How can your Competition help you succeed?

How to Legally Steal Your Competitors’ Market Research

written by: James Darvell

competitorsYour competitors are an important part of your market space. It’s important to understand your competition and look at what they are working on if you want to stand out. At the same time, they can save you a lot of time and effort. For all our emphasis on research in this series, trial and error still play a large role in marketing. You can learn a lot from mistakes as well as successes, but of course it can be costly to make mistakes. But then, nobody said they had to be your mistakes…

On the Internet, there are tools that make it easy to put your competitors under the microscope. You can learn which marketing tactics were successful, and which backfired. Using this knowledge, it becomes a lot easier to make your own campaigns more successful.

There is so much data available online that you could easily get lost. In market research, there comes a point of diminishing returns, where further research does not mean better results. At that point, you’ve already gained the important insights, and it’s time to start working on your own campaign. Your ultimate goals in competitive analysis are:

1: To discover what worked for your competitors, so you can emulate their success.
2: To discover what failed, to save time and money.
3: To identify a “competitive gap” – and this comes back to differentiating your brand and developing a solid USP.

Examine Changes to Your Competitor’s Website

Austin_Web_Design_FirmBy looking at your competitor’s website, you can see the messages that they are broadcasting right now. But it’s hard to tell if they are successful or not. To get a better idea of what works for your competitors, you must see how their messages change over time. As they try different marketing approaches, they will keep the messages that work, and eliminate the ones that don’t.

If you could see the changes on their site over the last several years, you would be able to gain a big insight into their different marketing experiments.

There is a service on the Internet called the “Wayback Machine” that archives websites regularly. It takes snapshots of the pages of most websites from time to time – more popular sites are sampled more often.

Visit http://www.archive.org/ and type the address of your competitor’s site into the search field. You will then see a calendar page with links to all the different snapshots for that site.

Spend some time looking at the different versions of the site, and spot the changes. Which elements have remained constant, and which ones were removed?

Track the Changes in Your Competitor’s Adverts

00003Another useful service is SpyFu. SpyFu tracks the different Google Adwords ads that sites use. They show how an ad has been altered over time, and that makes it easy to steal their best ideas and eliminate their mistakes.

After you have examined multiple competitors, you will be able to pick up the commonalities between their different approaches. You will develop a deep understanding of what works and what doesn’t within your market space.

So far, we’ve been examining how your competitors have responded to the market. The next step is to examine how the market has responded to them.

Understanding Your Competitor’s Audience

01 ad 1Different individuals interact with a company in different ways. Some people are intensely happy with a company and sing their praises whenever possible. Others hate them, and spout volumes of bitter prose whenever their name is mentioned. It’s not possible to tell much about a company from the comments of a single individual.

But when you look at several individuals, you will begin to get a good understanding of how the market is responding to them. Sometimes, the response will be overwhelmingly positive. Sometimes it may be negative.

Then there is the interesting case of a polarized market, with strong fans and haters. This divide usually indicates the presence of distinct market segments. It’s a great idea to dig a little deeper and profile the customers who like and dislike your competitor.

This will help you to discover new opportunities in the form of different customer groups you can appeal to – and this works into the idea of the “competitive gap”, which we will explore later.

As well as gauging the market’s general response to your competitors, you can also measure their response to specific products or services, and different marketing messages.

Read Your Competitor’s Blog Comments

If your competitor has a blog with comments enabled, it’s a great way to gain insight into what people think about their marketing messages. But bear in mind that most companies vet these comments, and will eliminate the negative ones. So while this data is useful, it is often slanted to show the company in a positive light.

Facebook Pages and Groups

facebookIf your competitor has a Facebook page, look at their posts and the comments that users have left on them.

LinkedIn Company Pages and Groups

People can leave comments on posts on company pages and in groups where the company has a presence. Examine how people respond in these comments.

Google Plus Pages

Google Plus is another place where users are able to leave comments about a company. In fact, it even allows users to leave full reviews, which can be very insightful. In this case, the company is not able to censor the public comments, so it’s a great way to see the negative reactions as well as the positive.

Review Sites

There is a variety of online resources for consumers to share reviews of companies, products and services. Well-known sites like the Better Business Bureau have been joined by an army of consumer sites. The best way to find them is to do a quick Google search for your competitor’s business name on Google. Look through the results and see how many reviews you can find. They are all useful data to inform your own advertising campaign.

Understanding the Competitive Gap

The “competitive gap” is a concept that can help you to compete effectively, even in a crowded marketplace.

Christmas Market in Paris.

By analyzing your marketplace, you can discover segments that your competitors do not cover well. You can also find benefits or features that consumers are crying out for. By crafting your brand and messages to appeal to these segments, and by emphasizing the benefits and features that your competitors do not provide, you will be able to fill this gap. You will become the natural choice for a large group of consumers in your marketplace.

Summary

By following the advice in this article, you can reap the benefit of all your competitor’s marketing trials without wasting a penny of your own money. You’ll be able to discover a position for your own brand which is unique. And you can learn how to attract customers who your competitors are driving away.

In the next article, we’ll look at how to test the insights from your market research so you can develop a winning campaign cheaply, and make your advertising budget go further. We’ll also cover how you can use Trafficwave to email offers to specific market segments in order to test the effectiveness of your brand positioning.

Article by James Darvell

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