Obviously you need to be focussing on your business, your product and your name, and should be competing with yourself. However, you need to be aware of your competition and know what they are doing, how they are doing it, and where they could pose a challenge (or threat!) to you. Because at the end of the day, after investing so much time and effort into converting customers, you don’t want someone else nicking them because they managed to offer a slightly better price, or because they offered two features more than what you did. Marketers use the sophisticated term competitive analysis to describe this process. Remove the sheen from that term and what you actually would be doing is snooping a little to check out your competition and what they are doing (or not doing). We assure you it isn’t so much a sneaky thing to do; instead think of it as using observation to gain insight.
Before you get started on some simple things to do, first determine who your top rivals are. Then you are ready to monitor.
- Sign up with them
Companies make it very easy to sign-up with them to ensure customers don’t get driven away by a complicated or jumbled sign-up process. Most often you will find that it is a sign-up form either through their website or through Facebook. When you sign-up to receive their newsletters or e-mails, firstly you will understand the customer perspective and how they are being targeted. You will be able to get a read on the way they project their brand and product to the customers within that industry, the creative style employed, the overall tone, and their positioning. As a customer with access to their inbound marketing, you will understand what to do, what to avoid, and where to change. By signing up for a free trial, by making a small purchase or other interaction with them, you will receive non-e-mail newsletters. Although, try not to catch your e-mail on their blacklist!
- Sleuth their website
This is the space where they introduce themselves to the world and connect directly with people. Taking a stroll through their website lets you understand their navigation. Look for menus or information as an ostensible customer browsing through their website. How do they categorise? How do they describe their products? What is their pricing structure? What are their new releases and what is their positioning? How are they promoting themselves? Are there any offers or discounts you could apply to your own products? Are there strategies you should make sure you avoid? Pay attention to their career section to understand the kind of growth they are aiming for.
Check out the keywords used in the website metatags. This can be found by right clicking a page and clicking view source. This reflects the marketing and keyword strategy.
- Cozy-up to them on social media
You won’t be condemned for actually disliking your rivals. However, to keep your enemies closer you need to like and follow them on social media. This is where they will announce new launches, promotions, and broadcast important messages. Study their patterns. Pay attention to the kind of content they put up, the frequency of their ads and special announcements, and the generic everyday content to establish their brand name. How are their patrons responding to them?
- Give them a ring
Take the bull by its horns and while you are incognito. You could never ask them these questions directly, but on the phone you most certainly can. You will understand how they do business, if and at what point they throw in incentives to close deals, the credibility of their pricing structure, and the overall strategy to hook a customer. As a purported customer you can ask them just about anything; as a business owner/marketer for a business, you understand what to look for in terms of patterns and approach how they manoeuvre a customer.
So there you have it. The first steps to stake out your fellow adversary! Watch them like hawks and emulate the good points to a tee.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War