No matter the size of a company, competitor research is a crucial aspect of any marketing plan. Creating valuable products, addressing pain points, and offering exceptional customer service is not enough — businesses must stay updated about their competitors’ efforts and offerings. It is not enough to make business decisions based on industry knowledge alone.
At Absolute Holdings Group (AHG), we apply proactive methods to help our clients develop effective competitor analysis techniques. These efforts not only help us understand our clients’ competitors better; they also enable us to give our customers an edge.
One of the first things you should research is your competitors’ brand positioning. We’re here to help you gather relevant data that can take your business to new heights.
What Is Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is the theoretical place a brand has in the target market’s mind. A successful strategy involves researching, understanding, and refining a company’s distinction.
Whether you’re in real estate, insurance, health, manufacturing, or the retail industry, chances are you have several competitors in the market. You’re all probably offering similar products and services to the same target audience. Differentiating yourself from these competitors comes down to brand positioning.
Here are some benefits companies enjoy through brand positioning efforts.
● Market differentiation: By proving a unique selling proposition, addressing a pain point, or delivering a customized experience, you can set yourself apart from the competition.
● Standing out from the clutter: A typical American sees dozens of ads per day. Brand positioning efforts can help you stand out and grab your target market’s attention.
● Encourage trust: Consumers want to support a reliable company. Branding efforts can help earn their trust.
● High margins: Branding efforts allow companies to price products and services based on perceived value.
● Unified messaging: Clearly defined branding efforts help businesses establish a distinct voice across all collaterals.
Brand positioning is a vital step in identifying a company’s place in the market. It can enhance marketing strategies, strengthen customer relationships, and set a business apart from a sea of competition.
Brand positioning is a vital step in identifying a company’s place in the market.
Types of Competitors
Our clients often think of competitors as companies offering similar products or services going after the same target market. However, there are three types of competitors: direct, indirect, and replacement. It’s essential to understand how each one can affect your business.
Direct competitors are the most pronounced types of business rivals. They offer similar products or services aimed at the same customers. For example, McDonald’s and Wendy’s are direct competitors. They are both fast-food restaurants with similar menus and price points.
When creating strategies, we often focus on direct competitors. They’re the ones clients will compare your business with in terms of product quality, distribution, price, and customer service.
Indirect competitors are business rivals offering similar products or services but with different end goals. They can also be companies that don’t provide the same products or services but address similar needs.
For example, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are indirect competitors. They are both quick-serve restaurants that offer affordable comfort food. However, they use different marketing strategies to reach their target audiences.
Indirect competitors’ marketing efforts have less impact than direct ones, but we still recommend researching this category of competition.
Replacement competitors or phantom competitors are businesses offering different products or services but may affect each other’s revenue when consumers choose one over the other. Replacement competitors are often the most challenging competitors to identify, but they are still important to understand.
For example, McDonald’s and Stouffer’s frozen products are replacement competitors. A customer’s McDonald’s purchase may indirectly affect Stouffer’s revenue and vice versa.
To identify competitors, we recommend the following techniques:
● Check out business directories
● Read reports from market research companies
● Conduct online research using your primary keywords
● Visit exhibition and trade fair events
● Study your customers’ online behavior
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to identify your direct, indirect, and replacement competitors.
Research Your Competitors’ Brand Positioning Strategies
One of the most crucial aspects of competitor research is learning about how rivals try to position themselves. Keep in mind that their brand positioning efforts may not always match how consumers perceive them.
As a guide, compare their efforts with these brand personalities.
● Competence: Reliability, success, confidence
● Excitement: Young, spirited, free
● Ruggedness: Hard-working, athletic, strong
● Sincerity: Wholesome, down-to-earth, family-oriented
● Sophistication: Elegant, exclusive, prestigious
There are many ways to get a feel of how your competitors want the market to perceive them. Here are some of the most convenient ways to learn more about their efforts:
In today’s digital world, it’s typically convenient to gather vital information about competitors in a single visit to their website. We recommend checking the About Us page first — it usually contains crucial information about mission and vision statements, unique selling propositions, and brand stories. It provides an insight into the people behind the company and what they value.
You can also learn a lot by going through their product or service pages, including their pricing and the perception they want to achieve. Lastly, check out their blog page. Any company investing in blogs is serious about its digital marketing efforts.
Social Media Pages
A few minutes on your competitors’ social media pages can impart a lot of knowledge — and we don’t just mean Facebook and Instagram! Apart from these two top platforms, find out what other platforms your competitors are utilizing. Doing so will help you determine their target market and learn about their strengths and weaknesses.
Study their tone, content preferences, post frequency, and customer interactions. You might get social media tips from them. Also, check which posts get the most engagement.
Digital Advertising Efforts
Another convenient way to conduct competitor research is by studying their advertising efforts. First, you can type in different keywords to check if they have sponsored listings on search engines. If you have the budget, we recommend using competitor keyword research tools to help you dig deeper into your competitors’ strategies.
Additionally, you can check their social media advertisements. A full-service marketing and advertising firm can help you determine how often your competitors advertise on their pages and how much they spend on advertising.
Gauge Your Target Market’s Perceptions
Marketers should understand that a company’s brand positioning methods don’t always work out as planned. Your competitor’s efforts might try to achieve a specific perception, but the target market’s view may not always match their goals. Apart from learning about how they want to be perceived, it’s vital to look at your competitors from the target market’s point of view.
Here are some ways to learn about what your target market thinks of your business rivals:
Check User-Generated Content
Social media pages may reveal crucial information about your competitors, but we also recommend checking user-generated content such as review pages. Reading such content can tell you a lot about how happy or dissatisfied consumers are with your competitors.
A whopping 90% of consumers read review pages like Google, Yelp, and Amazon before trying a product or service. Looking through them will help you determine what consumers like and don’t like about your competitors.
Social listening means observing social media platforms for brand mentions, including comments and hashtags. You can use the search feature on these pages to learn how consumers both discuss and communicate with your competitors. There are social media tools available which allow you to receive notifications every time a consumer mentions them.
Investing time on social listening will give you an idea about your competitors practices.
Surveys help determine what your target market thinks of your competitors and your brand. These marketing tools will give you a fresh perspective on how you can serve consumers best.
Through surveys, you can learn about your target market’s preferences, brand perspectives, and pain points that can help you tap new opportunities and strengthen existing strategies.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Once you gather all the necessary information, you can proceed with developing a marketing plan. There are many variations of this report, but these components should always be present:
● Objectives: Always start a marketing plan with a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goal.
● Market research: Include data on the population, potential market size, buying habits, and trends.
● Target market: Having a clearly defined audience helps you determine how to spend your budget wisely.
● Competitive analysis: Include your brand positioning research in this part of the marketing plan.
● Strategies: Given the information you have on your competitors, create a plan to help you take your business to the next level.
● Budget: Include a monthly allocation to implement your proposed strategies.
● Key performance indicators: These measures should determine the effectiveness of your plan.
It takes time and effort to develop a marketing plan, but it’s a valuable tool that can help you achieve your business goals.
Once you integrate a powerful brand positioning strategy into your marketing plan, you can start differentiating your company from all your competitors.
Become an Industry Standout
Learning about the competition can help you determine the next steps in achieving your business goals. Once you integrate a powerful brand positioning strategy into your marketing plan, you can start differentiating your company from all your competitors.