How to conduct competitor research for your business

Kieran Watman
22/10/2021
5 min read

What is Competitor Research?

Competitor research (also known as competitive analysis or competitive research) involves identifying your competitors, and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their business, products, and services. It's an essential part of your business strategy for finding out what your competitors are doing and what kind of “threat” they present to your company's success.

 

Why is competitor analysis important?

Most industries, especially online, are incredibly diluted. When marketing a new or existing business, there will always be people already well established. The purpose of a competitor analysis is to understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your own, and to find a gap in the market.

You'll need to identify the best avenues to potential customers and how to position yourself above your competitors.

A competitor analysis is important because:

  • It will identify your current position in your industry in comparison to your competitors
  • It will help you recognise how you can enhance your own business strategy and marketing practices.
  • It will give you insight on you how to elevate yourself in these areas to keep your customer attention.

 

How to conduct Competitive Research

3 simple steps for competitor research;

  • Identify who your key competitors are, and where to find information about them
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of their brand, presence, and offerings
  • Evaluate and utilise the information to learn and enhance your own business

Let's look at each of these points in a little more detail to fully understand the process of conducting your competitive research.

 

Who are your key competitors and where to gather information about them

We recommend selecting 3 - 5 of your key competitors based on similar services, location, and target audience with which to run your research and comparisons.

So who classes as a competitor?

The best way to determine if another business is a key competitor is to consider:

  • Are they providing a similar service or product to you?
  • Are they targeting similar customers and audiences?
  • Are they operating closing to you?

 

How to identify your main key competitors

  • Try searching on Google for a key phrase that customers may use to find your own business. For example, if we search "Plumber in Shrewsbury" we would instantly get a list of businesses competing for the top spot in that location. If they are providing the same services as us, in a similar location, we would consider them a direct competitor.

  • Who are your potential customers already using? Talk to customers, colleagues, and peers. Post an email or social media survey.

  • Keep an eye on press reports, local business directories and promotional materials. Conduct social media searches and get in the conversation to see who the most recommended providers are.

 

How to research your key competitors

  • Here you will find a great deal of “customer-facing” information. You will be able to identify your competitors' key services, ethos, and USP's. You will have clear insight into their price points, specific product information and content publications. 

  • Whilst many companies will publish positive reviews and information on their website, social media is the voice of their customers. You can research what people are saying about the company, services, and products. This gives opportunity to identify strengths and weakness from the point of view of customers. You can also keep up to date with what your competitors are publishing, how they promote, and how they engage with customers.

  • By far the most insightful technique is to interact with your competition as a customer. Purchase a product, hire your competition, call them up. Engage with them as a customer to fully understand the end user experience, the quality of their offering and where you can improve upon this in your own business.

 

What should be included in a Competitive Analysis

Once you have established who your competition are, and how you can research them, we need to identify what information we want to gather.

A competitor analysis should include your competitors' business features, market presence and practices, as well as their product or service quality and pricing. You should look at their strengths and weakness in all of these aspects to identify opportunities for your own business.

Key points to address in competitor research

  • Do they have a clear brand that reflects the nature of their business and ethos? How comprehensive are their services? Look at the quality of their products as well as the price points. Examine where you differ in your offerings.

  • Where are your competitors promoting? How active are they on social media? How are they positioned in search results for key terms and phrases relating to the business? Is their website user-friendly and easy to navigate?

  • Explore how your competitors engage with customers on social media or from your own experience. Examine the nature of their online reviews and testimonials. Their online reputation is key to understanding the positive actions you can take from what is already working for others. Be sure to take note of customer reactions and opinions on social media and review websites. Their voice is an extremely important one for identifying areas where your competitors are struggling to meet demand and expectations, shining a spotlight where you can improve their experience.

 

How to use the findings of your Competitive Research

Once you have gathered all of your information, we need to understand what we can learn and how to action positive change for our own business.

Key points to address in competitor research

  • It's a good idea to monitor your competitors in relation to your own metrics. You can use the predefined KPIs you set up for your own measurements to evaluate your competitors' current performance. For example, if we take their current Google positions for set search terms in relation to our own, we can evolve our SEO strategy to include more focus on those keywords.

  • Look at where your competitors are performing well in each analysis to find opportunities for yourself. For example, if they are gaining a strong following on social media, what sort of activities, posts, and promotions are they engaging in? How can you create a similar success for your own business?

  • When you observe certain weaknesses in your research and feel your offering is better, target your efforts on promoting those unique selling points. A simple example is obviously price points. If you offer a like for like service, or even a better one, at a more affordable rate, make this a clear focus of your promotions and marketing. If you have a faster turn around, higher quality, better customer service, all of these things deserve attention and add to the customer experience.

 

In conclusion

Competitor research is a critical tool in establishing ways forward for your business.

This will help you assess the ongoing performance of your business comparatively from the point of view of your customers. It is important to know how your customers view you in comparison to your competition. A competitor analysis will give you a better idea of what services are currently available to your target customer and what areas are being neglected.  

It is important to conduct routine competitor research throughout the lifecycle of your business to stay up to date with market trends and product offerings. This will reveal important information about market saturation, business opportunities and industry best practices.

We are constantly learning and improving our business and service offerings and need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to our place in the market and industry. Learn from the strengths and weaknesses of others to build  and evolve your own business.

 

Kieran Watman

Kieran Watman

Director at Watman & Worth Web

At Watman & Worth Web Ltd, we are constantly researching and learning more about the digital marketing world. I love putting together all of this information to help the businesses we work with to use the full potential of the online landscape to make their website thrive.

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