It’s also one of the tools least used by marketers, which gives you a huge advantage if you do it properly. Best of all it’s free, simple and fast and will make you faster and more efficient in your future efforts when building campaigns, creating content or making decisions. Read on to level up your marketing.
The purpose of competitor research is for you to see what the best companies in your space are doing, so you can make informed decisions around how to compete with them or learn from them.
There are many ways to approach competitor research. Here’s a simple approach we find incredibly effective when starting work for a new client.
Always start here. You need to build a list of websites/companies you will base your research on. Companies to consider fall into three groups:
1. Direct competitors: This includes companies you compete with in your sales efforts. It also includes the companies you compete with via digital channels - who appears in Google when doing branded or non-branded searches in your area?
2. Similar companies in other locations: This includes companies just like you, but who you don't directly compete with because they are in different locations or markets. This can be in other parts of Australia or internationally. For many businesses, you want to look to the US, UK, Canada, NZ etc where many industries are very similar to Australia. The company doing the best job at marketing themselves is unlikely to be the one just around the corner.
3. Non-competitors targeting similar personas: These are companies who market to your clients' personas but offer a different product or service. You'll never compete against them, but you might be able to learn from them.
Depending on your industry and the level of competition you should aim to build a list of 10 - 20 quality websites to review. Only include poor quality campaigns/websites in this list if they are very significant competitors and you therefore want to keep an eye on them. Otherwise, you want a list of companies doing strong work in their digital presence and marketing. Always learn from the best.
Here are some tips on how to build your list:
First, manually explore your competitor’s websites. Unless they are a significant direct competitor, you should close their tab if they are approaching digital poorly.
For the websites which remain, bookmark them and save them in a folder in your browser. This is important as it means you can return to these sites quickly and easily in the future. Research is a process, not a one-off event.
The next step is to spend a bit of time on each site. What is the quality like on these sites? How do you compare? How do other companies address the prospect? What sort of language and words do they use? How do they paint the picture of the prospect’s pain, and the solution? Basic research can help you better understand your own prospects or see angles you would not have considered otherwise.
What are the headlines on key pages? Are there interesting offers they are making? CTAs? What sort of topics are competitors writing about in their main pages and blogs? How does it differ to you?
Do your competitors have brilliant websites and your own website is terrible? This could be a future conversion killer. Do you stand alone in terms of the language you are using - is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Once you know the best quality companies you need to do a deeper dive:
There are lots of tools we use which greatly assist in answering the above questions. A few we can recommend include:
For a deeper look into competitor research for ads and creative, read our article on 5 ways your competitors can help your Google Ads campaigns be more successful.
If all you do is follow these steps, make a series of decisions and then move on and quickly forget everything, you are making your life a lot harder than it needs to be.
You need to record everything you have learnt. You should then come back to this when you are looking for inspiration. Open all the sites again - what's changed? If you take this seriously, you'll get new ideas incredibly quickly in the future.
If you’ve got this far, you’re probably thinking this sort of research is a pretty good idea. You might even be thinking it could really impact the return you get from your marketing efforts (you’d be right).
Do you know what’s sure to make it completely ineffective for you? Not actually doing anything about it!
So, before you get distracted, why not put aside the next 30 minutes and make a start on the above steps. I can all but guarantee you will be impressed by what you learn.
David Lawrence is the MD and Co-Founder of Rocket, an award-winning Australian digital marketing agency. He is also the co-author of the Amazon #1 best-selling marketing book 'Smarter Marketer'. David has presented at several events including Inbound, Search Marketing Summit, Mumbrella360, CEO Institute and a variety of seminars and in-house sessions.
David has built his expertise from a diverse career, starting with an economics degree before jumping into all things web in the late 90s.
Today, David is Rocket's Managing Director and is known for his ability to find clarity in the bigger picture. He is highly respected as a digital marketing authority, sharing his expertise with an extensive network here in Australia and around the world.
Everything an in-house marketer needs to craft a winning digital marketing strategy in 2023.