When you’re entering a new market, it can be difficult to gauge the competitive landscape. The companies you’re competing with in one market might be completely different from the companies you’re taking on in a new market.
If you want to give yourself the best chance of success, you should carry out an analysis of other businesses’ digital footprints in order to leapfrog the competition.
Conducting a Competitive Analysis for a Multi-Location Business
“A competitive analysis is the analysis of your competitors and how your business compares,” writes Shopify’s Kaleigh Moore. “By evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, you can begin to formulate how to give your company an advantage.”
Exactly what you analyze will depend on your goals, Moore continues. Competitive analysis can be very specific – focusing solely on a competitor’s website, for instance. Or it can be much broader and take into account their entire presence and marketing strategy.
It doesn’t matter so much whether your approach is broad or laser-focused. The important thing is that you do it every time you enter a new market.
Find Out Who the Local Digital Competition Really Is
The companies you think you are competing with may not be the ones you are actually competing with online.
When it comes to digital presence – and search engines, in particular – your business rivals and SEO competitors may not be one and the same, writes Awario’s Masha Maksimava. Some may be primary competitors who have the same offering, but there’s every chance you’ll also be up against publishers and secondary competitors who work in the same industry but offer different products.
Luckily, it is easy to identify your competitors using online tools or services. Once you know who is your competition, you can come up with a plan to beat them. You can do this by yourself but it is sometimes better to hire marketing experts in your industry to help you out. For example, Home Service Direct is an agency that helps home service businesses grow their digital presence. They are the better option for a cleaning or decorating business, for example, because they specialize in their industry and know all the tricks that will help you rank well.
But as we said before, your competition might not be who you think it is. Imagine a growing gym franchise, for example. Local competition in each market will definitely include other gyms. In some markets, however, the local conversations around fitness happening online might get led by a local yoga studio or a mixed martial arts gym.
That has to factor into your competitive analysis. From a local SEO perspective, it might not be hard to rank for “gyms near me” search. But local residents might also be searching for “how to lose weight,” and a local vitamin shop is owning that traffic.
As SEO PowerSuite founder and CMO Aleh Barysevich puts it, “Your top SEO competitors are the ones who rank in the first search page of the keywords you’re targeting, regardless of whether they’re your business competitors.”
Make Note of What Works for Other Brands
Another important step is to examine your direct competitors, even if they’re digital presences aren’t massive. Poptin.com cofounder Tomer Aharon looks at competitors’ digital presences to learn everything he can about new markets:
“We create a spreadsheet with the names of all the competitors and write down who the founders are, when the company was founded, how many employees they have, what their distribution channels are, where most of their traffic comes from, their pricing, features, and also read their last blog posts and the positive and negative reviews they got so we can learn from their mistakes.”
Studying your competition’s online marketing efforts can help you get your SEO, social and content marketing efforts off the ground as quickly as possible.
They’ve done the hard work. Now, you can just copy what works.
“Copying other people’s marketing ideas is fair game, as long as you gain insights into how they work, and how well they work, by closely monitoring their activity in the marketplace,” says marketing consultant Kern Lewis.
Lewis points out that small banks and retailers are notorious for keeping a close eye on larger competitors, letting them waste marketing dollars and only copying what works.
Find Ways to Differentiate Your Brand Locally
The work you do at this stage is also an opportunity to find ways to stand out. “For example, if the majority of the competition is focusing solely on creating written blog content, maybe there’s an opportunity to gain a notable online presence by focusing on video content instead,” Gazdecki says.
If you already have a strong digital presence, competitor analysis is also a great way to identify what you’re already doing better than your competitors. Then, keep doing more of that, advises lead conversion expert Lilach Bullock. “Plus, it provides you with a great benchmarking opportunity so you can understand how well your marketing efforts are paying off.”
Understanding your competitor’s digital presence can improve all areas of your business, not just marketing, writes Mention’s Brittany Berger. If a competitor stops offering a certain product feature, you can create a campaign targeted at those unhappy customers. When competitors get featured in the press, you have someone else to contact. If the competition’s customers are excited about a new feature, you can let your product team know it’s time to put it into development.
Get the Customers’ View of the Market, Too
Competitive analysis can help confirm your business decision to enter a market and understand your future place in it, writes Moira Vetter, founder and CEO of Modo Modo Agency in Atlanta. It’s good to get an idea of how many people you are competing with, but it’s even better to get an idea of their customers.
“Do they already have major named clients they are referencing for credibility?” Vetter writes. “Do they appear to have one big client or dozens of established customers? Knowing these things can help you refine your ideal target market. Will you be a niche player or mass-market focused? Will you focus on a set of enterprise customers or a sea of small businesses?”
The work you’re doing at this stage puts you in the shoes of customers, writes brand strategist Skot Waldron. By completing a competitive analysis, you’ll be able to understand what other business’ brands look like in the eyes of customers and then use that information to shape your own brand.
Understanding your competition is essential if you want your business to survive and then grow, writes author and speaker Jeff Haden. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of current market players can be particularly effective, especially if you can pinpoint smaller companies who are particularly vulnerable to new companies entering the marketplace.
Continually Monitor Competitors for Ongoing Success
It’s not enough to do a one-off competitive analysis before entering a new market. Once you’ve launched your new location, you’ll need to continually keep tabs on your competitors.
Doing so can give you help you generate new ideas, develop insights and improve your own brand’s positioning, writes digital marketer Svitlana Graves.
If this article has taught you one thing, it’s that assessing your competition is not a waste of time or even a sign of weakness. By keeping close tabs on your competitors, you can make sure that your business is always the market leader.