Conducting a Competitive Analysis

Competitors are a fact of life for businesses of all types and sizes. Even if you think you have no competition (and some companies do think this), you do! We like to define competition, broadly, as “any available alternative to what you have to offer.” For instance, I worked in the healthcare industry for a number of years, leading the organization’s marketing efforts. We had direct competitors (other hospitals and clinics) serving the same market we served. We also had indirect competitors—Google search for instance. How often have you gone online to find information about some medical issue rather than make an appointment to see the doctor?

The point is, we all have competition.

Positioning what we have compared to the competition is a critical step in effective marketing. When thinking about direct competitors, in particular, it’s important to take the time to evaluate what they have to offer—objectively—before you go out with messages of your own.

We’ve done competitive analyses for a number of clients both through traditional and digital channels. There are a number of ways that this can be approached depending on the goals/objectives of the client and their budget. For example:

Competitive analysis from a consumer perception standpoint.

This involves both qualitative and quantitative exploration of the attributes of one company or product/service compared to competitors. One way we’ve often approached this is to work with the company’s leadership team to identify the “top 10” attributes they wish to be known for, or their “desired brand attributes.” We then use these attributes to create a survey of their target audience, asking survey recipients to rate the client company against competitive companies/brands on each of the attributes. We can then review the gaps and, for each attribute, determine which company/brand leads the market. This can both help the client company identify areas of opportunity for improvement and identify attributes where they have a clear lead and which they can use to strengthen their brand.

Competitive analysis based on a competitive matrix.

We like this approach because it provides a quantitative look at a company, or brand’s relative strengths and weaknesses—more quantitative when actual consumer data can be used to “rate/rank” the company. In the absence of third party data, companies can determine the ratings on their own but must realize that the results are subjective and may not accurately reflect reality. Here’s a link to a blog post we wrote on the process which offers more details. 

Competitive analysis from a “literature review” standpoint.

This involves doing an in-depth analysis of how each company is covered/portrayed in key media outlets/channels. How much coverage? Positive/negative/neutral? Key takeaways? Reach? etc. – traditionally this has been done through a review of media channels like television, newspaper, print; today it would also include a review of key digital channels. The takeaway would be strategies designed to boost coverage/awareness/perception across specific channels to better position the company relative to competitors.

Competitive analysis based on digital reach.

From a digital marketing standpoint, another way to do a competitive analysis is to determine which companies/brands are best represented in search, which keywords are driving traffic to specific sites, etc.

Depending on the company’s budget and goals any or all of these approaches could be used to develop an indication of how the company is positioned relative to competitors. If you haven’t ever conducted a competitive analysis, it’s certainly something you should consider. Even if you have, but it’s been a long time (more than a year) since you’ve revisited that analysis, you should plan to refresh your analysis based on the current environment. Much has changed over the past 12 months.
Competitive analysis is a very important tool in any marketer’s toolkit. We can help you leverage this tool to improve your marketing efforts.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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