Know your enemy - competitor research - Business Works
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Know your enemy - competitor research

Ben Padley, Global VP and Marketing Director As the UK moves cautiously out of recession, brands and businesses can look forward to honing their growth strategies, rather than focussing solely on survival. Yet to retain a competitive edge, it’s imperative to keep a close eye on what rival businesses are planning as this will lead to a clearer view of how your own business can manoeuvre to fill any gaps in the market. Competitor research is also an invaluable exercise for highlighting weaknesses in your own business and flagging up areas to improve.

create a detailed profile of their business

The first step to knowing your enemy is to create a detailed profile of their business. This involves looking at their finances, marketing strategies, personnel, their product or service range and their commercial offer. The best way to start is by reading everything that your competitors say about themselves. The usual first stop is their website and their social media profiles. From here you can quickly compile a list of tangible offerings – what they do, how and where they do it – and you can start to gain insight into their brand. What image do they project? Who are they appealing to? What is their brand personality?

Financial information about a competitor is relatively easy to find. Companies House gives a simple, free overview and more detailed reports are available from Experian and Dun and Bradstreet. Armed with the information from a competitor’s balance sheet, you can build up a picture of their assets and liabilities and ascertain the viability of their business. Pricing information for specific products or services can be obtained via their website, in store or with a phone call. Once you have an overview of a competitor’s financial position you can make decisions about whether you choose to compete on price, or whether you can retain or gain a competitive edge by focussing on another area, such as a specific approach to marketing.

The Chief Marketing Officer should look at competitors’ media spend as it can help determine your own marketing and advertising strategy. Consider which channels they are using, for what purpose and how often. Depending on the findings, you may decide to go head to head with an aggressive marketing campaign, or tweak your media plan and focus on outlets that are less competitive. If competing brands trade mainly online, it is worth undertaking keyword analysis to see which search terms they are focussing on. This could involve analysing the backlink profile of competitor websites and their positions in search engine results pages for a range of queries. Depending on the results, you may decide to target similar keywords more effectively, or focus on a particular niche.

examine the range and strength of what your competitors are offering

The product / service range of competitors is often the part where it gets interesting and arguably offers the best opportunity to refine and improve your own product or service. Are they offering a better service? Are their products more innovative? Do they regularly add to their product or service range? Also, assess how strong their branding is and position in the marketplace in comparison to you as well as others. By honestly examining the range and strength of what your competitors are offering, you can determine on what basis you are going to compete.

With the prospect of an upturn across a number of markets, now more than ever, brands need to ‘know their enemies’ and have a good grasp of the threats and opportunities that they pose. To use the analogy of the two men facing a lion, your business doesn’t need to outrun the lion to survive, it just needs to outrun the other chap.

With over 15 years of experience in Sales and Marketing, Ben Padley has worked extensively in local and global marketing roles. Previously, he was the Global Vice President at Sony Ericsson (now Sony Mobile) and Marketing Director for their UK and Ireland business. Most recently, Ben was Barclaycard’s first Global Digital Director.

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