Before I start talking about competitor analysis, I want to clarify something. When I use the term competitor, I am not talking about somebody else that you are fighting against to get clients or business. A competitor is many things and there are some who are in your field and there are some who are not. And, most importantly, a competitor isn’t someone you should look at to go against.
The dictionary definition of competitor (skipping the athletic route) is an organization or country engaged in commercial or economic competition with others. This does not mean somebody that threatens your business. It is very important for me first to explain how I look at these people, brands, and businesses first before going into explaining what competitor analysis is.
WHAT IS A COMPETITOR?
Your competitors come in two flavours – direct and indirect.
Direct competitors are other brands that offer the same or a similar solution for your target audience as you do. This does not necessarily mean the same product or service. Your goal is to keep track of them so that you know how to react when one of them comes up with something new and your clients leave you for them.
Your indirect competitors are brands that have a different offering to the same audience as you. You want to know who these are so you can tempt the audience your way and how to react when one of them has a new innovation that says your services or products are no longer required.
Every competitor stands for something unique to them. You want to find out what that is for you and how that is connected to your target audience and ideal client and, most importantly, if it works. While the best-case scenario would be to get access to your competitors’ brand strategies, that is not very likely. As such, you want to focus on how your competitors treat your ideal client and the responses they get.
This is important even if they are not targeting your ideal client. Learning how they target their own and interact with them, can help you in figuring out how you deal with your own.
You can find who your competitors are through local business directories, advertising, social media, asking your current clients, or ads that you’ve received. Outside of that, though, Google is probably your best friend. You can do keyword research based on your own services and target audience. The results that you get will most likely be from both direct and indirect competitors, as they are probably talking about similar things as you.
WHAT IS A COMPETITOR ANALYSIS?
Having said everything above, I am going to use a different term here to explain competitor analysis and that is market analysis. I feel this is more relevant as you want to look at your market and what is available.
A market analysis is completed part of your industry analysis with a focus on your competitors. The purpose of it is to discover your market and who else is in it, from a selling point of view. You can use this analysis to figure out what your ideal client currently has as other options on the market and what is missing so that you can position yourself as the more attractive option to them. This is also a part of niching down both your business and your audience to find your ideal client.
WHAT TO GET OUT OF IT
Now, while we all love to talk about community over competition, there is nothing wrong with friendly and healthy competition. I want you to get friendly with your competitors. Unlike with your audience, there is a very small chance of these becoming clients, so don’t worry about building relationships with them. On that note though, be careful. Unfortunately, not everybody is that friendly or good with healthy competition. Make sure not to share your trade secrets, but do share some to get enough and learn from your competitors.
This is when we get into the idea that you can find some amazing brands online that look and feel exactly how you want to be seen. If you want to figure out how to make the same thing work for you, analyze these competitors and see what they are doing. If you want to figure out how to make something different work for you the same way… do the analysis! The best way to learn is through experience and some brands already have that experience, so you can learn from them.
The main purpose of a market analysis is to find gaps in the market so that you can position your brand without it being in direct competition with anyone, by coming up with something new. Keep in mind that this is not a golden rule. If you want to position yourself in the exact spot as one of your competitors, you can. But do you really want to be seen as just be an extension of somebody else’s brand? Especially if that brand is more popular than yours.
When working on the market analysis for your brand, your goal isn’t to create a new product or service that fills a gap in the market. That is what your business model and plan are for. When it comes to branding, you are looking for the feelings, desires, and emotions that are not being satisfied by your competitors – that is your gap!
Remember that this is your brand, not somebody else’s, and there is nobody like you out there. As such, your brand is unique to you. However, you will be able to learn a lot from how your competitors interact with their audience, even if they are not your target. Once you niche down further, you may think that you’re the only one serving that specific niche, so be curious, reach out, and get in contact with your competitors with the purpose of learning more.