The Growth Series

How do you carry out competitor research?

If you want your business to get ahead, you need to know what your rivals are doing and where they currently stand.

So how do you analyse your competitors and use the information you collect?

Here are our recommendations…

Identify your main competitors

The first step to take is to identify the businesses that you could reasonably consider to be direct competitors. You can do that by searching online for the products and services you offer and who’s doing that in your area. 

For example, if you’re a mortgage broker in Leeds, go on Google and search for “mortgage broker Leeds” or “mortgage broker West Yorkshire”.

You can then put together a list of your competitors and dig deeper into how they operate.

Look at their online presence

Once you’ve drawn up a list of rival businesses, visit their websites and see how they measure up against yours. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Is their website easy to navigate?
  • Can key information on services and fees be found quickly?
  • Are contact details easy to find?
  • Is their website optimised for different devices, such as smartphones and tablets?
  • Does the site feature customer comments and case studies?

If you find that a rival’s website is better than yours in certain areas, that could motivate you to make improvements, and if it’s not as good as yours, that might be the encouragement you need to get ahead in this area.

Identify rivals’ products and services

Create a list of the products and services that your competitors offer, how much they charge and their pricing structure.

Review your competitors’ marketing activity

Drill down into how your rivals are marketing themselves to their target audiences through various media.

This should cover:

  • Advertising campaigns on TV, radio and online
  • Marketing in print publications
  • Promotional materials such as leaflets and brochures
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Online content such as blog posts, videos and podcasts

Look at the methods they are using and try to work out what type of people they are trying to reach. 

Next, ask yourself why have they chosen these methods and tactics? Are they getting good engagement on their online content, such as likes and shares on social media? Can you estimate how many people they are getting through to?

It may be that they aren’t getting particularly good returns on their marketing investment in some areas, in which case that might influence your decisions on what tactics to use. But if you see a brand’s marketing campaign is clearly delivering strong results, they’re clearly doing something right and that’s worth taking note of.

What do customers say?

There are many platforms online, such as Google, Trustpilot and their social media channels, where customers will leave reviews, comments and feedback on the customer experience they enjoyed (or not) with a particular business.

Find out what people are saying about your competitors online and see if you can identify any common threads. Try to find out:

  • Do they have a good reputation among their customers?
  • What do they like and dislike most?
  • What improvements would they like to see?
  • Do customers feel valued and treated as an individual, rather than a number?

This could help you identify areas where you’re performing particularly strongly, areas where you need to improve and gaps in the market that you could be in a position to fill.

Track your findings clearly

Competitor analysis involves gathering lots of information, so it’s important to lay it out in a format that you can easily understand, use and apply, such as a spreadsheet.

You can order key facts, figures and comments in categories and easily compare the competitors you have analysed against each other and your own business.

That can make it much easier to identify saturation and gaps in the market, and make strategic decisions for the future.

Understanding how your competitors operate in a crowded marketplace is really important if you’re to carve out your own niche and present your own distinctive proposition.

That means competitor analysis should be an ongoing process, with the spreadsheet you’ve compiled being used as a live document to be updated regularly.

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