Keep Your Friends Close and Your Competitors Closer

February 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

keep competitors closeAs a Marketing Leader, you pay attention to the competition’s marketing and lead generation tactics. But how close of an eye do you have on them? Do you actively monitor and research?  Most of you are nodding your head yes.

Let’s dig deeper.  Are you monitoring how the buyer is interacting with the competition?  This is often overlooked. I’ll offer a tool to help you identify competitive gaps across many areas.

Why is competitive research important?

Competitive insights are key to your ability to achieve your goals --- to make the number. Competitive review tells you what is working and what is not. 

If you are significantly ahead of your competition then you have a sense for your lead.  Monitoring keeps you from being surprised by an emerging competitor.   Be careful when you have a strong lead among competitors.  That's when your competitors have to be innovative in their approach to come up with a breakthrough. 

  • Keep pace with the rapidly changing buying environment
  • Confirm the way buyers want to buy
  • Save time and increase marketing efficiencies by not re-inventing the wheel
  • Avoid pain by identifying unprofitable tactics 

The saying goes, "keep your friends close and your competitors closer".

Top reasons competitive customer buying intel is overlooked?

  1. Marketing teams don’t know how to use the competitive monitoring tools within all tier 1 marketing automation systems (magically doing most the work). 
  2. Competitive analysis is not prioritized.  It’s skipped because it can be time consuming for time strapped teams.
  3. Emerging new competitors are not known. They go unnoticed until they begin eroding market share.  

How do you determine competitors?

First, ask your sales leader who shows up in the most deals. This can be pulled out of win/loss reviews. Second, check your own database. Your competitors know who you are and are subscribed to your blog.  Competitors often fake names and company names, but often they use their real email. Then google your own top keywords and search phrases for how you describe your business.  This should get you the remaining competitors to give you a wide spectrum.

What data should be gathered?

Marketing teams have access to powerful tools that can pull data about your competition.  Some of the best tool data can come from simple browser plugins and extensions. These tools will tell you how the website you are currently viewing is performing across certain metrics. For instance, my favorite tool to use on the Chrome browser is “SEO Site Tools”. This tool will pull just about every imaginable source of data and break it up into 6 categories

  1. External page data
  2. Page elements
  3. Social media
  4. Page terms
  5. Domain information
  6. Suggestions based on best practices

Next, there are tools that will capture everyone’s keywords, rank performance, ppc ad creative and estimated PPC budgets. My favorite tools for this is Spyfu, SEMRush and ispionage.  Between those 3 you can capture a robust list of keywords. It can even help you put a value on organic search keywords.

Then there are tools that measure social accounts influence, outreach and authority. An example of this would be Klout, Kred and Peerindex. Each of these sites have an algorithm that measures how influential people are and on what subjects. You can also measure company accounts to see if or how they are leveraging social media.

Since there are so many data points to consider, I decided to share my competitor comparison worksheet here. This worksheet will help you combine many data points needed to identify gaps with your competitors. It will also describe where to get the data.

How to learn from competitors?

After pulling data about competitors, pin point your areas of strengths and weakness. When performing the analysis, look for the following;

  • Review social footprints vs. your own
  • Assess the search keyword share vs. your keyword buys
  • Assess % changes vs. goals
  • Review your gaps to the competitor's data points
  • Prioritize areas where competition is a threat

Go deeper and dive into the customer interaction of your competitor. Perform the following secret shopper activities to determine what’s working well for the competitor.  What are the things you are not doing (Gap)?

  • Dig further into competitive social evidence, their user comments and user reviews. 
  • Subscribe to their blogs and join their newsletters.  Review the flow of their campaigns and nurturing methods.
  • Monitor how often they send them out and what the quality of their creative (Call to action, quality of writing, landing page best practices, etc.).
  • Read their blogs and click their links to see what is featured.
  • Follow their social media and listen to what’s being broadcasted.  

Gather all these learnings and insights into your spreadsheet. This will give you the mix of qualitative and quantitative competitive insight on your competition.

Call To Action:

If you haven’t completed a detailed competitor analysis recently, now is the time. Discover what your competitors are doing that you are not. Download the competitor comparison worksheet to help you make this year’s number.

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Topics: Demand Generation, LeadGen, Marketing Resources

Posted by John Koehler

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