As you dive into your small business marketing plan, one of the first steps will be to conduct some competitor research. Gaining insight into your competition will help you have a better understanding of how best to market to your target audience. Even if you don’t believe you have any direct competitors or maybe only have one or two companies offering similar services, you may be surprised what you can learn by spending some time on this type of research.
Any business that is offering services comparable to yours should be included in your small business competitor research. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client, how would they begin their buyer’s journey and what would they look for. It’s with that understanding you can dive right into gaining your own intel on your competition!
The first step most buyers would take when searching for a solution to their problem would be to turn to the internet. A quick search using their key questions and phrases should also be your first step in competitor research. By doing this, you gain an understanding of how a customer will start their journey towards looking into yours vs. your competitor services. What comes up first in search engines for the key phrases and questions a buyer would ask? If your company is being outranked by your competition, take a look into why that could be. Are they creating more valuable and specific content on that subject? What types of keywords are they using and what age is the content that is ranking? Using this insight you can add specific keyword focused content creation plans to your Marketing Plan’s Content Calendar. Besides content, your competitors may be ranking on Google with social media channels, review websites, other website domains, landing pages, and more. Take time to dig through all the search results and take inventory of where you stand vs, your competitors as insight into your goals.
Check Out Their Website
While completing your Google research, you’ll probably stumble into your competitors’ websites. This is an important step of small business competition research. Here are some key points to look for when reviewing your competitors’ website:
- What is their value proposition? Mission statement?
- What are their call-to-actions throughout the website? Where do they lead to?
- What’s on their contact page and how do visitors get to it?
- How do they discuss pricing and services on their website?
- What types of content do they have available for download (free and paid)?
- What are they asking on their forms?
- What images are being used throughout the website?
- What keywords are in their website content?
- Do they have a blog? How often do they blog? What type of blog content are they producing?
- Do they have an email newsletter? How do people sign up and what do they get?
Make notes on each of the above questions and anything else noticeable you feel your competition is doing to serve your target audience. Take some time to compare your website with your competitors and add into your Marketing Plan any action needed to be taken to improve your own company website.
Read Their Reviews
One of the first steps in most buyer’s journeys during the consideration stage is to look for reviews on companies. Some testimonials and case studies will likely be found on your competitor’s websites during your research there. But another great way for you to gain insight on what your target audience expects from a service like yours, is to read through reviews of your competitors. This is an excellent way to find out what people like (and possibly what they don’t like!) about your competition.
Take a Look at Their Social Media
What are your competitors doing on social media? Your own social media strategy should be heavily influenced by this insight, so that you can be sure to stand out amongst your competition while still speaking directly to your ideal client. You don’t want to be sharing the same content, articles, memes, and service information as your competition. Your company will want to have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t work by looking into how your competitor’s audience reacts to their social media strategy. What are they posting and how much engagement is it getting? How are they using their social media channels to sell their services? What channels are they most active on and which have the most followers? Who are they following and who are their followers? Use what you learn from asking these questions to develop your own social media content calendar within your Marketing Plan.
- If you don’t feel you have direct competition, take a look at other companies that offer the same or similar services to yours or that would be targeting the same ideal client as your company.
- Start with Google. An Internet Search will take you down the right path in understanding which companies rank for terms that your potential clients are searching for.
- Use your competitor’s websites as a tool to gain insight on how you can improve your own website. Pay close attention to how they are generating leads with calls to actions, forms, landing pages, downloadable content..etc.
- Reviews will tell you what people are liking and not liking about your competition. Be sure to use language in your own marketing that appeals to these ideal customers based on what they show appreciation for.
- Your social media strategy should be developed solely to attract, appeal to and convert your ideal customers. You can gain a ton of insight on what to do and what not to do by looking at your competitors’ social media channels.
- The key is to identify opportunities on how to position your company in a unique way that will appeal to your target audience and help them choose you over your competition!