When was the last time you took a look at the social media profile of a Fortune 500 company in your industry? Or cruised over the website of one of your local and direct competitors? You can learn so much by performing a little market research on your competition’s online presence.
Modern day mystery shopping is one of the popular business growth strategiesbecause it allows you to constantly develop specific advantages over your competitors.
Define Your Intentions
Before even conducting a Google search of your competition, lay out specific guidelines before diving into potentially murky water. It’s one thing to observe and note your competition’s public information and quite another to go digging into unethical areas.
Remember the purpose of this research is to understand your competition’s offerings so that you can develop unique selling points of your own. Never go into competition research with the intention of copying what you like about their online presence; it will end very badly.
Allow your competition research to help you generate new – “new” being the operative word, ideas for you to incorporate into your strategy.
Bad Practices of Competition Research
After 30 years of providing award winning and highly ethical services, we wanted to share some specific research tactics to stay clear of while researching your competition.
- Only Access Public Information
Do not attempt to access confidential or trade secret information from any source. Just perform research on the public information provided by a competing company.
- Don’t Waste an Employee’s Time
Would you want your competition calling your offices or hogging the attention of your on-site sales employee? You’re going too far when you start trying to extract specific information that requires your competition to pay for that interaction.
- Never Jeopardize Your Values
Always follow your personal values and your business’s core principals. If you have a bad feeling about looking at something or discussing something with the competition, just don’t do it. Listen to your gut and move on; it’s not worth it.
All that being said, there is nothing wrong with monitoring your competitors to get to know their behavior and make note of certain patterns. Like in chess, anticipating the next move(s) of your opponent will give you an advantage to better prepare your own business strategy to stay in the game.
Local Keyword Google Searches
Google, Yahoo or your personal favorite search engine is a good place to start a basic look into your competition. Think about your customer. What would they type into the search bar if they were looking for your product or service locally?
Example: If you are a pest control service or technician located in Orlando, Florida, your customers might type into Google: “pest control company in Orlando.”
Once you type in the main keywords your customers would search for your services, make note of the top 3 companies that are topping the search results. You should recognize the names of these competing companies if you’re staying current in your industry or field of business.
Look at the SERP to try and theorize why the search engine ranked those particular websites high. SERP stands for the Search Engine Results Page and lists the websites in response to a user’s specific search query. What do the high ranking landing pages look like and why do you think they dominated the keywords you searched?
WordStream shares a highly detailed article explaining how search works and can be useful if you don’t know how to read the results page: SERP 101: All About Search Engine Results Pages.
Do this a few times with various keywords and you will undoubtedly stumble across the same companies that rank high in search engines like Google. If your direct competition ranks higher than you, start thinking about implementing a new content strategy for your website. Maybe you will rank higher than your competition if you focus on niche keywords, products or services. Do a little digging and make note of any patterns you see.
To dive deeper into search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking high on Google, we suggest taking a look at these suggested articles for more detailed information. Understanding search marketing should be one of the business growth strategies that is on the top of your priority list.
Visit Your Competition’s Website
Take a peek at your competitor’s websites to compare and contrast services and products you have in common. You can gain a lot of market insight when you’re able to find answers to these common competitive research questions:
- Are your price points far off from one another? Are you pricing your products/services too high? Too low?
- What are the various unique selling points (USPs) that you have in common? Do they offer something you don’t or vice versa?
- Is their site user-friendly? Putting yourself in the shoes of your shared target market, can you easily navigate through their site to end in a purchase?
- What types of calls to action (C2A) do they have on their website? Do they offer discount programs, newsletter sign-ups or free samples or consultations?
- Do they offer after-hours customer service or have a 24-hour telephone customer service hotline?
- What are the major differences between your brand and your competitor’s brand?
When you start answering these questions, you will be able to clearly differentiate your company’s total customer experience with that of your competitor’s customer experience. Taking an impartial stand, after comparing your competition’s website with your own business website, which company would you rather do business with? If you choose your competitor’s website over yours, chances are, your desired customers will too.
Make changes to your website until you are 100% confident and satisfied in the message your brand is portraying to the world.
Visit the Social Profiles of Giants in Your Industry
Big name brands like Pepsi, Expedia, Amazon, L’Oreal and others spend billions of dollars of marketing and advertising. The giants in your industry have spent so much money, time and energy into performing market and consumer research in your field. When you visit their social media profiles, you can be inundated with a variety of content posts that will spark your own unique ideas for your smaller, niche market.
AdWeek.com shared a brilliant article that really details the social media marketing of 10 top brands by adding, “Just because these are household brands with massive follower bases doesn’t mean other brands [like you] can’t be just like them. Look to these fantastic social media companies for inspiration, and get out there and start creating your own unique voice online.”
The article, 10 Brands Doing an Amazing Job on Social Media, showcases the top traits that make a brand’s social media effective:
- Embracing the Weird
- Creating Amazing Content
- Understand Your Audience
- Nurturing Your Target Market
- Making the Best of Any Situation
- Satisfying Customer Cravings
- Inspiring People Globally
- Empowering Users
- Caring for Customers
- Taking a Stance
Cruise the big names in your industry and get inspiration to improve your social media presence and compete in a local market.
Be Flexible With Your Business Growth Strategies
Your business growth strategies should focus on creating unique, valuable and defensible offers to your ideal target market. If you perform a little competition research, you’ll be able to develop solid marketing, customer service and production plans that will keep you at the top of your industry.