Keep your friends close, but your competitors closer. As we’ve said before, one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is neglecting to keep an eye on competitor activity. Never underestimate the potential of a single product roll out or service launch. Within weeks or even days, a company can really surprise you.
Additionally, a thorough and updated competitor analysis can teach you a lot about industry trends, as well as give you an idea of what’s working with your target audience and what’s not. With competitor analysis, you can avoid your competitors’ pitfalls and emulate their successes.
But don’t take our word for it. Read on for what some leading marketing experts have to say about the importance of competitor analysis.
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Competitor Activity Tip: Watch Facebook Pages
Per Greg Miller, CareerBuilder’s global social media strategist and a contributor to Social Media Examiner, using the Pages to Watch feature in Facebook insights is an easy way to compare your competition’s social media strategy with your own:
Pages to Watch is particularly handy if you want to see what’s working for your competitors or similar niche pages. You can see exactly what content they’re posting, how often they’re posting and when they’re posting—and the resulting engagement. Armed with that information, you can tailor your own updates accordingly. You can watch any brand page on Facebook you want—you don’t even have to like the page. If you have 100 to 10,000 fans, you can create a list of up to 100 pages to watch.
Competitor Activity Tip: Ongoing Assessment Is Key
So you’ve done a competitor analysis: great! Unfortunately, it’s not a one-and-done activity. Keeping your competitive research up-to-date is a great way to deepen your understanding of the current industry landscape—no matter the size of your business.
“Everyone really needs to do competitive research. The difference is scale,” says independent brand strategy consultant Michele Levy in an Inc. magazine article. “You really need to keep your eyes open regardless of how large you are or what you are selling.”
Competitor Activity Tip: Consider Hiring a Consultant
While tracking competitor activity in-house gives you greater freedom over what data you gather, a consultant can provide you with valuable experience and a fresh perspective, reports Ken Garrison, chief executive officer of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, in Inc. magazine.
“They will do things that wouldn’t occur to you,” he says. “They have probably done hundreds if not thousands of these analyses. They know how to do them in a systematic way. And they’re probably also pretty good at getting senior management to tell them what it is they want to know and what is the scope.”
Competitor Activity Tip: Research Keywords Carefully
Keyword research is time-consuming, but it’s important. You need to understand what key words and phrases people are using to find your products and services.
In its three-part series on SEO competitive analysis (the whole thing is worth a read), Search Engine Watch describes the basics on finding out what keywords your competitors are using. “It’s not necessary to begin keyword research with competitors, but it’s easy!” writes Ben Goodsell, senior SEO technician at Rimm-Kaufman Group. “It also increases understanding of the space. For example, many brand keywords would seem to be non-brand if you’re not familiar with competitor names or offerings.”
Competitor Activity Tip: Identify Your Competitors’ Strengths and Weaknesses
Knowing in what areas your competition is vulnerable is an essential part of a competitor analysis. Per Entrepreneur magazine, “a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses are usually based on the presence and absence of key assets and skills needed to compete in the market.”
To determine what constitutes a key asset or skill, the publication says to follow what David A. Aaker outlines in his book, Developing Business Strategies:
Concentrate your efforts in four areas:
1. The reasons behind successful as well as unsuccessful firms
2. Prime customer motivators
3. Major component costs
4. Industry mobility barriers
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