“Know your enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Ok, maybe it is a little extreme to call your competitors your enemies, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s just go with it. You may not be very competitive (sort of like me), and you may argue that there is plenty of space at the top. However, the fact is that there can only be one No.1, and if you’re not out to be No.1, i.e. the best in your field, then uhmm…
That said, let’s talk about being the best, No.1. One key strategy for success in business is knowing your competition. I have not yet come across business literature that does not stress this point, whether the focus is on marketing, advertising, HR or any other aspect of business. Most Business Plan templates (yes, we’ve all been there) have sections that require you to consider your competition. Why? Because you ought to know your competition in order for you to be different from them. You must differentiate yourself, product or service, and this is what will drive customers to you. You cannot do this if you do not know what you need to differ from.
These days, online marketing is an essential aspect of every marketing plan. How you engage your customers on your website, across your social media channels, etc. can go a long way in determining the success of your business. Whether you’re selling soap on the street, brewing specialty coffee in the village market or you’re a shoemaker, if you want to reach a wider audience and grow your business, the place to do it is online; and what you must recognize is that your competition (your enemies) are either already online or thinking about it. If they’re online, what are they doing there? There’s a simple way to find out: follow them!
Follow your competition online. Now, you if only think about this in terms of likes and followers, you may miss the point. The idea is to stay abreast of their activities: new marketing campaigns, product launches, changes to their processes, etc. This is invaluable information when designing your own campaign, product or service in the sense that you model your own campaign, product or service after what your competition did and was successful, or you can see where they fell short and offer something that differs in those areas. In summary, you can use the information however you wish.
Visit their website
I know it seems counter-intuitive to spend hours on your competitor’s website, but think about it this way: if the website is their (online) shop window, then you have a front-row seat into their business. Similar to their online channels, you can monitor press releases, product launches, new traffic conversion tactics, and much more. Again, you can do with this information what you wish, but just make sure you have it.
Knowing what your competition is doing is one thing, knowing how effective what they’re doing is, is another. That is where statistics come in. Ordinarily, this information is not readily available – most systems only allow the Webmaster (and people authorized by the webmaster) to access this information. However, there is a new company that has built a tool which allows you access this information, and they’re called SimilarWeb.
SimilarWeb gives you information such as a website’s rank, traffic overview and more. In the traffic overview, you can see where the traffic is coming from, how long people are staying on the website, what pages they’re spending time on, etc. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking: “this tool can be useful for my own website too”, and you’d be very correct. More than that, you can use the tool to research complementary services. Say, for example, you’re a PPC company. You can use SimilarWeb to research your local website designers.
Is it cheating?
Researching your competitors is not cheating. In fact, it is far from it. It is responsible. It is reckless to function in a specific industry without knowledge of the industry, the key players, and the key players in your locale (i.e. your competition). Thus, don’t be afraid. Get on it. Start researching your competition today. Use the information you gather wisely – don’t be malicious. Healthy competition is good for development :-).
Util next time, have a good week(end)!