Gain an Edge Over Your Competition With These Research Tools and Tactics

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Nobody ever created a strong marketing strategy without industry context. Competitor research is the cornerstone of an effective marketing plan because it provides you with an understanding of how needs for your product or service are currently being met in the market. With this information, you can build truly unique positioning, identifying an unmet need and articulating how your offering serves this need better than any competitor’s. You can also evaluate which channels should be included in your marketing mix.

Below are four tactics my teams incorporate into competitor research for most clients we work with.

1. Sign Up for Competitors’ Email Lists

Email marketing technology is used by 82% of B2C and B2B companies, so it’s highly likely that your marketing plan will include an email marketing strategy.[1] Joining your competitors’ email lists can often be done through their websites and will give you insight into their email communication strategies, including:

  • Frequency of email touch points with prospects
  • Messaging, including subject lines and calls to action
  • Imagery used
  • Types of links they want their audience to click

Assess what your competitors are doing well and where their communication misses the mark and use this analysis to build an effective email marketing strategy for your company.

2. Gain Insight Into Their PPC and SEO Strategies With SpyFu

I thought SpyFu was too good to be true the first time I heard about it. It’s an online tool that lets anyone download their competitors’ most profitable keywords and ads for paid and organic search just by entering a competitor’s domain. This allows you to understand the search marketing strategy of competitors and more specifically:

  • Identify profitable PPC keywords for your industry
  • Find competitor examples to help craft effective ad copy
  • Outrank your competitors in organic searches by understanding their SEO keyword strategies
  • Run monthly custom SEO reports on competitors’ domain

SpyFu’s Basic Plan starts at $29/month for a month-to-month subscription.

3. Shop Their Stores and Talk to Their Salespeople

Shopping at both brick & mortar and online stores provides insight into how products or services are pitched and what the customer sales experience is like. While performing competitor research for a client last month, I visited competitor stores and learned:

  • How salespeople talk about the competitor product
  • The store experience, including overall vibe and how the product is displayed
  • What physical assets the salesperson gives customers so they can continue educating themselves about the product once they leave the store
  • What other products the salesperson pointed me to in an effort to upsell
  • Next steps recommended by the salesperson to help customers in the decision-making process

You can learn about the online customer experience as well by visiting competitors’ websites. Understand:

  • Shopping cart experience
  • What calls to action are used to drive individuals from information gathering to signing up for a newsletter or interacting with a sales rep
  • What types of customer support a competitor offers

4. Follow Them on Social Media

Should social media play a role in your marketing? Looking into competitors’ social media activity will help you decide this as well as:

  • Which platforms are likely to be most effective for connecting with your audience (based on competitor presence and following on each platform)
  • Potential size of the audience you could gain with a presence on the platform
  • Potential engagement level from this audience
  • What type of content will get the most engagement from prospects and customers

[1] Business2Community, “37 Email Marketing Stats You Can’t Afford to Miss [Infographic]”, http://www.business2community.com/infographics/37-email-marketing-stats-cant-afford-miss-infographic-01649370 – 32Hhg55HCTMpbjRc.97