Unless you’re very lucky, your business will have competitors keen to grab a slice of your market – your customers, in other words. Make it difficult for them with a spot of competitor analysis using these helpful tools.
Competition is a fact of life in business, and to stay ahead commercially, you need to have a good grasp of where you sit in your sector, who you’re competing with, what others are offering and how your competitors behave. In short, you need to conduct competitor analysis.
Knowing who your competitors are, along with their strengths and weaknesses, can encourage fresh ideas, pinpoint what your customers really want, and help improve your brand.
To gather useful information about your business peers, you need to first define who they are. Think beyond your obvious competitors and follow the indirect ones too – any company that can potentially draw time, attention and money away from your brand – as well as emerging ones, like existing businesses branching out into your product range or service.
Don’t just think local: the internet means you might be up against businesses from all over the country, or even globally.
Back to basics
An obvious place to start competitor analysis is by looking at their websites. Do a Google search using different keywords and check out their online offer, taking note of their product range, pricing and so on to see where you could fill a gap.
Sometimes there’s no substitute for investigating in person. Try purchasing products either online or in-store to experience how they treat customers. Joining competitor mailing lists is also worthwhile for tracking new deals and offers – and to see how yours compare.
Industry conferences can be invaluable for picking up catalogues and price lists from visiting competitor stands. Keep an eye on trade industry forums and news sites too, to keep up to date on new products or technical developments.
Competitor analysis tools
- Google Alerts is a brilliantly easy way to track mentions of your competitors on the internet, and it’s free – just insert your chosen keywords into the search query and select the results you’d like to see, such as news or blogs.
- Google Alerts won’t monitor social channels, but there are plenty of websites that do, so to check on tweets, Facebook posts and other social conversations, sign up to a monthly package. Mention offers a free trial of their monitoring tool, and SocialReport includes daily digests and web analytics for around £40.00 a month.
- If you’re looking for site stats, Alexa can give you an overview of your competitors’ web traffic and visitor demographics. Just type their site’s URL into the search box. You can subscribe for in-depth information from $9.99 a month. Similar tools include Compete and Quantcast.
- If you just want to know who owns a particular site, Whois from DomainTools can tell you who registered that domain, their contact info and how long the site’s been around. If you pay to subscribe you can also use it to check for people infringing your rights – e.g. by using your brand names or passing themselves off as you (cybersquatting).
- SpyFu is a paid service that lets you see what search keywords are working well for your competitors – both organic and paid. You can either use the intel to optimise your own site for those popular terms and capture some of that traffic, or to set yourself apart by targeting keywords they haven’t thought of.
- Finally, Open Site Explorer lets you find out who’s linking to your competitors’ sites. Lots of links from well-respected sites could be boosting their search rankings – worth knowing. It can also tell you how many people are tweeting links to their site and how often it has been liked or shared on Facebook – but again, you’ll need to subscribe.
How do you stay ahead of the competition in your industry? Have any tips to add to the above? Let us know about your experiences by commenting below…
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