It can be hard not to feel envious of our professional competitors. At conferences, we hear all about their successes. We see their social media numbers. We watch them launch (what appears to be) a popular new product.
What if – instead of envy – we viewed our competitors through a lens of curiosity and experimentation? What if we saw what they were doing and learned from it?
Objectively analyzing a competitor’s website and social media accounts is actually one of the best things you can do for your business! When you know what to look for, you can find new ways to brand your business and new ways to connect with your audience.
While you’re poring over your competitor’s stuff, it’s important to remember that while you can gather numbers and insight from their online spaces – how many Instagram followers they have, how many comments their blog posts receive – you’ll never be able to see their bank accounts or list numbers. Maybe no one opens their newsletters! Maybe they’re popular but not particularly profitable.
So conduct your research with a dispassionate eye and don’t get down on yourself if you discover a huge Facebook following or videos with millions of views. Numbers don’t tell the whole story – but they might give you some important insights.
4 questions to ask yourself when you’re looking at your online competitors
What type of content are they producing?
‘Content’ is just marketing-speak for ‘things on the internet.’ Are they writing blog posts? Creating videos? Sharing pretty, on-brand images? Recording podcasts? Giving interviews or writing guest posts?
Check out what they’re creating and the responses they’re getting. Do their blog posts get shared but not commented on? Do they have a huge Instagram following but a tiny Twitter following? To the best of your ability, try to sleuth out why Content Type A is working and Content Type B isn’t. If you have a similar audience, that’s information you can apply to your own content!
What topics are they addressing?
Are they creating tutorials? Answering customer questions? Showing different ways to use their product? Addressing big changes within their industry? Talking about current events?
Again, take a look at what they’re doing and what’s working. It might not work for you, but it might be worth a try.
How does your branding differ?
Mountain Dew and Diet Coke are both sodas. They’re both, essentially, carbonated water that’s been flavored, colored, and bottled. But Mountain Dew has been branded to appeal to funny, adventurous, 20-something guys and Diet Coke has been branded to appeal to social, creative women.
Look through your competitors’ sites and consider who they’re targeting. Is their copy funny, engaging, and casual or super polished and corporate? Which fonts and colors are they using? If they feature people in their ads and branding, what demographic do those people fit into?
When you understand your competitors’ branding and target market you can eithe:r
a) aim your marketing at a different group
b) target that same group more effectively
How are your businesses different? How can you showcase those differences?
YAY Images is in the stock image business; there are many other companies who sell stock photos. How are we different? We’re the Netflix of stock images; we offer streaming images for a monthly subscription fee. Neither Shutterstock or Istock do this. Whenever it’s possible to mention this fact (in an organic, non-annoying way) we do.
Poke around your competitors’ sites and see how your businesses vary. Do you offer free shipping and returns? Have you built philanthropy into your business? Do you work on a 36-hour turnaround? Make sure your ‘point of difference’ is obvious to your audience!
So instead of feeling envious when your biggest competitor launches a new website or product, gather your colleagues, open your browser, and look at everything they’re doing. They just might teach you how to improve your own business!