4 Tools to Help with Competitive Analysis
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Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your current and prospective competitors is important for any business, especially if you’re generating leads through the Internet. Much of this useful information can be found easily online. Here are four ways to get the 411 on your competition -- and turn those findings into meaningful business improvements.


1. Organic Search

First, it's a good idea to understand how your site is ranking in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Search analytics tools provided by companies such as MOZ.com and Majestic SEO can help with competitor research by evaluating your competitors’ organic search strategy as well as your own. Look for content that’s yielding the best results and look for ways to integrate more of it into your own business marketing efforts.

“You'll be able to see how well your competitors are ranking for target keywords, and the web sites that are linking to them. This is a great way to learn about high performing content that your competitors are producing,” says Michael Morgenstern, vice president of marketing at The Expert Institute, where he oversees the organization’s lead generation and SEO strategies.

2. Search Engine Marketing

Paid search is a popular lead generation tool, and it’s worth exploring how your competitors are using it. Tools like SEMRush provide in-depth analytics on paid search campaigns, allowing you to see where your competitors are spending their money on online marketing efforts.

“You'll be able to see how much money they’re investing, their targeted keywords and even a historical look at their ads. You can leverage this information to optimize your own paid search campaigns,” Morgenstern says. When performing a competitive analysis online, take notice of any company competing for your target keywords, even if it’s not a direct competitor. This may yield additional insights about the market or how you can use additional keywords in your own business marketing campaigns.

3. Social Media

You can tell a lot about a company’s brand and marketing strategy by analyzing its social media pages. On what networks is it active? How big is its following and how engaged are its fans or followers? Get a feel for the types of topics your competition is covering and what’s resonating with the audience. Take pointers and identify weaknesses.

4. Email Marketing

First, ensure you have a thorough understanding of your own email marketing efforts. Then, take a look at your competitors by signing up for their newsletters and marketing lists.

“You'll get an understanding of their marketing approaches and the online content they're creating to generate leads. With this knowledge, you'll be able to source new content ideas and strategies for outperforming them. Check out services like SenderScore.org to evaluate their sender reputation and gauge if their email marketing is well received by their audience, and Compete.com to get an idea of their traffic breakdown,” Morgenstern advises.

Emphasize “executable recommendations”

Completing a thorough competitive analysis is only half the story. Next, you have to take action based on your findings. The information gathered can influence your product and service development, pricing, long-term business planning, marketing and recruitment strategies. Focus on “executable recommendations,” advises Alfredo Faubel-Frauendorff, partner at Inter-American Management Consultants and a member of Mentors Guild, a marketplace for consulting services.

“Since true differentiation in a competitive landscape is often hard to find, what matters is the existing relative difference between companies’ strengths,” he says. “Find those strengths in your competitor that actually prevent it from executing along a particular competitive dimension. A classic example: IBM and HP had strong PC retail partners they could not alienate by selling directly to consumers, while Dell lacked these distribution channels. A competitor’s strength can actually be an entry barrier into a new market segment.”

Additionally, be sure to look beyond immediate competitors. “Uber is not a taxi company, however, it poses a huge threat to the taxi industry,” he notes.

Lastly, map your findings on a single summary page so it’s easy to analyze and share with your team. “Creating a clear image of the competitive landscape helps you focus on the strategic choices open to your company,” he says. It also helps you more easily spot “empty spaces”—potential new business opportunities.

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