’ll discover new ways of marketing what makes you a superior business partner.
DOWNLOAD GOLDEN SPIRAL’S B2B COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS TEMPLATE
Our clients and website visitors have made this Excel spreadsheet one of our most often downloaded resources.
It’s an excellent framework to ask the questions that matter. Work to fill in each blank about your top competitors and you’ll have a great snapshot.
Start with your key competitors. Now consider your customers’ pain points; when they look for answers, who do they find besides you? Use conversational searches online to ask the primary questions your customers ask you.
At a minimum, investigate three competitors.
Follow our CEO John Farkas’ advice and research the attributes these companies are bringing to the market:
- What are their unique value propositions and selling features?
- What is the overall tone and voice in their sales copy? Blog posts? Landing pages?
- Understand their company culture, values, mission, and people.
- Get a feel for their branding, visual identity, and imagery. How do they display themselves in the marketplace?
In the B2B tech world, marketing starts — and sometimes ends — with a website. Now that you have a feel for your competitors’ backgrounds and brands, it’s time to look at their websites.
A Visitor’s View
Visit each competitor’s homepage as someone who is unfamiliar with them; your goal is to have a customer’s research experience. Put aside your bias so you don’t miss important observations.
- Desktop and Mobile: What are your first impressions?
- Homepage: Do you know what they do within five seconds?
- Navigation: Is it easy to follow?
- Graphic design: How do you feel about it?
- User experience: What are your initial impressions?
- Load time: Acceptable or frustrating?
Take a Deeper Look
As you begin to evaluate websites, consider downloading Ghostery, a quick reference tool for load speed and some of the other data points you’ll look at below. It works as an extension for every major browser.
Our Competitive Analysis Template helps you look at internal website information including titles (headers, main, and subtitles) and meta descriptions. You may be able to find this information by looking at the pages; use the Developer menu in your browser to get the exact information being used to attract web crawlers.
Step-by-step information on extracting this information can be found in our How To Use The Competitive Analysis Template when you request the download.
Understanding your competition helps you gain clarity on what makes you different. Look for the niche areas and features that make you the only one in your market space; what makes you the only choice? It could be your stability, presence, or even your board members. Research in this area can quickly pay off.
- Revenue: How much did they bring in last year?
- Employees: How many? Are they hiring?
- Leadership: Who are their Board members and C-suite?
- Funding sources
- Reputation: What are others saying about them? Is it positive?
- Upgrade release schedule: How often do they update their software, products, and/or services?
- Trade shows: How many do they attend annually? How large is their booth?
The answers to these questions are readily available through free and low-cost tools including LinkedIn, the Better Business Bureau, and PRWeb.com. Your CRM should provide competitor company data as part of its service to you, including revenue, number of employees, mission statement, unique selling proposition, and more.
See specific suggestions in our template download.
B2B companies of all sizes know that content is king, and your competitors’ content deserves more than a cursory look. What are they saying and how are they saying it? Answers to both questions will give you clues to how they are driving traffic with content. This is the most important piece of your competitor analysis, so spend some time here.
- Direct Product Competition: What do they say about the product that competes directly with yours? Product and content pages reveal comparisons, pricing, resources, and more.
- Inbound Marketing: How do they use content to conduct inbound marketing for themselves and their product? Evaluate their content for similarities, frequency, variety, length, and the mix between gated and free content.
- Content Optimization: What is their level of optimization? Evaluate their internal linking and meta structure. With Google now using site performance as part ranking, this comparison criteria is more important than ever.
Don’t forget to assess the quality of their social channels, industry blogs, and online presence. Find out what your team and your customers are saying about them.
Now it’s time to delve into the SEO and SEM of your competitors. The wide variety of analytics available can seem overwhelming, but stay focused on big-picture research at this point; you can do a deep dive later.
Screen-scraper programs pull information from a variety of sources, but the data might not be exact. An apples-to-apples approach allows you to compare yourself and your competitors using the same sources and same metrics.
- Organic keywords: Look at the top five, noting the volume and cost-per-click (CPC)
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) competitor
- Ad spend per month
- PPC keywords
- Ad text
Not sure what tools to use? Find suggestions and examples in the How To Use The Competitive Analysis Template.
Set up email alerts to stay current with your competitors’ business in action over time. Use alerts to measure frequency of blog and social posts, mentions in the media, and new backlinks, which is a measure of how often others are talking about your competitors.
The most often used and versatile tool is Google Alerts, which allows you to set up and customize multiple search strings. You can adjust the frequency of alerts, sources, and depth of results. Other tools to consider are Talkwalker or Mention. Bing also has an alert system available, but it’s more difficult to set up.
Bonus Step: Set Up Your Competitor Tool
Many CRMs, including HubSpot and Pardot, have a competitor tool included with premium memberships. This tool pulls data from many internal sources and helps you create a dashboard to look at certain factors. The CRM tool updates the dashboard on an ongoing basis.
The research you conduct to fill in the Competitive Analysis Template will prepare you to set up your CRM’s competitor tool and get the most out of it. Take the time to set it up completely, then monitor it monthly.
Analyzing Your Data
The results of your competitive analysis may initially leave you with more questions than answers. Be sure to include yourself in the analysis to create a true comparison. Give yourself time to digest the data and appreciate the areas where you’re outperforming.
Step-by-Step analysis tips are included in the download.
Analyzing and monitoring your competition reveals behavior, trends, strengths, and weaknesses — about them and about you. Investing the time and effort in a thorough competitive analysis will show you where your company stands compared to your competition — statistic for statistic. The result is a solid data set from which to plan future strategy, goals, and KPIs. Plus, you’ll have the basics for deeper research before your next product launch or major initiative.
Then, get to business with a focused marketing strategy that addresses weaknesses in keywords, content, brand awareness, and more.
The First Thing to Do After Reading this Article
Book time on your own calendar for a deep competitive analysis. You can’t afford not to spend time on this key strategic effort.
Download our template (if you haven’t already). Walk step-by-step through the questionnaire. Remember that you’re creating a comprehensive analysis. Gather all the pertinent information so you can make informed and strategic decisions.
Remember: Golden Spiral is a full-service marketing agency laser-focused on B2B tech. We can provide deeper data access through our cadre of tools plus our team of experts across all disciplines. Lean on us to help you gain a competitive edge. Schedule a strategic consultation today.