One of the most important, and easiest, starting points for companies expanding into online marketing is a competitive analysis. Simply put, this is a review of what your main competitors are doing on social media, with email marketing and what their website and blog look like. In this blog post we look at how customers might interact with your competitors online activity. If you haven’t done so already, read this in conjunction with the customer journey post.
Step 1: Choose your competitors
Most companies know who the competition is, particularly if their business is local. For solicitors, accountants, financial advisers, estate agents and all manner of trades, local competition is fierce. You are going to know instinctively who are the benchmark companies. To start with I would pick between three and five competitors – you can always add to the data if you find this exercise is either giving you very few results or if the insights warrant further research.
In this blog post, I am going to call our company, X and our competitors: A, B and C.
Step 2: Website Review
You are going to look at your competitors’ websites as if you are a visitor. There are two broad considerations:
- User Experience
- Is it a fresh, simple design?
- How does it look on a mobile or tablet?
- Does it have easy-to use-navigation & menus?
- Is there site search?
- Can you share the content on social media?
- Is the contact Information clear? (phone numbers, email addresses, maps)
- Are there compelling calls to action (CTAs) guiding visitors to learn more, get in touch, download a report or guide?
- Does the site link to social profiles? And are they linking correctly?
- Are the images authentic and genuine
- Does the site include videos?
- Expert Content
- Are there business and industry accreditation badges if that is appropriate to your industry?
- For any eCommerce site are there secure transactions badges – especially on forms and shopping cart pages?
- Are there case studies?
- How many customer testimonials and reviews are included?
- Is there a blog with up-to-date and frequent posting?
- Does the site give me confidence that the company does what it says on the tin?
These are just some of the questions you should be answering when looking at each website. There will be other considerations depending on your industry sector.
Create a spreadsheet with the questions in the column A and the competitive analysis under the headings X, A, B and C. Note down the urls for their websites and social media accounts. Where no social icon was visible on the website each social media platform search for any profiles which are ‘unattached’ to the website by using the search facility on each social media platform. Be warned this is very time-consuming but worthwhile.
The following table is a template for you to adapt. Tick where the websites have icons linking to social media accounts and whether the company has a blog and contact forms and/or buttons to register on the home page.
|Company||YouTube||Google+||Social sharing buttons||Blog/news||Contact|
Google loves active website and therefore a consistently updated blog will help you ranking on the search engines, particularly if you have not only a production schedule but a promotion process. I.e. how frequently you are going to publish a blog (monthly, weekly, daily!) and how are you going to share it (by email, on social media, by republishing on sites like LinkedIn and Medium)
For each company, review their last 4 or more blog posts using the template below.
|Company||Blog url||Date||Topic and comments|
Step 3: Social Media Review
For the purposes of this blog posts, I am going to provide you with templates for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but they can be adapted for other platforms.
Facebook competitor review
There are three main approaches to using Facebook for marketing:
- personal profile activity,
- company page (formerly called a fan page) and
- Facebook groups
In the main you will be evaluating Facebook company pages. Remember that engagement is limited by Facebook, so do not expect many likes, comments or shares unless the company has a very effective social media manager or is using pay-per-click advertising.
Check your own traffic from Facebook by looking at your Google analytics.
|Company||No. followers/likes||Frequency of updates and average numbers of likes, comments and shares|
Twitter competitor review
Carry out a similar review on Twitter. You could look at the number of retweets and presence on lists, but avoid getting too bogged down in the detail at this stage.
|Handle @……||No. followers||No. following||No. Tweets|
Again check your traffic from Twitter to the website.
LinkedIn competitor review
LinkedIn is considered to be the platform of choice for business to business professional services companies and the IT, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals sectors. LinkedIn is often overlooked by the education, manufacturing and supply sectors but is at the forefront of recruitment given the opportunities for posting jobs on the Talent area of the site. The main advantage of LinkedIn is that it is the only social media/online networking platform to give out email addresses of connections and in some cases their telephone numbers.
The template below shows the summary information for each company under consideration:
|No. followers of company page||Update frequency||No. employees attached to LinkedIn company page|
Step 4: Email Marketing
If you are prepared to be a sleuth, then signup for your competitors newsletters and reports. I would recommend using a personal rather than a work email address. Click on any buttons, pop-ups, fill in sign-up forms and download any reports. Monitor how their workflow operates. Did they follow up after the initial contact was made?
An effective corporate email marketing system will keep in touch with their list on a regular basis with useful, relevant news. We will be covering the different approaches to email marketing in an upcoming post.
Your questions on online marketing competitive analysis?
What online marketing competitive research have you done? Has it revealed any interested tactics which you might adopt? Let us know in the comments below and if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.