In today's increasingly competitive business world, the success or failure of a product does not rely on sheer marketing alone. Rather, targeted sales and developmental strategies need to be coupled with a proactive understanding of competitors' metrics and approaches within a specific market.
I strongly believe in the expression "To know thy enemy is to know thyself", so when I received the proposal to join the team assigned to competitor analysis for the AWR Cloud, the newest product that our company developed, I happily embraced it. In this article, I will share the steps we took to implement the strategy and assess the competitor's strengths and weaknesses.
When we first started to think about creating the new SEO solution, competitor analysis was one of the first things we added on our "to do" list. The strategy we implemented was based directly off of two discreet factors:
- Details regarding current products on the SEO market.
- The specific marketing strategies that competitors use.
Concerning the marketing strategies, the focus was twofold. The first assessment we made was on how much of a threat a competitor's operations were to our new campaign. Secondly, this analysis was also indented to provide a reciprocal insight on how to start and improve our sales, product and support services.
Let's take a closer look at the approach in a bit more detail:
Building the Competitor Analysis Matrix
It should first be appreciated that any robust analysis would not only identify the strengths and weaknesses of a group of competitors, but it would also provide valuable insight as to the offensive and defensive measures that a company can employ to help increase the chances of success.
Indeed, this is no easy task, because one of the most powerful ways to develop a well-rounded conceptualisation of other competitors is to construct the competitor profile matrix.
The matrix that we built is essentially a visual representation of our primary competitors and a rating of various metrics in regards to their specific operations. So, after we made a list of all our competitors, we created the matrix in the form of a chart, with companies listed on the horizontal axis while different metrics were listed vertically.
The criteria we used to evaluate competitors are strictly in connection with characteristics of SEO solutions. To select these criteria, we prepared a list of questions first:
- Is it a desktop solution or a web based service
- What price models do they offer
- Do they have Free Versions / Trial Versions
- Do they provide multiple seats
- What SEO tools does their product include
- What is their main tool
- What data sources does their solution integrate
- What customers do they target primarily
Below I added part of the chart, for reference.
The next step was to introduce a numerical rating system to gauge the strength of each metric individually. For example, each SEO tool integrated in the competitor solution received 1 point. The more tools were integrated, the higher their strength.
The end result was a matrix that provided the clarity and the insights necessary to make assumptions as accurate as possible about the ongoing operations of competitors.
Monitoring communication channels
This is another essential step that we took in our competitor analysis strategy. It is one of the best ways to determine the movement of a competitor is by actively engaging and analysing their communications. However, it is also important attend any events that a competitor may organize / sponsor; this can be a very "hands on" approach that helps in understanding any trends that may not be abundantly clear on other communication channels.
To setup our monitoring process, we created a special board in Trello.com, an online application for tasks organization, that everyone in our team had access to.
Then we made a list for:
- Competitor blogs and personas for subscribing
- Competitor social media profiles
Now we monitor them on a weekly basis and store observation notes in our Trello board.
Using the competitor's products
This is the best way to obtain a firsthand knowledge of the benefits and disadvantages of what is being offered, being especially relevant if that product is marketed with the intent to solve a real-life problem. Developing a working knowledge of what is being offered always helps to find innovative solutions that can counter such a product. Obviously, the type of product or service will directly correlate with how often it is used and for what duration.
The observation notes we obtained at this stage were further centralized on the same Trello board for competitor analysis (sorry I cannot show you how it looks like :)). All observations resulted in ideas which we discussed with the implementation team later on.
This effort really helped us understand the evolution of our market and what was the best way to approach it with a new product.
I know it may look a bit difficult at first, but most of the actions that I described are one-time activities. Once you setup the competitor analysis "machine", everything will resume to weekly tasks of media monitoring, and 3 to 6 months re-evaluations of the matrix.
Competitor analysis is not something often spoken about at dinner parties, but in the same respect it is far from a "black hat" operation. All businesses employ the aforementioned strategies to one degree or another. The most important factor is the way in which a business will approach this task.
Should we choose to mimic successful competitors or do we instead use this powerful knowledge as an evolutionary template to help better promote our business?
I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below.
Main image credit: Andercismo
Aura Dozescu is the Dir. of Business Development for the AWR Cloud. Passionate about SEO technologies, she is working closely with developers to implement the feedback received from customers.