There are very few businesses that don’t have to compete with others for a share of their market. And knowing what your competitors are doing, and how they run their businesses, can help to give you a very clear advantage.

This is a process known as competitor analysis, or competitor research. But it doesn’t mean just taking a quick look at a few websites and social media platforms. To really find out what the competition is up to you’ll need to dig pretty deep. It takes a bit of time and effort, but it yields such positive results that it should be an essential part of every business marketing strategy.

We’ve put together a helpful guide to competitor analysis, so even if you have no previous experience you’ll be able to start assessing the competition. Keep reading to find out how it works, and why it matters.

Identify your competitors

The first part of the process is establishing exactly who your competitors are. You might be able to name one or two of them off the top of your head, but a quick internet search will soon put you on the right track. If you run a big organisation you might want to make a list of ten or more competitors, but smaller businesses and startups should concentrate on just two or three to begin with.

Analyse competitor strategies

Now you have your shortlist of companies, it’s time to find out how they operate. Start by checking their websites and social media feeds to gain a few insights. But you’re going to have to dig much deeper to start harvesting the really useful information. Luckily there are plenty of useful online tools that can help you with this, so it’s not as tricky as you might suppose.

competitor strategies

You’ll be looking for the ways in which the competition communicate with their customers.

  • How are they handling their marketing efforts?
  • What keywords are they ranking highly for?
  • What unique features or concepts do they offer that may be pulling in interested potential customers?
  • How do they approach pricing?
  • Are their products cheaper or more expensive than yours?
  • Do they offer anything that you don’t?

The more comprehensive you can be at this point in your research, the more help it will be when you refine your marketing strategy. So keep digging as much as you can, finding out everything there is to know about your primary competitors.

Do a comparison check

Once you have all your research data you can start to compare businesses. The best way to approach this is to mark out columns on a sheet of paper and note down the key points about each of the companies you’ve been analysing. Be sure to include a column for your own business too, so you can assess how well you compare with each of the others.

Carry out a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and it’s a great way of comparing your business against others. Once again, it’s a reasonably time-consuming process, but the results it yields are so impressive that it really is time very well spent. Seeing everything listed in black and white in front of you can help to clarify your business objectives. Start by undertaking SWOT analysis on your competitors, then spend time undertaking the same process on your own business.

Strengths – what sets you apart from the competition? Do you offer some additional service or unique products that your competitors don’t? Is there anything that makes your business stand out from the crowd?

Weaknesses – are other businesses out-performing yours in one of more areas? Is there a part of your website or marketing strategy that needs tweaking or refining? There’s usually something that can be improved upon, even when you think you’ve got everything just right.

Opportunities – Can you identify any factors or trends that will impact your business in the long-term? Can you see a gap in the market that your competitors haven’t yet spotted?

Threats – are there any factors on the horizon that could negatively impact your business? Are your competitors preparing to expand, or venturing into new markets, for example? Forward thinking is essential to stay on top of your market.

SWOT analysis

Identify your USP

Now that you’ve got the best idea of what your competitors are up to, it gives you a chance to identify what makes your business unique. Perhaps your prices are more competitive? Or you have a better range of stock? It could be that your goods or services have better green credentials than the competition, in which case this is something that needs to be clearly flagged on your website. Or maybe your business offers superior customer service, or free shipping, or something else that you need to highlight.

With so many businesses now fighting to survive, anything that increases your chances of success needs to be taken into consideration. And competitor analysis is essential if you want your business to thrive and grow. But don’t assume that it’s a one-off process, or even an annual one. To be really effective it needs to be an ongoing process. That way you’ll notice any changes that your competitors instigate, allowing you to react very quickly

As always, we’re on hand to answer any questions you might have about competitor analysis, and how it can encourage your business to new heights. So get in touch with us for further advice and support.

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