It’s marketing mistake #1 if you think you can ignore your competition. The further you get behind, the more you will stay behind. As Entrepreneur says, “You should seek first to differentiate your product or service from the alternative that prospective customers in your target market segment are likely to pursue if they do not buy from you.”
That used to mean hanging a large sign, printing more pamphlets, and calling more people. But, the Internet drives marketing now. And, the quickest way to learn is to mimic what your competition is doing.
Here are 7 things you can learn from “spying” on your competitors:
1.Getting to know them: You can learn a lot about the competitors by just looking at their website. A thorough look at the landing page will show their level of effort in terms of the graphics, language, videos, and links to social media. Their web pages labeled “About Us,” “Blogs,” and “News” should tell you where they are in their growth, product development, and strategic plans.
You might pursue news about their key personnel on LinkedIn, or if the business is large enough, it may appear on Bloomberg.com or Manta.com. If the competitor is innovative and entrepreneurial, you can assess their financial status at Crunchbase.
2.Working Keywords: People who browse the internet will discover your website because of the keywords and phrases you use. Your website is not for idle or ideal thoughts. It must include keywords that attract people.
Internet browsers—Google, Internet Explorer, Edge, and others—watch how frequently those keywords attract searchers. They measure how long people spend on sites with those keywords, if they purchase from those sites, and so on. They build analytics with their data, analytics that puts a value on those effective keywords.
You can invest in tools like SpyFU, Buzzsum or SEM Rush. Or, you can use Google Keyword Planner for free. You need to use the same or similar keywords to mimic the competitor’s marketing strategy.
3.Eavesdrop: Your competitors hold conversations daily, 24/7. If they are on Facebook or Twitter, their chatter is public. You can track customer likes and dislikes. And, you can comb through their testimonials and blogs for keyword frequency and patterns.
Their social media ads will reveal what and how they are pushing product. You can analyze their deals and the frequency of special offers. If the social media channel allows comments, they will reveal what is working and not working. Customer complaints and the competitor’s responses are informative, and you should subscribe to email lists, blogs, and newsletters.
4.Assess the damage: If you Google your own keywords and your website does not appear among the top 20, you are missing something. That’s not a total negative because they must be doing something you are not, and you can learn from that. You want to mimic the features they use and plan to compete with that. Your web developer can list the ‘do’s and don’ts’ just by looking at the competition.
While you’re working with the web developer, you must understand your site cannot remain static. It must change and integrate new strategies as you go along. It’s not enough, for example, to create a library of blogs if they are not pulling traffic and building brand. So, you should consider a tool like Zag to discover trends, monitor topics, and drive traffic.
5.Follow the followers: A competitive website will link to several social media channels. And, it will show those links on all its web pages. That’s an invitation to check out their social profile, and you should accept the invite.
A link to Facebook, for example, will show how many like and follow the competitor. It will reveal reviews and responses. A link to LinkedIn will show the competitor’s profile, but you can pursue the profiles on the lead officers where you’ll see their education, work experience, and endorsements. And, if you pursue the LinkedIn timelines, you will see the trends and plans underway.
You also must consider how your social media presence appears to others. Your social media content must not be embarrassing, political, or offensive. But, you must monitor the content constantly to respond to and resolve negative customer feedback.
6.Do something bold: You must explore all the ways to differentiate your product or service. That might mean not meeting the competition head-on. Early in the game, you need not overshoot by trying to meet the competition on every point. You would do better to narrow your target in terms of your unique selling proposition. Once you gain some traction there, you can grow that market.
That does not prevent you from beating the competitors with some bold and unexpected move. If you have analyzed the competitor’s marketing behavior and calendar, you can schedule your “Black Friday” at will. You can offer free shopping as an extra, two items for the price of one, or warranties and guarantees.
7.Check the traffic: There are many tools that measure a website’s traffic and effectiveness. Some are more accurate than others, but most require fees, sometimes significant. Still, it’s helpful to know what metrics work for the opponent. You must decide, for instance, if SEO or PPC is the key to your success.
Less robust apps are available at no cost. MOZ offers a menu of free web analytics tools. However, the most robust tools can be difficult for users without experience and expertise.
Using what works
Small Business Chronicle suggests, “In industries where differences between products aren’t overwhelming, competitive marketing techniques are the major way businesses create and maintain competitive advantages.”
Most startups and entrepreneurial efforts do most if not all their marketing and transactions online. So, it takes a new awareness and sensitivity to the changing trends and tactics in marketing. It’s not your grandfather’s marketplace anymore, so you need to learn how to imitate your competitors if you want to beat them.