One of the most important things to do when setting up a business or marketing campaign is to take a good look at what your competition is doing. This of course, does not mean that you should duplicate what has already been done, because that could in fact be counterproductive. What studying your competitors does is that it gives you a greater sense of perspective on your market and what your desired audience responds (and does not respond) to. We’ve come up with a list of ten significant things that you can learn from studying your competitors for creating your Inbound Marketing strategy.
1. How to Design your website
Go on, don’t be ashamed – take a peek or three at what the competition is doing. It’s not unusual, neither is it unethical to lift a few design and layout pointers from your competitors’ websites and adapt them to suit your needs. Browse through their websites from a user’s point of view to get a feel of their user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). This will give you valuable user insight into what you like about their websites and what doesn’t work. You can use this information to make your website better and more responsive than the competition. Creativity, they say, is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. This is the ‘perspiration’ bit.
2. How to Increase your Brand Awareness and Reach with little to no Budget
Studying how your competitors are reaching their audiences can help you with insight into what platforms and language your potential users like to interact with. It will teach you what they are doing online and offline to engage audiences creatively without using a substantial budget. Through the use of social media platforms, it is even possible to piggyback on the established following of your competitors and gain your own following by crow barring your way into their conversations and engagement. For example, if your offering uses a light-hearted, humorous approach to audience engagement, it may be possible to engage in playful sparring with more established competitors, with the desired effect of exciting audiences and getting them involved in a conversation that is now yours. Of course, care should be taken when using this approach so that it does not backfire or create backlash.
3. The Best Way to Blog
As with the previous points, examining how your competition blogs can save you the stress of a lengthy learning curve. Getting a feel of what topics they blog about, how often they blog, what demographics they target, what language they use and what fresh ideas they have, can give you a nice shortcut from “new” to “experienced”.
4. How to Write Quality Content
Is that blog series you are planning really going to have the desired effect? Is your social media copy exciting or boring? Is your website copy drab and uninspiring? One way to find out is to carry out expensive and time-consuming audience research. If you have neither the time nor the money, you could however, study the engagement figures of the competition. Free tools like Alexa can give you information about your competitors’ site rankings, unique visitors, bounce rates and visitor locations. You can then take a look at which of them has the best figures and what content strategy they employ. What are they doing that you aren’t and what ideas of yours can you add? Problem solved!
5. Biting the Bullet and Using Paid Advertising Can be a Great Idea
Of course, with everyone struggling for a piece of the great ‘unpaid exposure’ pie, this space can become saturated and hard to make an impact on. There is only so far that your content can go when everyone else is trying to achieve the same results using the same basic strategies. Some of your competitors may have opted to jump the queue and pay for advertising exposure, with varying results. Scope out which of their paid advertising campaigns have worked well and why. This may well help you in making a decision regarding the content of your desired campaign, its method of delivery and the budget you are willing to work with.
6. Finding New Customers
Want a bigger audience? More customers? Well, guess where they are? That’s right, with the competition! Within the remit of ethical engagement, do not be afraid to go to your competitors’ turf, whether on social media or on their native platforms to engage potential customers directly and direct them to your offerings. You can even use information gathered by competitors to reach new customers, such as customer e-mail address databases, which are sometimes available for a fee.
7. Receiving Instant Feedback from a Customer’s Perspective
Ever wondered what your customers are really thinking about your service, your platform and your content? Think of yourself as a customer and go your competitors’ platforms. Note down the things you do not like and those you like and compare them to what you offer. In so doing, you can proactively respond to customer needs even before a customer actually contacts you with feedback.
8. Improving Market Intelligence
If you are struggling to find out about your market size and demographics, consumer needs, potential locations and other such data, you can again piggyback on more established competitors by examining all their available data and extracting that which is relevant to you. In the event that there are no well-established competitors, you can still take a look at the data available on all your competitors and reach a rough approximation of the information that you need.
9. Increasing Website Traffic and Search Ranking
The SEO keywords, strategy and methods used by websites similar to yours should inform what your equivalent strategy should be. Discover what keywords your competitors use to achieve higher visibility and search rankings, and then craft your own unique search terms and keywords to lift your rankings higher.
10. How to Create Meaningful Relationships with Customers Using Social Media
The dedicated follower-ship that some of your competitors may enjoy on social media is usually down to the type of interaction and its frequency. Study their posting schedule for a couple of weeks and find out what they post that gets engagement, which posts get the most engagement, when they post, and what tone or language is used in interacting with their audiences. Implement the successful bits of their strategy and fuse them with your own original ideas. Be careful not to duplicate a competitor’s social personality outright as this could lead to audience fatigue or even backlash.
Did you find this article useful, or have you ever successfully understudied your competition to make your Inbound Marketing more impactful? Share this article or drop a comment below with your experience.