Successful companies put a lot of time, effort, and money into developing a marketing plan. They carefully consider the best ways to maximize their budgets. They dig deep into the demographic and psychographic breakdown of their target audiences. And they scrutinize their outbound efforts to make sure they have the most efficient media mixes.
Most companies have the best intentions when they set out to create a marketing plan. But there is one thing that we consistently see underestimated – and, in many cases, overlooked. That is a thorough, non-biased competitive analysis.
We are not referring to an understanding of your competition from your own perspective. We are referring to a thorough understanding of your competition through your customer’s eyes.
Here’s how we suggest you format your competitive analysis:
Take your top three-to-five direct competitors in your category. Here’s the important part: Be sure to include yourself on that list.
Now, pretend you are a customer looking for that product or service within your category.
Start by doing a little research on each company, just like a real prospect would. Look at each company’s website. Look at any printed literature, ads, mailers, or other forms of communication. Conduct a Google keyword search. Compare creative styles and messaging. In other words, find everything you can on each company.
Next, actually shop each competitor, including yourself. Go through the motions and experience what a prospect would experience. And be sure to keep a non-biased attitude, just like a an actual customer. At the conclusion, you may be surprised at what you find, especially about yourself. (You may find it more practical to hire someone to do this for you.)
Now for the most critical part of this exercise. Ask yourself, truthfully, who would you buy from and why? Warning: The truth may be eye opening