How to Research Your Competitors

All businesses face the same issue in growing their way to the top – you are never alone. When you head into a particular market with a product, you will be joining a huge collection of different products all vying for the same customer base. It is up to you to make sure that you stay on top of trends and make your company stand out for the best to draw in the bigger share of that market.  

Our guide will show you how to scope out your market and the things you need to look out for. Follow our leads and you will gain an important advantage and stand above the competition.

1. Find the right resources.

We’ve talked before about the best tools for conducting competitor analysis. Typically, you will do very well in simply using Google for a lot of your research. Web searches for your own keywords will show you what rivals exist for your search engine ranking. Creating alerts for competitor businesses and the wider industry will help you keep tabs on new developments and the competition that emerges in the future. These tools will make up the basics of your market research armoury.  

To get into more detail, however, you may look into web-based tools that will help you uncover the information that is more difficult to find. Something like SpyFu will let you know the most useful keywords and search engine tools used by your competitors. SimilarWeb helps you learn how customers interact with your rival’s online, whether on their website or on social media. There’s a good rundown of the tools available for you here. They cover all the possible ways you will want to delve into the tactics of your competition.  

2. Find Out Who You Are Competing With

  Alongside finding the right tools, you should also be working out which companies or products you will be rubbing up against. You need to do more than simply Google your keywords to see what comes up. Keep an eye in trade fairs and publications, listen out for relevant press releases and advertising and just keep your ear to the ground for what customers are saying.  

Your competition will come from anyone that might take customers away from you, not just companies that share products. People selling watches a few years ago will never have thought of phone manufacturers as a rival, but people soon began to rely on the phone in their pocket for the time rather than a watch on their wrist. Look at the wider market and at any company with the slightest link to the products you sell and work out where threats both already exist and where they may soon come from.  

This example also shows how good competition research depends of regularly following trends and keeping an eye on the latest product developments.  

3. Look at How they Work

  Using the tools you picked up earlier, you should take a good look at how your competition has set up. Explore their website and product range and identify where you differ and what you do similar. This will be an important part of how you change things within your company to make it stand out more.  

By looking at things like advertising and their promotional material, you can learn how they target their business and how they intend to shape their image to customers. Order your competitors’ brochures, sign up to their newsletters and keep an eye on their social media profiles so you can get a complete picture of their marketing and sales practices.  

Focus on getting the following information:  
  • Their product range
  • Their best selling products
  • The prices for their products
  • What customer services they provide – delivery information, aftercare, returns policy, loyalty rewards
  • Online services – how well do they interact through their website? What do they offer through social media?
  • Media activities – advertising, sponsorship, other campaigns
  • Who are they hiring and how well do they work?

4. What The Public Think

It’s one thing to know what your competitors are doing, but it is another to know what works well or not. You may and should have your own view on how good you find your rivals’ practices but, at the end of the day, whatever appeals most to the customer is what will get them through the door.  

We have mentioned survey websites like SurveyMonkey before and how useful they are for your market research. This is a perfect example of where they work best. Use these surveys to ask about the pros and cons of you and your competitors. Did customers switch from one company to another? What influenced their decisions? What turns them off of certain companies and onto others? Which products are the most popular?  

Getting a picture of customers’ interactions with you and your competitors will show you just how they feel about the market and where you should be improving or what you should be taking advantage of.  

This is also where social media can play an important role. Customers will often use company profiles to share recent experiences, both good and bad. You should, of course, be ensuring you take note of what your customers are saying about you, but make sure you take similar interest in what is getting posted on your competition’s walls and message boards.  

5. Decide Where Your Company Needs to Be

After all this work, you should have a good picture of the general market that your company or new product exists in. Now, you need to make sure you make this information work to help you.  

Use the information in step 3 to compare and contrast with your own business model. Reflect on what is going well for other companies so that you can either avoid that share of the market or attempt to innovate on these successful practices to offer something better. You may decide you need to modify your prices or you may spot a gap you can make the most of.  

If there are things you are doing similarly, then you should look at whether this is working positively or hindering both of you. You may decide it is a negative, in which case dropping this practice will be helpful. If it is serving you well, then you should be looking at how you can improve this further to stay ahead of the pack.  

The conclusion to all this work should be that you have found the unique path for your business in the market. Determine where you can improve on what your competitors are offering and where you will be better off focusing elsewhere. Then, focus on your target and what you need to do to win them over.  

But, remember, markets are constantly shifting. This is not a one off task. Make sure you are regularly researching the competition and keeping an eye on new developments so you can know early when to shift gears.