Competitive analysis is essential for identifying your business’s strengths, discovering barriers to growth and creating effective strategies to overcome them. But we don't always have endless time and unlimited budgets to perform the kinds of global competitive analyses we'd like.
If this is the case for your company, try these cost- and time-efficient methods to help you get what you need to make informed marketing decisions.
Subscribe to Competitor Emails
Gain insights into the tone, messaging, promotions and aesthetics of other brands in your space by signing up for competitors’ newsletters. These emails are usually free—and can be useful because:
- The business is speaking directly to the consumer, so you can see how they view and understand their audience
- You gain insight into how they promote their products or services and what they believe to be their key strengths
- They can inspire your own emails and alert you to ways you can differentiate your brand
Use a personal email address to subscribe, or set up an alternative email account that multiple people at your business can access. That way, more people can check in regularly on your rivals’ campaigns to stay on top of the current trends.
Use Google Alerts to Monitor Competition
Sign up for free Google Alerts to monitor news about your competition. Google Alerts will email you all the latest headlines and web pages covering those topics.
You can set up alerts based on location, specific brands, your industry and more. Reading news about your competitors clues you in to their latest developments, how publications and influencers perceive them, and the strides they’re making in the industry. You may also discover that they’re lacking key information that you think is important to your customers. If you then strategize your content to cover those points, visitors may turn to your business for their questions and concerns—a move that often turns them into leads.
Follow Social Media Influencers and Industry-Specific Blogs
Another free method of competitive analysis is to follow both your competitors and industry influencers on their social media channels, and to subscribe to their blogs as well. As with competitors’ emails and newsletters, you can use this method to gain direct insight into their voice and brand. But by following others’ social media and blogs, you’ll be able to see how these characteristics develop in real time. You can also see what types of posts prompt the most user engagement by keeping track of blog comments or social media responses, so you can identify interactive trends to emphasize on your own outlets.
Following competitors’ social channels and blogs also can provide your business with ideas about how to stand apart from the rest. For instance, you might notice a lot of customer service complaints on your top competitor’s Facebook feed. Using that information can help you improve your own customer service practices, and inspire you to be more proactive about providing better service through social media. This could compel customers to move their business to your company.
Poll Customers and Influencers
You may think you know which competitors are worth following, but your own customers and influencers may clue you in to other ideas. Use customer surveys to ask about other brands they regularly engage with.
Ask your staff about the influencers they follow, too, and where they typically interact with them. Then, connect with those influencers and ask about their favorite brands in your space. Make sure you’re following those brands via email subscription, social media and blogs.
Attend Conferences and Networking Events
Speaking with industry influencers in person is also great for quick and easy competitive analysis. Sign up for industry conferences that have influence in your marketspace, and make sure your business has a presence at relevant local networking events.
As you’re networking, ask people about what brands they follow and why they’re passionate about them. You can add them to your list of competitors to follow—and get inspired by ideas to improve your business.
Talk With Suppliers and Partners
The partners and suppliers your business works with probably also work with some of your competitors. They might have access to the inner workings of those companies. They might even be able to give you insight into what makes them special as well as the areas in which they’re lacking.
Carefully listen to praise and complaints to identify ways your business stands out and where you could put in extra effort. You could even host a regular “thank you” event for companies you work with, and use that time to gain some insider info on the competition.
Do Some Undercover Work
If you really want to know more about the products and services your competitors offer, go directly to them. Simply call those companies and talk with a sales associate or customer service representative to gain insights. A conversation costs nothing—but you can get valuable insights from someone who actually works there.
Many businesses offer free trials, too. Encourage people within your company to sign up and report on their experiences. Also, poll your staff members about their experiences with your competitors. Make regular competitive analysis part of your company’s mission. Ask your team to always be on the lookout for opportunities to gain insights from friends and family members who use competitors’ products or services. Those people could potentially form a meaningful focus group.
Get a Headstart on Competitive Analysis
Thanks to these online tools and in-person techniques, there are many ways you can perform effective competitive analysis without spending a penny.
If business research excites you, learn more about competitive analysis techniques like these by enrolling in the online MBA program at the University of Kansas School of Business. Speak to an Admissions Advisor at 855-639-7799 to learn more about the program today.