A lot of marketing is about internal review. It's essential to continue working on your business from the inside; but sometimes it's good to step back and look at the big picture.
There's more to marketing than having good branding and a cool website. While these things are definitely important, knowing what's going on outside your business is just as important as knowing what's going on inside your business. This can be as simple as identifying your target audience, but you can expand to much more. By now you probably already have your business and marketing plans laid out. Fill in any gaps with a thorough competitive analysis.
A competitive analysis is the process in which you research your major competitors to gain insight into their products, sales, and marketing strategies. Performing a competitive analysis allows you to implement stronger business strategies by warding off your competitors through knowledge. As they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Knowing the ins and outs of your competition helps you identify potential opportunities to outperform them. Completing a thorough analysis helps you better understand your market, improves your marketing, identifies any market gaps, and helps you plan for the future.
As with most marketing strategies, the first step in completing your plan is identifying your target. Who are your competitors? Where do they rank amongst each other? Are they direct or indirect competitors? Your direct competitors will be those who are trying to cater to the same audience as you with similar products or services. Indirect competitors might be selling products or services that are similar and cater to different audiences, or they sell a slightly different product. If you're not sure where to start, the easiest way to do this is by searching for your product or service on the internet and seeing what comes up.
Now it's time to get into the nitty-gritty. You want to uncover as much information about your competitors as possible. Go international superspy and sign up for their email lists or follow their social media. They want to inform their customers of their products or services—so what better way to gather information than going straight to the source? Here's a list of things we think you should look into:
Documentation goes a long way. Make sure you take a thorough record of the information you have so that you can start a comparison with your own business. You want to be able to pick up any slack they may be leaving in the market and identify opportunities where you can improve upon things they are doing well. This is also a good time to look at what you could improve on within your own business. If you know there are new market trends coming and your competitor hasn't caught on, get to it before they do. A lot of good business is done by being the first to do it. Remember that these things are best done with an existing, in-depth marketing plan. Updates can be made, but planning ahead of time is essential. The purpose of a competitive analysis is to boost your strategy, not create it.
On some level, knowing your competitors is just as important as knowing your customers. It could be the difference between meeting industry standards and exceeding them. And don't worry about it being perfect! Your competitive analysis should be updated regularly. Forming a complete picture of your competitors is already a step in the right direction!