One of the cornerstones of any solid marketing plan is competitive research. It’s not enough to merely compose a mission statement for your company, or prepare a marketing budget, or target your ideal customer—you need to turn a critical eye to the competition as well. Because looking at them is looking at you, regardless of the size of your business or industry. Their weaknesses can be your strengths; what makes them ordinary in the marketplace can be what allows you to stand out.
There are repercussions to not making competitive research a fundamental part of your marketing plan, and unfortunately, it’s a common mistake made by B2B marketers. Many believe that because they have plenty of industry knowledge, they can base their marketing efforts on assumption and instinct. But the truth is, industries are always changing, and so are the decision makers.
Here’s what you can expect to happen if you neglect competitive research—and solutions to solving the problem.
Your website never ranks as high as your competitors
Say you’ve built a new CRM solution that you’re positive edges your competitors in terms of quality and efficacy. But you come to find out that many other B2B companies with similar solutions are ranking higher than you on search engines? Well, if you don’t perform competitive research, that’s something you’ll completely miss out on, making it hard for your target audience to find you.
The solution: start observing your competitors’ online activities and see where they rank on the SEO end of things by doing a keyword analysis. But like any good spy, you’ll need the right tools. Pros recommend Ahrefs, which is consistently ranked as one of the top SEO tools around. It will allow you to monitor your competitors’ backlinks and, above all else, clue you in on how to get more organic search traffic to your website.
You’ll lag behind on social media
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the service industry or the entertainment business, whether you cut lawns for a living or run a Fortune 500 company—all companies in this day and age need a social media presence. But unfortunately for you, your social sites don’t exist in a vacuum—your competitors are right there with you. And if you neglect competitive analysis, you’ll be left wondering why you’re not getting as many likes, shares, and mentions as they are. Fewer likes mean less interest; fewer mentions indicates less of a conversation with your target audience.
The solution: You can perform competitive research by adopting a tool that will send you an alert each time your competitors are mentioned on social media. SocialMention is a great tool for this that focuses on real-time alerts, so you can keep tabs on what’s working for them (as well as yourself) in the social sphere. It also gives direct insights into what keywords are being used across all social platforms, so you can better form your posts to what your audience is already talking about.
Your content marketing will miss the target
Another reason your website might not be ranking is due to lack of interest in the content you’re marketing (blogs, vlogs, white papers, etc.). And that content might not be landing because, well, maybe the competition is doing it better. And if you neglect research and change, your content will continue to go unnoticed.
The solution: obviously you’ll want to keep eyes on your competitors’ content production. More importantly, keep tabs on the highest ranking content in your industry. You don’t have time to search through all this material, so utilize a tool like BuzzSumo, which will showcase the most popular content on any website.
You won’t serve your clients as effectively as you should
Maybe your customer retention numbers are lagging, or you have fewer brand evangelists than you’d like. Perhaps the reason is that you’re just not offering service on par with your competitors. Again, you can tweak your customer service as much as you want, but it won’t reach its potential if you never understand what your competitors are doing better.
The solution: just like you want to look over the customer reviews and testimonials on all your pages, you’re going to want to see those of your competitors as well. Are customers routinely hailing a specific facet of your competitors’ service but not yours? Well, then you have your answer—you have areas that need to be reworked within a new strategy.
The above scenarios shouldn’t discourage you, because competitor research is only going to help you move up and improve where you already are. Marketing is all about standing out from the competition, but how can you do that if you aren’t sure what the competition is doing? Stick to the above solutions, and you’ll be well positioned to pull ahead of your competitors in the marketplace.