Maintaining a clear competitor analysis document will help you stay ahead of the competition.
This doesn’t mean copy everything that others are doing, but rather should be treated as research that allows you to sharpen your strategy.
In-depth analysis of all your competitor’s touchpoints is what would be considered good practice.
Learn from what others are doing, see what is working and what needs improvement. This is not a one and done forget about it, but should be something that you are consistently tracking.
Why is it important to do competitor analysis?
I’m sure you’ve heard, “don’t focus on your competitors, focus on your product.”
Well, we’d like to make a slight change to this.
“Be aware of your competitors, but focus on your product.”
Listening to your customers is the most important thing you can do as a business owner. While you can’t please everyone, getting a consensus idea of their needs and feedback is crucial to success.
If your target customer is the same as your competitors, why wouldn’t you learn from them as well?
By understanding your competitor’s actions via an in-depth competitor analysis, you get direct insight into what resonates with their clientele.
You can see what is working for them and use this information to improve your own strategy or find new opportunities to test.
What is in a competitor analysis?
Let’s get to why you’re here.
Completing a competitive analysis can be overwhelming. We’ve put together a free competitor analysis template, along with this guide to walk you through the process.
Alright, let’s set the stage.
If you haven’t already, you can download our free competitor analysis template here.
We first need to get the general information about your competitors sorted out.
This will, of course, be the foundation for your competitor analysis.
These profiles are a snapshot of your competitors and should be easily understood by future readers (yourself/colleagues).
1) Identify your key competition
First things first, you must establish who your competitors actually are.
While there are likely to be many options, we recommend starting with 3 – 5 companies, so as not to overwhelm yourself.
Additional competitors can always be added later.
You probably know your main competitors off the top of your head, but if you need a refresher, the best place to start is a simple Google search.
If you’re offering is localized, then include your area, otherwise just type in the phrase that best describes your product/service.
If you’re selling software check out AlternativeTo. Just type in the leader of your industry and you’ll quickly see a list of their competitors, which would also be yours.
2) General competitor information
We’ve established the competition, now it’s time to do some basic reconnaissance.
Our template includes the top-line information that we found most important, but feel free to add/subtract as many rows as you feel necessary.
Sometimes you won’t be able to find all the answers, so accept that some cells will be blank.
Don’t spend too much time trying to get this perfect, as it’s likely that you will come across these at a later stage.
This information is meant to size up your competition and give you a general idea of what you’re up against.
3) What is their unique selling point?
Yes, we are early into this competitor analysis, but after a quick browse of your competitor’s website, it should be clear of what they believe their unique selling point is.
What are the features that they are pushing their customers to read?
The goal here is to understand your different competitors positioning and build a clear picture of the market.
As you gain more information throughout this analysis, you should come back to this section and update your findings.
4) Competitor SWOT analysis
Back to the basics.
A SWOT analysis is a good starting point for quickly understanding your competition. These don’t need to be long-winded paragraphs, it’s best to keep them in bullet form and straight to the point.
Throughout this competitor analysis, you’ll be coming back to this section, so at this stage, fill out what you can and revisit as new information presents itself.
Quick refresher: SWOT analysis is a simple way of creating a competitor snapshot.
We’ve added a few prompts to give you an idea of things that you could consider for each section.
- What does your competitor do well?
- Where have their biggest successes been?
- What is the most popular aspect of their product/service?
- What does your competitor need to improve on?
- What is the common complaint you see from their customers?
- What important feature are they missing?
- What customer types have they yet to target?
- How could they reposition their product to be more appealing?
- What sales channels are they absent from?
- Which competitors are closest to their offering?
- Are there any regulations/integrations that their product/service relies on?
- What does your product need to do to steal their customers?
Competitive product analysis
Alright, now we know more or less what the competition is all about, but what do they actually sell?
It’s important to break down the different aspects of their product, so you can understand the best way to position your business.
At this stage, focus on the products/services that are in direct competition with your business.
While you’re going through each of these products/services, try to take quick notes of what sticks out. These do not need to be in-depth, the goal here is to somewhat simulate what a customer might see at first glance, what would catch their attention.
This document should be written with the assumption that the next person reading it has never seen it before. No need for an essay, but give enough detail for easy understanding.
5) List their key product features
Here we want to break down each of your competitor’s product/service into its key features.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and evaluate the features that immediately stick out. What are they centering their content and imagery around?
You can add as much detail as you want to each feature, but it’s not necessary to list everything.
It’s best to treat this like a menu. Start with the name and then a brief sentence that explains what it is.
6) Competitive pricing analysis
Pricing is always a factor for clients and it’s important to understand exactly what you’re up against.
Maybe you’re pricing yourself too low or are way above the average. These are things that you need to know.
Even if you have the best-valued product, your tiers could be completely off, which might immediately deter potential clients before they even see your benefits.
Start by listing out every package that your competitor offers and key features that are included. This will give a lay of the land and help you decide the best pricing strategy.
Are they offering a freemium, a trial period or a referral scheme? These are things that you need to know.
Pricing is notorious for changes, whether it be a seasonal discount or changes to packages, being aware of your competitor’s prices doesn’t hurt.
7) Is their roadmap public?
Future features are a bit trickier to find.
Some companies are transparent with their roadmap and others are more guarded.
Sometimes you’ll see hints on social media or in content that is being published by your competitors.
I wouldn’t suggest putting too much focus on this, but if you do come across interesting tidbits, it doesn’t hurt to record them.
These insights give an idea of the direction that your competitor is going.
Competitor marketing strategy
Now that we have a general understanding of who the competition is, let’s dive deeper into their marketing strategy.
We want to understand how each competitor presents itself to its target customers.
8) Competitor website analysis
Apart from directly accessing your competitor’s analytics, there’s no real way to get a completely accurate number on their traffic.
The SimilarWeb tool is a great starting point for seeing estimates of your competitor’s websites. The free version is sufficient enough for the initial analysis.
There are plenty of other free and paid tools out there that can assist with this part of your competitor research, so choose what works best for you.
You can go as deep as you like into this part, use our template as a starting point for your analysis.
9) Content analysis
Great content brings attention to your product.
Creating a well thought out content strategy will pay dividends in the long run.
This starts by understanding your competitor’s approach. You don’t want to copy them, but rather learn what types of articles have been most successful with their audience.
This additional knowledge will help you craft a killer strategy and ensure your content resonates with your target.
We are spoilt with great content analysis tools, best to do your research to find what suits your needs and budget.
While it is possible to do the initial analysis with free tools or manually, it will take a lot of time and you will gather much less information.
In the majority of cases, each piece of content is written with a goal in mind, it’s your mission to figure out if you think it would bring value to your clients.
10) Social media analysis
Social media is the public face of every company.
It’s the persona that we want our customers to see and a channel for interaction.
It’s also the perfect window into your competitor’s strategy.
You’re able to see how they speak with their customers, common issues and areas of emphasis.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of companies will try to push conversations to private messaging. Primarily this is done to protect the personal information of customers. But another reason is to hide these negative interactions from other prospective clients and competitors who might be snooping around for weaknesses.
It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole when researching your competitors. Automating social media monitoring will save you a lot of time.
Remember, just because your competitor is doing something, doesn’t mean it’s right.
Competitor’s public image
Whether it be an article in the newspaper or a disgruntled employee, we have more access than ever before into a company’s public image.
There are many ways to leverage this information. You might find backlink opportunities or even angry customers that you can poach from your competitors.
It doesn’t hurt to keep an ear to the ground.
11) Customer reviews
Who better to see what the public thinks about your competitor than the customers themselves.
There are endless channels where customers can leave reviews, such as:
- Trust Radius
- Google Reviews
- Software Advice
- G2 Crowd
This is just scraping the surface, it’s your job to find where your potential customers are talking. Scan these channels and learn from what’s being said. Maybe you’ll find something you already offer that you never even considered to be a major benefit.
12) Your competitor in the news
A quick Google search of your competitor’s name inside quotation marks in the news section should bring up the most relevant articles.
It’s good to see what the media finds most interesting and uncover opportunities for reporters that you could speak to in the future.
Keeping track of popular articles will make your life much easier when you need to reference back to them in the future.
Another simple trick is to use Google Alerts for terms you deem important.
13) Popular posts from external sources
It’s not just your competitors that will be posting about their products, there’s a good chance that others will be talking about it too.
Whether this is on a forum or an external blog, it’s helpful to keep this information stored somewhere.
Maintaining a quick reference for these articles and threads will save you future headaches.
Just like for the reporters, it will also give you a list of potential people that you can contact during outreach phases.
How frequently should you monitor your competitors?
Ok, that would be very excessive. Your initial analysis will take some time, but once you have completed it, then it’s just a matter of staying up to date.
The most important thing is to not get consumed with your competitors to the point that it takes away from your creativity. Just because they are doing something a certain way, doesn’t make it the correct way.
Be different, test new ideas, but it does help to be aware of what everyone else is doing.
Maybe you’ll find an idea that bombed for the competitor, but you see the mistake they made and that their premise was actually good.
Once you have completed your initial competitor analysis, Accordably does the rest of the work for you and can monitor competitor web pages. We don’t want you wasting your time constantly checking what your competitors are posting.
Focus on your product and receive a weekly summary email of all your competitor’s actions in a clean report that can be read in minutes.
This template is a competitor analysis foundation and it’s up to you to customize it to your business’s needs. However, there are a few more interesting channels that you can keep an eye on for insights.
a) Employee reviews
There’s nothing like a scorned employee.
Doing a quick check on websites like Glassdoor may give you some interesting insights behind the curtain of your competitors.
b) Career pages
Seeing what skill sets competitors are looking for in future employees might give some clues into their strategy.
Maybe they’re looking to increase their video content by hiring an internal videographer or might be putting the focus on data by bringing on a data scientist.
This information is always interesting to know.
c) What is the tech stack behind your competitor?
This might be more for your own curiosity, but BuiltWith is a great tool to get an idea of what your competition is working with.
Not the most important, but could be interesting to look under the hood.