To grow a business, you need to understand more than just your customers.
It’s true, knowing your audience’s problems or wants can help you develop products they need and find the best ways to connect with them.
But to dominate the market, you also need to understand your competition, analyze their strategies, and identify weaknesses.
Because you see:
Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
Other companies target the same customer segments and share identical objectives as you – to grow, make more money, and attract their competitors’ audience.
And in this post, I’ll show you how by monitoring and analyzing what they do; you can gain the insight you need to achieve the same.
Ready? Let’s do it.
At first, the idea of spying on the competition might seem a little unethical.
Luckily, it’s not.
Businesses have been engaging in different forms of competitive intelligence for a very long time.
Take Qworky for example, an app designed to improve company’s meetings that launched in 2010.
Before it went live, the company’s CEO began tracking his future competitor’s every move online. He read their CEOs tweets, blog posts, subscribed to their newsletter, and even kept note of changes to the company’s employees Linkedin profiles.
Soon enough, he discovered a pattern that suggested that the competitor might be nearing the launch stage.
As a result, he and his team quickly launched a limited version of their product to get the Qworky’s name out first.
And as it turned out, he was right.
Of course, Qworky’s example might seem extreme. Then again, companies engage in all sorts of competitive intelligence strategies, often employing military and secret service strategies.
Some go as far as bribing their competitor’s trash collector to allow them to dig through their waste, as in a case of Gary Marck, who used this method to steal his competitors’ trade secrets.
Luckily, as a modern marketer, you have plenty of competitive intelligence tools at your disposal to deliver all the data and insight you need.
Before we discuss them, though…
What competitor intelligence could help you achieve?
Being able to tell what strategies work for a competitor will help you be more focused in your business decisions.
For example, knowing what keywords your competitor ranks for, and you don’t, will help you plan the next steps in your SEO or PPC strategy.
The above side-by-side keyword comparison between two domains shows that Amazon ranks for more phrases than eBay and enjoys a much greater online visibility.
Running a similar comparison between yours and the competitor’s domain could indicate what other relevant keywords you should be targeting in your SEO strategy.
Your competitor is working as hard as you to stay ahead of the curve.
They might be planning new product launches, disruptive price changes or a new marketing campaign that will attract everyone’s attention.
Monitoring their marketing activities could give you an early-warning signal for what’s coming and help you prepare before the disruptive change happens.
For example, your competitor might plan to restructure the way visitors can purchase products from their site.
However, before they’d launch it, they’d most likely split test the new shopping cart to assess its performance.
Yet your chance to spot it is slim unless you keep visiting their site from different computers, IP addresses, and browsers, of course.
By using software that monitors a competitor website changes, you could notice any new features or functionality and analyze them before they even go fully live.
Analyzing your competitors’ strategies can also help you identify actions they might be likely to take in the coming months.
For example, you may notice that your competitor recently started promoting their products via a new channel. This might suggest that they will be transferring some of their budgets to it going forward.
Based on this information, and insights about their other strategies’ performance to date, you could speculate what channels they might decide to drop and why.
A sudden focus on non-standard SERPs listings might suggest a serious attempt to dominate Google for the most relevant key phrases.
This e-commerce website experienced a massive rise in organic traffic recently. Coincidentally, Google also started showing reviews beside their listings and featured the domain in Featured Snippet results.
Based on this information, you could assume that the company’s focus has shifted from attracting more traffic to expanding their search presence and increasing the click-through rate.
This might suggest that they either reached a plateau with achieving higher rankings or entered a conversion optimization stage and will now focus on converting more of the existing traffic instead.
Competitive intelligence gives you a chance to compare your strengths against the competitor and in the process, find and exploit their weak points.
For example, this service company doesn’t rank for any keywords relating to services they deliver, industry or even their brand.
Of course, it’s possible that they aren’t interested in ranking for those. But I’d speculate against that.
The fact remains that any of their competitors could take advantage of this weakness by investing in SEO and position their site for the most commonly searched for phrases relating to their service.
Analyzing companies’ link profiles, ad copy, channels, spend, and many other factors will help you dissect their marketing strategies and find their weak points, like channels they don’t target or target poorly.
In fact, the whole point of dissecting your competitor’s strategies is to learn and gain insight into what works for them and what doesn’t.
And then, launching your strategies based on those findings.
Monitoring competition is all about data analysis. And luckily, there are plenty of software platforms that can deliver all kinds of information you’d need.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
SEMrush delivers competitive data to digital marketers. The platform allows to analyze any website for its traffic, keywords, different types of online ads (Adwords, Youtube ads, PLAs and many more), assess their social media strategies, and run comparative analysis between your website and theirs.
Competeshark helps marketers monitor their competitors’ websites for changes, from copy updates and revisions, A/B tests to new structure and many more in between.
Ahrefs is a professional SEO software you could use to dissect and analyze the competitor’s backlinks and keywords to identify their strategies.
This content analysis tool will help you analyze what content works best for your competitor, what topics attract the highest engagement, and plan your future content marketing strategies accordingly.
Finally, Perch allows you to compare yours and your competitor’s social media activities and online reviews.
Understanding your customers isn’t enough if you aim to grow the business.
To dominate the market, you also need to understand your competition, analyze their strategies, and identify and exploit weaknesses.
Luckily, with so many competitive intelligence tools on the market, spying on your competitors isn’t hard at all.
Are you aware of your competitors’ marketing strategies? If so, tell us, what monitoring method has worked best for you.