Web Marketing: How To Analyze What The Competition Is Doing?
When defining your web marketing plan, it is essential to start with a solid analysis of your competition. It alone can help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses, inspire you with the successes of your competitors and ultimately anticipate their development projects.
Without this competitive audit, you risk going blind to a dead end. But what is the procedure to follow to effectively monitor your competitors on the Internet? Which benchmarking tools should you prefer? And in the end, how to define your positioning? The point to succeed in 5 steps is the analysis of your competition.
Why Do You Need To Analyze Your Competition?
Whatever your industry, one thing is certain: when it comes to getting your message across to customers or prospects on the Internet, you are never alone and you need to stand out from your competitors. By studying their practices, you can position yourself in relation to them, draw inspiration from some of their strategies and attract your target Internet users.
The advantages of an analysis of your competition are numerous:
- Get to know your market environment better. It’s always good to know on which terrain you’re facing your opponents.
- Identify commonalities among all the players in your sector of activity. To be recognized as a credible competitor by your customers, it is essential to follow certain mandatory passages.
- Inspire you with your competitors’ best practices. Without wanting to fall into plagiarism, it is likely that some marketing actions of your competitors will become sources of inspiration for your teams.
- Do not repeat the same failures and mistakes. Stay pragmatic and avoid falling into the same traps as your competitors by repeating some of their actions
- Clarify your added value in the market. Analyzing your competition also helps you more clearly identify the strengths of your brand and offering, and what makes you unique in the minds of your potential customers.
You carry out your competitive analysis upstream of your marketing plan, as a first step. Then you carry it out continuously, as and when updating your marketing actions. You can implement it internally, or by calling on external experts specializing in web marketing.
What is a competitive analysis?
Be careful not to fall into the trap of “copying and pasting” the actions of your competitors. “Analyze” does not mean “imitate.” Quite the contrary. Focus your efforts on your competitors’ best practices, but see this analysis as the first round of a creativity exercise. It’s important to come out of it with a vision of your own strengths and a new way to serve your customers in unique ways.
Analyzing Your Competitors: The First Step
To launch your competitive analysis, the first step is to define the scope of your study, with at the same time:
- a list of all the competitors you want to study;
- a list of elements to compare in each of them.
How to list the competitors to study?
To define the competitors to be analyzed, start from a proven method, such as that of the 3 levels of competition. You can find all the details in most reference marketing strategy books such as the Mercator. To list your competitors to study, remember the essential points:
- Your direct competitors, who offer similar or easily substitutable products to yours, in the same market segment. For example, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are direct competitors;
- Your indirect competitors, whose products address market segments different from yours but which can still replace your offer. For example, fruit juices or soft drinks are indirect competitors of Coca-Cola;
- Your generic competitors, who offer different products from yours but meet the same customer needs. Tap water is a generic competitor of Coca-Cola.
Concretely, here is how to list your direct competitors:
- put yourself in your customers’ shoes and search for your own products on your favorite search engine, on marketplaces in your industry and on social networks ;
- Once your search is launched, don’t settle for the first competitors found. Scroll down the results pages looking for less visible competing products or innovations that will expand your view of the market.
To list your other types of competitors, keep the same mindset: put yourself in your customers’ shoes, but instead of looking for your products, research the needs your products meet. Thus, you get a list of substitute products that offer a different technology or a different distribution method, but that meet the same customer need.
By progressing in concentric circles, you will quickly get (too) many results, which you will have to filter to build your list of competitors to benchmark. Select:
- the undisputed leaders in your market
- new entrants and the most innovative players
- the most active brands on the web
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What are the key points to analyze among your competitors?
For each of the competitors listed, you must carry out an inventory of their position on the market. Simple to implement, the SWOT matrix will give you a good analysis grid to study the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each of your competitors (more details on the SWOT matrix in this explanatory video from the marketing research firm Xerfi).
To structure your analysis, proceed “funnel”, starting from a marketing inventory in general, then focusing more and more on the specific aspects related to digital communication in particular.
Of course, you need to do the same work for your own brand and fill out a SWOT matrix to take stock of your web marketing strategy:
- What are the assets you have internally to stand out to your customers?
- What are your current weaknesses, what are the points that your customers reproach you most often?
- What are the opportunities to seize in your market?
- What are the threats to your brand if you don’t adapt to market developments?
The SWOT matrix has the advantage of harmonizing your analysis for all your competitors, and in the end, you have an excellent tool to visually compare the forces present in your competitors.
You have understood it: you can adapt your competitive study to the key elements you want, choosing those that best match the communication actions you are preparing.
The Best Tools To Analyze The Competition
To analyze the digital communication of the competition and set up an effective watch, the tools are numerous. But the main thing is to focus on one or two tools that are best suited to the type of information you’re looking for about your competitors.
Analyze the natural referencing of your competitors
In the field, the use of the SEMrush tool is one of the must-haves. You can get key elements on the positioning of your competitors, their target keywords, their semantic field, their netlinking strategy…
Google’s free tools (via Google Trends or Search Console for example) can also provide you with interesting information about the SEO of competing sites.
Monitor your competitors’ social media activity
Regardless of the social networks on which you want to launch your campaigns, you can get a good overview of the popularity of your competitors with the Buzzsumo tool. You just need to enter the address of a competing site to retrieve data about what works for it on social networks. For example, you can identify its most successful content in terms of engagement or identify the influencers who have had the most impact on your priority themes.
A social communication tool like Swello also integrates specific features for the analysis of your competitors, with comparisons on the number of posts, followers or engagements with their respective communities.
Dissect from the inside the organization of your competitors
No need to infiltrate your competitors’ digital marketing team to know everything (or almost) about their internal organization. Several services allow you to do this from your own computer, with ease. The data provided by SimilarWeb can be valuable to compare you to your competitors: number of unique visitors, bounce rate, origin of visits, advertising networks used, affiliate sites, most visited content…
Another essential tool to better understand the digital strategy of a competitor. From the address of a site, you get the list of all the marketing tools used (CMS, extensions, newsletter …) as well as technological information (host, tracking …) that will allow you to better understand how this competitor works.
Implement competitive intelligence tools
Media monitoring tools allow you to automatically sort through the billions of pieces of information that are constantly circulating in your market. Over time, or occasionally on a specific topic, you can use free alert systems like Google Alerts. Directly linked to your Google account, it is easily usable and works from keywords you choose.
Mention’s services are much more sophisticated (and paid). They monitor the web and social networks in real time, looking for the alerts you have set up. This gives you information about what customers are saying about your competitors or about campaigns launched on different platforms.
Positioning Yourself vis-a-vis The Competition
You have collected all this information on the key points of your competitors’ digital strategy. Now you can move on to the next phase: assert the positioning of your offer. The goal is simple: in the minds of your customers, your product must be associated with a rewarding image, distinct from that of competing products. Since in your industry, the offer is overabundant, customers need to clearly perceive the difference they will be able to make from your products.
Define your Unique Selling Point
The USP (or Unique Selling Point) of your product is the unique advantage that will convince customers to choose you. You must make your offer an indisputable reference in the field you have chosen. To select this axis of differentiation that you will work, you must take into account:
- The credibility of your offer: your customers must perceive that your brand will be able to keep its promises.
- The coherence of your actions: your entire digital communication mix must go in the same direction. We must avoid sending confusing messages that would lead to blurring the positioning, or even making it disappear.
- The viability of positioning: your offer must be profitable over time and you must therefore position yourself in a market segment large enough for you to be able to develop there in a sustainable way.
- Of course, the notion of USP remains adaptable. Depending on the requirements of your market, you may have to differentiate yourself according to two axes and not just one. In practice, this is not a problem, as long as you avoid multiplying promises and stay focused on consistent communication.
To help you identify positioning opportunities in your market, positioning mapping is a simple and very effective tool. It represents the place occupied by your competitors in the minds of consumers, according to two axes that you choose.
To carry out your positioning mapping:
- List the main expectations of customers in your market: what are their most important criteria when they buy your product or that of a competitor?
- Select the two most relevant criteria: the first will represent the horizontal axis, the second the vertical axis.
- Note the quality perceived by customers of your competitors’ products: from -5 to +5 for example, according to each of the two criteria chosen.
- Place each product on the map.
You get a visual representation of your competitors’ positions. In the middle (near the intersection of the two axes) are the offers that are not very differentiating, which respond in an “average” way to customer expectations. In extreme corners, on the other hand, you find divisive products, which have chosen to bet everything on a single positioning criterion.
Another advantage of positioning mapping: you can easily spot areas not covered by competitors. In this case, it is probably an opportunity to be studied to meet unmet customer needs.
Digital communication, a reflection of your positioning
At the end of this competition analysis work, you have all the cards in hand to decline the positioning you have chosen through your digital communication actions. It is important that they are consistent with the strategy decided, as well as the price, distribution or other variables of the marketing mix.
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