Conducting competitor research is one of the most fundamental processes of any business.

In order to understand something fully, you need to know as much as possible, and this is what you’ll gain from competitor research. It doesn’t always have to be a case of scanning their sales percentage and yearly revenue but trying our their products and services yourself.

Then you’ll have the best possible idea of what your competitors are offering, and how you’re going to be able to compete with that. 

Once you’ve read this blog, hopefully, you’ll be able to go away and conduct the most thorough and efficient competitive analysis that you’ll know more about your competitors than they do (well, not quite, but you get the picture).

What Is Competitor Research?

Competitive research is a field of strategic research that specialises in the collection and review of information about your rival companies. It’s absolutely essential to find out what your competitors are going and what kind of threat they present to your financial well-being. 

The information you gather should then be used to improve your company’s efforts and take the advantage. It’s got to be an essential part of your marketing strategy, and if it isn’t you’re working with a mask over your eyes. How else will you know what makes your product unique?

If you’re only aware of what they offer, this won’t be enough. With the advent of new software and technology, marketers and business owners have the ability to know a lot more about their competition than they ever have done. 

It is essential to regularly conduct extensive research in order to stay ahead of the game. 

Why Should You Do It?

You should do it, simply because if you aren’t aware of what they’re doing and what strategies they’re following, you won’t be able to outdo them.

Through doing competitive research, it will aid your team build a better marketing strategy and identify opportunities within the market that are currently not being utilised how they could be.

Doing competitor research is also going to help you to take advantage of your competitors’ weaknesses to grow market share, and allow you to make informed decisions about your strategies. All in all, this is going to help you plan for future investments.

What Are You Comparing?

Firstly, you need to know who your competitors are…I’m sure you probably have the list, written on red of course, but have you considered every perspective possible?Let me take you through the basics for those running new businesses where you’re in an environment that you’re not absolutely familiar with, especially compared with businesses that have been running for many generations.

What Kinds of Competitors Are There?

  • Direct/primary competitors: These are companies who are offering the same service or products as you, and are located in the same area, targeting the same audience and serving the same needs.
  • Indirect/secondary competitors: Will be companies who offer the same or a similar service or product as you in the same geographical area, but serving a different purpose or targeting a different audience.
  • Tertiary competitors: This is someone who sells a product that may be vaguely linked to the product or services that you offer, but doesn’t quite compete, nevertheless, identifying these are still important.

These competitors could become direct or indirect ones if they decide to pivot. You don’t need to do quite as much research on them, but keeping an eye on big changes or developments on their end could be pretty beneficial. 

How is Their Customer’s Experience and Website?

Closely analysing your competitors’ website, and start thinking about some of the following elements: 

  • Are their calls-to-action throughout their website and ‘shopping’ experience or the equivalent, and how obvious is their brand throughout their website. 
  • Do they have a blog, and if so, how frequently are they posting, and what sort of things are they writing about?
  • What kind of information is included in their marketing banners? This could help you to start picking out their competitive positioning within the marketing.

What Is Their Market Position?

From identifying your competitor’s positioning strategy, you will begin to get a feel for your market’s demands and expectations. 

  • How is this competitor separating their product from their other competition? What benefits do they push the most in their marketing copy?
  • What are customers really purchasing from them, are they going for price, or experience and so on.

Once you know the answer to these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of who your competitors are speaking to and how they view themselves within the market.

Do get an even more in-depth idea of what they’re focussing on, and gather plenty of information, you could

  • Sign up to their newsletter: Get an understanding of their business and how they communicate, as this will say plenty about the competitive environment
  • Subscribe and follow their blog: What types of content are they covering?
  • Give them a cheeky follow on social media: What tone of voice do they use to speak to their customers?

Purchase a product from them: Check out the product itself, record how long it takes to get to you/or to be responded to etc.

£££ – How Much Are They Asking For?

Your pricing strategy is going to be one, of the most important parts of your business, and potentially a competitive advantage. There are several things to be considered when setting prices for your product, but the best place to start is to look at what your competitors are charging. 

You’ll learn what your target market is willing to pay, then.

Check Out Their Social Media Profiles

Doing this will give you a great idea of how customers feel about their business, and see what works well and what doesn’t when you think about engaging with your own client base.

But don’t become a sheep, obviously. If a competitor does well with their social accounts, you need to think of something even better to engage with your market. 

Start thinking about some of the following things:

  • What is their social media presence like overall?
  • What platform are they using most frequently?
  • How do they speak with their customers?
  • How often are they posting on there?
  • What exactly are they posting?

Are They Recruiting?

You can never be absolutely sure what a competitor is planning on doing, but you’re able to make an informed guess, which is where careers and recruitment pages can be really helpful.

Job posting will be able to give you some idea into the goings-on of their company. If they’re on a recruitment drive for developers and engineers, they’ve clearly got hefty projects in the pipeline. If they recruiting for new salespeople, they’re looking to get hold of some new customers.

These kinds of pages will give you an indication of any trouble going on. A big increase in job openings across the board could mean people are leaving, why?

Websites like Glassdoor is worth a look, some of these reviews can be pretty candid and will you a better understanding of what actually makes your competitors tick.

Putting All of Your Knowledge to Good Use

Now, I’m pretty sure after all of that you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we’re only here to ensure you’re on the right tracks, even if it’s just to get some sort of context of what you need to do.

To start off, try and order each area of importance to your individual goals. This might be trying to beat one particular competitor, so going after the areas they’re excelling in with be the place to start.

It’s also not a bad idea to categorise what you find to see where they fit into your strategy. Just remember one thing, as long as you’ve got the time, you have plenty of resources to do some serious background competitive analysis. Think secret agent.