Unless you are selling a product you’ve invented or a completely new type of service, the chances are that there are other businesses doing the same thing as you.
Where this can feel like a threat that needs to be overcome, smart marketers look at these competitors and what they are doing and use this research to strengthen their own business.
Just knowing who your competition is and what they are doing is not enough.
If you are looking to gain a competitive edge over your biggest rivals, then you need to perform an in-depth competitive analysis and use these results to improve your own products and services as well as your content and direct marketing strategies.
What is a competitive analysis?
A competitive analysis is a tactic businesses use to identify and research major competitors, gaining a better understanding of what they do, how they do it, and what is working for them.
This research can then be used to look at your own business and strategies with a view to adjusting or improving them to give you an edge over your competition.
It is also a key strategy for identifying industry trends, allowing you to meet or surpass industry standards to remain competitive within your niche.
A thorough competitive analysis will allow you to:
- understand market trends,
- identify gaps in the market,
- get ideas for new additions to your product range or services, and
- generate leads and sell more effectively.
Additionally, competitive analysis can be used to understand your own business better.
Looking at the competition allows you to identify your own unique value proposition (the problem your product/service solves that your competitors’ doesn’t) and use this to create marketing campaigns that focus on the right things.
Perhaps your product isn’t the cheapest on the market but it is the fastest, longest-lasting or most efficient.
Understanding where your competitors fall down is key to persuading prospects that your product or service is the right option for them.
It is important to remember that you can also get a lot of benefit from seeing what your competition is doing right.
Are they doing something that you aren’t but should? Are their customers loyal because of their brand personality and excellent customer service? Identifying this allows you to perfect your own voice and customer service so that it matches or surpasses theirs.
Finally, looking at your competition helps you to identify your true place in the market and gives you a standard to measure your progress against over time.
Now that you know what a vendor/supplier comparison can do for you – how do you go about doing it?
Identify your major competition
Identifying your competition is a little more involved than simply Googling your product or service and choosing the top results.
The way you go about researching your competitors depends on what type of competition they are.
There are three types of business competitor to look out for:
- primary (direct),
- secondary (indirect), and
- tertiary (indirect).
These are businesses which:
- provide the same products or services as you,
- have the same target audience and
- are in the same geographical location.
Burger King and McDonalds would be an example of businesses in direct competition.
These companies will offer either the same or similar products and services as you and may be in the same location but they target a different audience or serve a different need.
As an example, if your business is a garden centre then your direct competition would be other garden centres within your geographical location or niche.
Your indirect competition, on the other hand, might be a supermarket.
Although the purposes of your businesses are different, a supermarket could carry basic garden supplies and tools which appeal to your customers because they can pick them up when they are shopping for groceries.
Although not a threat to your business at present, many businesses find it useful to identify tertiary competitors as well.
These are businesses which sell products or services that are vaguely linked to yours.
For example, in the UK, athletic clothing company Fabletics’ direct competition is Sweaty Betty, another athletic clothing company with a similar brand identity.
Their indirect competition could be Boohoo, an online clothing company selling everyday wear.
Tertiary competition for Fabletics would include Gatorade or Peloton – businesses selling completely different products but to the same target audience.
Tertiary competitors are important to identify because they could become direct competition if they decide to pivot.
They could also be valuable partners for future marketing campaigns and promotions.
A Google search is one way to identify the businesses performing well in your sector or niche but to take this research a little deeper it is useful to see which other businesses are ranking for your target keywords.
SEM Rush and Buzzsumo are two online tools that show you where your business ranks against others for your keywords (incidentally you can see a vendor comparison for the two here.)
Once you have identified the major competitors within the top 50 or so entries then you can start researching them.
Look at basic information about the company such as:
- what year they were founded,
- where they are located,
- how big the business is/how many employees they have, and
- names of key figures including CEO and departmental heads.
This information should be freely available on their websites or LinkedIn profiles.
Alternatively, More Than Words provides a marketing database service that can help you to uncover accurate information about companies within any sector or niche.
Choose a few competitors that you believe are your biggest competition and from here you can:
- look at them from a customer’s point of view,
- look at them from their own point of view, and
- learn from the way that they do business.
Analyse your competitors’ products
The most important thing to analyse for your vendor comparison is their products and services.
These are the elements of the competing business that will draw customers away from you first.
Look at the entire range of products or services they are offering (read our guide to product comparison here) and the quality of these – versus the prices and offers available to their customers.
After looking at what products are available, the next factor in your customers’ decision-making process will be pricing.
Find out how your competitor prices their products (you may have to contact their sales team if this information isn’t freely available) and ask yourself:
- is their pricing structure fair?
- is it affordable for every segment of their target audience (do they have discounts for students or tiered pricing to suit every budget)?
- is there a marketing segment that isn’t covered by their product range/pricing?
Information gathered about your competitors’ prices helps you to formulate your own strategy for A/B testing the launch of your own products and services.
Which options are the most popular across all of your competitors and has any target market been left out? Can your business offer something unique that matters to your audience but isn’t covered by the elements that your competitors have in common?
Analyse your competitors’ content
Next you need to look at the content that your competition is delivering.
This will help you to understand how they see themselves and what their main objectives are.
Look at a range of different channels and mediums such as:
- their website,
- social media pages,
- email/direct mail campaigns,
- paid ads,
- interviews given by employees, and
- physical materials such as brochures, product packaging, service information leaflets etc.
The most important elements to focus on are any used to directly advertise the business on an ongoing basis.
This means you want to put more importance on things like website about pages and brochures than employee tweets or interviews.
Analyse your competitors’ SEO
A subsection of competitor content analysis is competitor SEO and this is crucial to your research because it helps you to plan your own marketing campaigns to better theirs, promote growth, and get ahead of trends.
Just looking at the content your competitors put out isn’t always enough to understand why they are performing well.
If you are in direct competition, it is likely that your content will be relatively similar anyway (although part of the value in comparison is helping you to break free of ‘sameness’ within your niche), so you need to look closer at why they are ranking highly on search engine results pages (SERPs).
This often comes down to the SEO structure of their content, where they place keywords, and how they manage their links.
Assess your competitors’:
- page titles,
- H1 tags, and
- image alt text.
See where they are using keywords and which keywords they are using.
You want to look at their content to see which keywords they use throughout their copy, how many times, and whether they are using external and internal links.
You can then go on to check SEO metrics such as:
- site design, including how responsive it is and whether it is optimised for mobile devices,
- organic traffic,
- keyword volume/difficulty/priority, and
- backlink strategies.
Find out what types of keywords your competitors are using and add these to your existing target keywords.
If you want to rank for specific keywords it is useful to choose those with lower search volumes – these will generally be highly-targeted long-tail keywords.
You can also use keyword analytics to find:
- keywords that you have used in existing content but where there is still more to talk about,
- keywords that are relevant to your business but you haven’t yet created relevant content for,
- keywords that relate to content you already have, and
- keywords that are trending but you haven’t used yet.
To go even more in-depth, using a tool like AHRefs’ Batch Analysis helps you to understand:
Domain Rating – this indicates whether or not a website has a strong backlink profile.
Here you are looking to see if the site’s score is in the same region as yours. If you have a DR score of 30 and your competitor has DR40 then they are performing a little better than you.
However if they have a score of DR40 and yours is DR75 then you can eliminate this company as a competitor.
Ahrefs Rank – this score represents the strength of the backlink profiles of all the websites in the world, with the lowest being the strongest (Facebook is #1 for example).
It measures the same thing as DR but more in-depth allowing you to compare two competitors with the same DR ranking and see which is the stronger.
Create a supplier comparison report
Once you have all the research and information collated you should be able to put together a comprehensive supplier comparison report that you can present on your website, social media and in marketing materials.
The most common way to present these findings is a feature comparison matrix – an interesting, visual way to present information that is easily put together using online software.
Your feature comparison matrix should list and compare the main features of your product or service and include other variables such as:
- ease of use
- number of features/add-on features
- customer support
If you wish to use your vendor comparison report as a method of content marketing to customers, another way to display comparisons in a more engaging way is a comparison infographic.
These break down the essential points of comparison between you and your competitors in a way that is easily digestible and appealing to look at.
Create a SWOT analysis
SWOT analysis is essential for assessing where you stand against your competitors as it breaks down the data you have gathered in your research into the areas that really matter to customers.
A SWOT analysis helps you to understand your competitive position by listing:
- Strengths – what are you doing particularly well (products, marketing, branding etc)?
- Weaknesses – in which areas are you struggling? Is there anything holding you back?
- Opportunities – what areas are your major competitors struggling in? Have you identified any gaps in the market?
- Threats – in which areas do your top competitors excel? What trends are they following that you aren’t? What problems do you have that have yet to be addressed?
It creates a simple, summarised version of the larger comparative frameworks above, ideal for those who just want to look at a basic overview in order to make quick decisions.
How to use your vendor/supplier comparison in content marketing
Comparative marketing is a crucial way to show prospects and customers that you understand the market you are working in and are dedicated to providing a service that they can rely on.
You may choose to present these on your website or in blogs and articles, particularly those that discuss your sector overall.
Ranking articles focusing on one area of your comparison are also effective ways to build internal and external backlinks as well as being valuable to your customers.
Your sales teams can use this information when pitching new clients, showing a deeper understanding of your industry and your place in the market to invoke trust in prospects that don’t yet know your company well.
More Than Words provides a comprehensive content marketing service that includes brand and content strategy, carried out by our experienced team of marketing and sales professionals.
If you want to get started on a comparative analysis of your business, or formulate a content marketing strategy based around a deeper understanding of your sector, we’re available on 0330 010 3495 or you can email our content marketing team by clicking here.