No business operates in a realm of seclusion. External forces shape your decision making, including the influence your competition has on your strategies for the future. Your competition help inform your decisions, and you can learn from what works for them and their mistakes too.
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Of course, you do need to create a market space for your brand – you need an identity – so mimicking the competition to the nth degree isn’t what’s called for. However, your competitors are in the same niche as you, and their strategies should be of interest to you. While reading this article, keep in mind, every business has its key performance indicators and it’s an area that should set you apart from the competition.
Study the Competition
Before you can copy your competitors, you need to study them first.
Nothing will give you a closer insight into the quality of your competitor’s products and services than actually using them. What did they do differently to your own offering? Some examples to compare:
Material quality of the product you bought (if a tangible item)
Knowledge of representatives if you had contact with the company
Level of after-sales support provided
Their process, if they provide you with a service
Be Where Your Competition Is
If you see your competition continually using certain marketing methods, it’s likely that they are doing so because they’re getting success from them. If you’re not using such marketing methods yourself, use them.
This will at the very least put your brand out there to new markets and make them aware that they do have a choice when it comes to buying the type of product or service that you provide.
Paid Search Tactics
When you do your keyword research it can be helpful to know what keywords your competition are targeting. Obviously they are not likely to tell you, but you can find out by simply Google-ing a few key phrases (hint: use an incognito window to ensure you don’t get any personalised results).
For each of the keywords you are considering, do the search and see which (if any) of your competitors are targeting that phrase with AdWords. Keep a spreadsheet of your results.
If no-one is targeting a phrase:
Is this a low competition phrase that you can take advantage of?
Or have your competitors already found it to be unprofitable?
It is a good idea to repeat this exercise regularly. Any phrases that your competition continue to target for several weeks are likely to be profitable for them and hence may be for you too.
Organic Search Tactics
You can also look at their targeted organic phrases; simply look at a few key pages and study your competition’s page titles and meta tags. If they are engaged in SEO you can probably work out which phrases they are targeting.
If they are targeting a phrase, check whether they are ranking for it. If so, study the ranking page and see what they are doing to rank. Look for weaknesses in their SEO that you can improve upon.
What if they’re not ranking?
In that case, try to figure out why not… Are they making SEO mistakes? Don’t have enough links? Or is that phrase just too competitive?
If you find they are ranking for a phrase but they have lots of SEO weaknesses then there is a good chance you can outrank them!
Content Marketing Tactics
You may have heard of content marketing already; it is all about giving your customers and potential customers value by giving them the benefit of your wisdom and experience. In essence you want to create the most valuable resource about your niche so that when people need help they come to you.
If you want to rank well in Google you need to have content that deserves to rank, but rather than trying to guess – do a quick search for a relevant phrase such as:
“how to do [task related to your niche]”
See who is already ranking (in this context, this is your competition) and read their content. Make notes on each of the top 5 results, figure out what is good, what they’ve missed and how their content could be improved.
By doing this research, you will guarantee that when you write your content it will be better than what is currently out there.
Read Customer Reviews
Candid and honest customer testimonials and reviews are invaluable data for any business. They help reinforce good traits, while also aid in helping eliminate weaknesses in a product or service. But there’s only so much data to be collected.
You have a finite number of customers, and only a small percentage of them are willing to put forward such opinions anyway. So why not read up on customer reviews of competitors? They’re usually in the public domain (to help sell their own products / services).
Be wary of businesses that only handpick purely positive reviews, but if you do find a review page with a spectrum of opinions on a competitor’s product or service, find out what they did right, and what could be improved. This can inform you on how to improve your own offering to the same target market.
If you sell or manufacture products, reading reviews on Amazon can be an excellent way to get a feel for the market.
Copy Their Good Ideas
There’s no shame in copying ideas from your competition either (no, ideas cannot be copyrighted) – that’s what competition is after all – to offer a competing service or product. Some examples of ideas that could be copied:
Offering up-sell products for your main products (e.g. half-price crash helmet when someone purchases a push bike)
Loyalty voucher codes
You should certainly aspire to have some innovative ideas of your own, but copying their best ideas will ensure that you keep up, and if you copy only the best ideas from all of your competitors you may end up with the best overall offering of any of them.
Remember, It’s All About Improvements
Copying the competition can sound a little negative. Really, all you’re doing is improving your own offering – even finding areas where you can provide a better product or service than the competition.
Copying a good idea that you see your competitor doing is great, but what would be better is taking that idea and developing it. Do what your competition is doing, but do it better!
Once you’ve made such improvements, be sure to let your target audience know how you’ve improved the product or service you provide (via advertising/marketing).
Highlight the Strong Points
You may well find that your own offering is better in certain areas than your competitors’ products / services. This may only reveal itself only after going through the research stage. Be sure to let your target audience know about those differences!
Are Your Competitors Diversifying? Maybe You Should Too
Business is in a constant state of change. There always needs to be some movement with any business – be it improving an offering, scaling up operations, or diversification.
On the latter point, look at your competitors and see if any kind of diversification is taking place. Diversification can mean opportunities for yourself to move into the same new markets as your competitors. An example of this:
If you notice a competitor now not only sells traditional push bikes, but also electric bikes too. Perhaps electric bikes is a market you could get into too.
Remember to Be a Unique Brand
Yes, it’s healthy to copy your competitors in certain areas, but remember that you need a unique identity too – branding is all about being memorable and standing out. You can still keep an eye on certain aspects of your competitors without losing that unique identity.
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