When developing a marketing or promotion strategy, one often overlooked source of real world information is your company’s competition. Conducting a market analysis – a study of your local, regional or global business sector – is part of any well-designed marketing strategy. Looking at the activities of competitors can generate new marketing activities, and an analysis of the competition may save you a lot of money in the long run.

In today’s open marketplace, there are very few secrets. Examine your company’s competition to learn from them, to react to them, and to perhaps increase your market share by attracting the competition’s customers to your business.

Here’s a simple plan to help your company get a leg up on the competition. 

Conduct a competitor website analysis

A competitor website reveals a great deal about the business – information the company wants site visitors to know. You don’t have to be a computer programmer to learn a great deal about the competition from the business’ website.

What features does the competitor website offer visitors? Easy contact information? Simple navigation? Search options that enable visitors to find products by individual search criteria?

Consumers use the Internet to conduct price comparisons and make purchases. If you can simplify these processes for site visitors and beat the competition’s prices, chances are, you’ll convert more site visitors to buyers through your company site.

Sign up for competitor newsletters and emails

Small and large businesses use newsletters and email alerts to stay in touch with their customer base. These communications describe business activity. They deliver promotions, coupons and other purchase incentives. They may also provide insider information on industry news.

Keep up with the competition by reading about their activities in an enewsletter delivered straight to your email inbox.

Track competitor signage for promotional activity

For example, the marketing manager for an auto dealership may discover that the competitor down the street is offering 0% financing on new vehicles. This can draw traffic from one dealer’s car lot to another and hurt the bottom line. If able, the marketing manager may propose to match the competitor’s offer.

A restaurant owner may discover that a nearby establishment offers free appetizers Monday through Thursday nights, and they’ve posted road signage announcing the “FREE APPS” promotion.  If able, the restaurant owner may use similar promotions to become more competitive, attracting customers by offering “FREE APPS” every day.

Monitor print advertising of competitors

Local and regional business owners should carefully study the print advertising of the competition. Newspapers and region-specific periodicals are still popular marketing outlets.

Note how often the competition places print ads. Note their size and the information these advertisements provide.

A smart business won’t continue to use a marketing outlet that doesn’t deliver positive return on investment, so if the promotion appears over a period of months, it’s reasonable to assume it’s a promotion that works and is marketed in a publication read by interested consumers. On the other hand, if the ad appears once or twice and then disappears, chances are the promotion didn’t deliver to the expectations of the competitor who placed the advertisement.

Be observant of what works and what doesn’t for competitors, and develop a marketing and promotion strategy based on the repeated promotions offered by competitors. These are promotions that usually work, or the business wouldn’t keep using them.

Make a small purchase from a competitor

What better way to learn about the competition than to become a customer? Place a small order with local competitors and note such things as:

  • ease of purchase
  • customer service
  • delivery time
  • shipping costs
  • after-sale promotions
  • return policies
  • quality of goods sold
  • cost of products similar to those your business makes or sells

By becoming a customer of the competition, you gain a consumer’s view of how these businesses interact with their customers, what they could do better, and most importantly, what your business could do better.

Track both on- and off-line advertising of competitors

Do your competitors advertise online, using pay-per-click programs like Google® AdWords, or banners on other websites that link back to the competitor’s site? How big are competitor ads in the local telephone directory?

Does the competitor sponsor a local sports team? Should your business?

Does the competition engage the communities they serve by participating in job fairs, health fairs and other community events?

If these tried-and-true marketing efforts work for the local competition, they may work for your business, as well.

Learning from the Competition

By tracking the marketing and promotional activities of the competition, you may quickly discover what works and what doesn’t, and eventually develop marketing and promotions that beat them at their own game. In this day and age, “follow the leader” may help grow your business faster, and at a lower cost.

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