An Informed Sales And Marketing Strategy Relies On Competitive Research
A business that expects success from their sales and marketing strategy has to do their share of research. A significant amount of research is necessary to determine what kinds of tactics you should use and how to achieve your goals cost-effectively. Such research has to include both extensive market research as well as competitive research. This research will give you a better idea of your company’s place within the industry and what you need to do to set yourself apart from the competition.
Know up-front that competitive research is a long-term strategy. The marketing efforts of your competitors will change and evolve. The only way to keep up with them is to monitor your competition routinely and to perform competitive research continuously.
Investing In Competitive Research To Get Found Online
The Internet is continuously evolving, and so are the people who use it. People adapt to the Internet to get the most out of it, while at the same time, the Internet evolves to adapt to how people are using it. Successful businesses understand that they have to keep up with how people use the Internet to be able to meet their needs consistently, as it is the only way that they will continue to be found online. Simultaneously, the only way to stay atop your competitors is by investing in competitive research.
Competitive research allows you to figure out how other businesses are setting and adapting their marketing and sales strategies over time. It also allows you to pinpoint both strengths and weaknesses in the tactics leveraged by your competition. This knowledge can help you improve your marketing and sales strategies, whether by identifying areas in which you can successfully compete or areas that may require the use of alternative tactics.
Identify Who You Are Competing Against And What You Are Competing For
Before you can begin doing competitive research, identify with whom you are competing. There are a lot of ways to do this. For example, you can simply search for businesses in your area that offer similar services or products as you. Direct competitors, however, are not the only types of competitors that you should be analyzing. While you do want to research your direct competitors, you should also research companies that may not be competing directly with you.
For instance, businesses that may sell similar products and services as you do but who have a different audience. Maybe your company is a B2B business that provides solutions to smaller companies, while a competitor might offer a similar solution targeted towards corporations. Consider companies that offer the same solutions to the same type of audience but that are targeting a different location than you.
You may also want to research companies that sell different products or services but that are within the same industry and that target the same audience in the same area. They’re not necessarily competitors per se; however, they share enough in common with your business to be worth looking into when it comes to conducting competitive research.
Study The Digital Footprint Of Competitors
Once you have a list of competitors to research, you will want to study their digital footprint. Investigating the digital footprint of your competition will give you a better idea of what kinds of tactics they’re employing as well as where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Their digital footprint also gives you something to compare to your online marketing and sales efforts. A digital footprint encompasses all of the following online activities:
The first place you should start when it comes to studying the digital footprint of your competition is their website. You’ll want to look for both strengths and weaknesses while exploring their site to determine how effective it is. Some of the things you’ll want to examine in detail include:
- The kind of visual layout they’re using (is it cluttered or easy to scan?)
- Whether their website is visually consistent with their brand
- If they emphasize their unique selling proposition and what they are
- How user-friendly their site is (is it easy to navigate?)
- Whether there are any technical issues (such as broken links or loading speeds)
- Whether or not they have a blog
- What kinds of content they’re posting and how often they’re posting it
- Whether visitors are engaging with their blog
- How well they are using keywords throughout their content
- Their website architecture and how they organize their website content
- The quality of their content
- What kind of offers they’re providing
- Whether or not they’ve implemented certain features, such as live chat
You may even want to sign up to their email list so that you can obtain their newsletter and better judge their marketing efforts.
Finding out what keywords your competitors are ranking for and how well they’re ranking for them on Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages) is an excellent way to compare how effective your SEO strategy has been. There are countless tools available online that let you either plug in a keyword to see who ranks at the top or plugin a domain name to see what keywords they are ranking for and their positions.
Identify what social channels your competitors are using, how many followers they have, and how they are engaging with those followers.
- Do they post a lot of content?
- Do they engage daily?
- Are they responding to comments?
Look at how active they are and how they engage with followers. Check out their profile pages also to see how much detail and effort they put into writing a description about their company.
Google Ads has an Auction Insights report that allows you to find out a lot of information about the ads your competitors are running on Google. You can pull up this information by checking your Auction Insights report using the keywords you’re using for your ads. You can then cross-check those keywords to see who else is bidding on them, what the average position of your competitors is, their top of page rate, and their impression rate. Other tools allow you to view how much money competitors are bidding on their keywords, what their monthly AdWords budget is, how many keywords they’ve bid on, and more.
Google Alerts allows you to input keywords so that you can receive notifications when content using those keywords is published. Google Alerts makes it easy to monitor the social conversations surrounding your competitors since you can simply input the names of their companies to receive the results. You can get a good idea of how aware people are of their brand as well as determining whether the overall conversation surrounding a competitor is positive or negative using a sentiment analysis tool.
Performing Market Research
Yes, you will want to research your competitors individually to compare where you stand with each one. Still, you should also do some extensive market research to obtain a bigger picture view of the industry and your place in it. Market research allows you to gain more insight into your target audience and what their wants and needs are. Some of the ways that you can collect market research follow:
If you’re just beginning market research, start with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. While you might be aware of some of your general strengths and weaknesses, target your market research to more effectively fill out your SWOT analysis. For example, as you do market research, you may discover more opportunities as well as other potential threats as you gain a better understanding of the market, what customers want, and what’s currently trending. With a SWOT analysis, you’ll be able to apply the market research you’ve done much more effectively.
Surveys are an excellent way to obtain quantitative information regarding the customer satisfaction level of your audience. Surveys are easy to distribute and easy to complete, which is why they are such a valid form of market research. You can conduct them via phone, email, or online through your website or social platforms.
Focus groups are mainly interviews held with large groups of people at the same time. The people in these groups have to have at least one thing in common, such as age, job title, or industry. Companies typically use focus groups to ask segments of their target audience detailed questions about their services and products, such as what they like and don’t like, what features they wish they had, how they use them, and more.
Industry trade associations tend to provide a ton of information that you can use to do market research, including market statistics, studies, and other reference materials. Trade associations will often host conferences as well where you can listen to and engage with industry leaders, influencers, and competitors. You can find a lot of detailed information about the state of your industry, emerging trends, new products and services, and what your competitors are doing through your trade association.
Social media is a great way to obtain qualitative feedback from customers and prospects alike. Posting questions to your social channels is an effective way to receive quick feedback in real-time. Social media monitoring tools help you to identify and keep track of relevant trends as well. You can also use sentiment analysis to monitor what people are saying about various topics that are related to your industry.
Surveys aren’t the only method for obtaining feedback. Many customers will provide feedback through email, via phone, on social media, or through reviews. Use the various analytics tools at your disposal to properly analyze your customer feedback so you can better identify what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how you’re viewed compared to other companies within your industry.
Keeping Up With The Latest Trends
You must stay up-to-date on new and emerging trends. Specific trends may be able to help you address your weaknesses or provide you with new opportunities. Not to mention that if you don’t keep up with the latest trends, you risk falling behind, especially if competitors are adopting new trends to their advantage. Here are a few ways to keep up with the latest trends:
Subscribe to several industry publications as a valuable source of leading information that will routinely cover new and emerging trends, as well as new research and data. These can be very useful in determining what trends are worthy of your attention. Many industry leaders, including competitors, will do their in-depth research and publish their resulting reports online and are often well worth reading.
Industry influencers always keep track of the latest trends. Part of the reason why they are considered influencers is because they remain up-to-date on everything that’s happening within the industry and help keep their followers updated as well. And by merely being “influencers,” they can also establish trends. Identify who the influencers within your industry are and to follow them on social media.
Customers are often more on top of the latest trends than the companies that serve them. Pay attention to what your customers are discussing. You can do this by paying attention to the feedback they leave you, monitoring their conversations about your industry on social media, and engaging with them directly on social media.
Join groups and forums that are relevant to your industry and engage in discussions about related topics. The people you’re speaking with may not be a part of your target audience, but they could still reveal information to you about relevant trends.
Analytics tools like Google Trends help you to discover new trends as well. Google Trends allows you to plug in the names of competitors in the Topic box to see what people are searching for about them. You can also enter products, services, or features to determine what kind of demand they have in the market.
Continuous Keyword & Search Results Research
One of the main goals of market research is to find ways to position your company to be seen by your target audience. Because of how vital your SEO strategy is to being found online, you will need to perform continuous keyword and search results research. Some important aspects of keyword and search results research that you will need to address are below:
The most critical thing to know about keyword research is that to do it effectively if you must know your audience. Many companies focus on the use of keywords to boost rankings and bring in more traffic without ever thinking about the people using those keywords. Google’s entire goal is to match the intent of its users to the results it displays, which means that you need to understand the intent of your audience to identify the keywords that are relevant to their searches.
If you don’t know who your audience is, you won’t be able to identify your user intent. Without identifying user intent, identifying keywords that will help to attract potentially high-quality leads that are relevant to your company will be challenging.
Combining your knowledge of your user intent along with the subject matter that is relevant to your company and industry, you should be able to come up with a list of related keywords. You can then use keyword tools, such as Google’s Keyword Planner, to identify more keywords that are similar to those you chose. Look for long-tail keywords, which are more descriptive and less broad. Not only is it easier to match user intent using long-tail keywords, but they are easier to rank for since they are more specific.
As part of your keyword research, also analyze what keywords are driving your competitors’ rankings. Not only can doing so give you more ideas for relevant keywords, but it can also help you identify opportunities to compete more successfully.
SERP analysis is essential to helping ensure that you picked the right keywords and to find out whether you have a chance at ranking well for those keywords. The first thing you will want to do is analyze the SERP pages of the keywords you have chosen to make sure that the user intent matches. Once you have confirmed that the results that come up for your keyword match your user intent, begin benchmarking with your competitors to determine how well they are ranking for the selected keywords. Choose keywords that you think you can outrank them in.
Once you have a list of reliable, relevant keywords to optimize your content with, it is time to test them out. Do this by running PPC ad campaigns. PPC ads depend on the use of keywords to be found. You can analyze the performance of various PPC ads, such as impressions, click-through-rates, and conversions, to determine how effective the keywords were before you begin using them to optimize your website content.
Success Depends On Regular Research And Information Gathering
To achieve successful marketing and sales results online, first gain an understanding of your place within the industry, your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and who your customers are. Such knowledge is only possible through competitive analysis, market research, and general information gathering. Because your industry, your competitors, and your customers are continually evolving and adapting to a continuously changing online environment, your research and information gathering efforts should be considered a long-term strategy.