Benchmarking: The 6 Most Important Things You Should Study From Your Competition
[toc]If you want to succeed in business, you must make it a point to study your competition, take benchmarking seriously. This is a basic marketing principle that too many companies ignore. Fortunately, with online businesses this is not difficult. There are many tools and resources that can help you learn all you need to know about your competitors. Let’s look at 6 vital areas where you should be analyzing your competition.
1. Social Reach
Social reach has become one of the most crucial areas of online marketing. Almost every company is now active on one or more social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others. While it’s important that you focus on increasing your own social reach, it’s equally essential to study your competition in this regard.
For the most part, you don’t need any special tools, services or software to track your competitors on social networks. The basic data on these sites is quite transparent. In fact, they are set up so that this type of information is publicly available. Businesses want others to know how many friends, followers or likes they have. It’s up to you to do the research.
Choose the companies that you feel are your closest competitors and perform a competitive analysis.
You can start with the social sites on which your own business is active. You may, however, want to go beyond this. If you find that a certain company has a strong presence on a site that you aren’t currently using, this might be a clue that it’s time to sign up with this site and get busy!
Here are the main things to look for on your competitors social sites:
- How many followers, friends or likes do they have?
- What type of content do they publish?
- How often do they publish to each site?
- How responsive are their fans or followers? Do they get lots of feedback?
- Is their content often shared? Examples of this are shares on Facebook or retweets on Twitter.
For those companies that are doing very well on certain sites, you should dig a little deeper. One way to do this is to find out how they are driving traffic to their social sites. Is it from buttons on their blog or website? Do they incentivize the sharing of their content by running contests? These are all clues that can help you in your own social media efforts.
2. Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing is another area where you must study your competition as closely as possible. Many businesses earn the bulk of their income via email marketing. They may have a great website and a strong social media presence, but once they get subscribers to their email list they can drive traffic and make sales simply be broadcasting an email or newsletter. Many of the top earning websites in the world use this tactic.
The best way to gauge what type of email marketing tactics your competition is using is to behave like one of their prospects. Go to their website and sign up for their newsletter or email list. Find out what the process is like.
- What do they offer in exchange for your email address?
- How often do they email you once you are signed up to their list?
- What kind of content to they send out?
- What type of subject lines do they use in their emails?
- Are their emails mainly promotional or do they contain helpful information as well?
As you study their email marketing tactics, put yourself in the place of a typical subscriber. Do their messages make you want to visit their website or even purchase something? You can learn a great deal from your competitors’ emails. This includes both what you should be doing and what you should be avoiding.
”Who determines the prices you charge…?…It is actually your competition in the marketplace that set your prices of all kinds…For this reason it’s essential to thoroughly research your competitors and know them as well as you know yourself.” –Brian Tracy
You also want to study your competition in regard to what they sell and how much they charge. This can give you many valuable clues regarding your own business. If they offer similar products or services as your company, how do their prices compare to yours?
Your competition always has an impact on your own pricing. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be cheaper. You do, however, have to differentiate yourself in some way. If you charge less, this can be one of your selling points. If you charge more, you must make it clear why your product is worth more.
Studying the competitions’ monetization strategies can also give you ideas about what people in your niche are purchasing. If you find, for example, that a certain company is selling a line of products that you not offering you may want to expand into this area as well.
4. Blogging Platform
Take note of what type of website or blogging platform your competitors are using. Many sites today are run on platforms such as WordPress or Joomla. Others still use more traditional static websites.
The reason blogging platforms are so popular is that they are easy to operate and give the site a casual, user-friendly look. It’s also easy to choose among thousands of themes and layouts. WordPress, for example, has many free themes. Many businesses, however, use premium or custom themes that are more flexible.
You can also note if the platform they are using is responsive, which can be tested by accessing the site on different devices. A responsive site is easy to read on smart phones and tablets as well as computers.
If they are selling products on the site, you can note what type of shopping cart and payment processor they are using. These all contribute to the efficiency of the site and how easy it is to navigate. Your objective when browsing these sites is to think of ways to make your own site superior in these areas.
If someone is using WordPress, they are probably using certain plugins for various functions. If you or someone in your technical department can read source code, you can often determine which plugins are being used.
One simple tool you can use to determine which theme and plugins a WordPress site is using is the the WordPress Theme Detector. There are also more advanced software “spying” tools on the market that can help you identify which plugins another site is using.
In some cases you can make a good guess based on the features the site displays. This, however, is not always possible as different plugins can often perform similar functions. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay well informed about new WordPress plugins that are relevant to your industry.
6. Design and Layout
The design and layout of a site has a lot to do with its appeal to visitors. That’s why you should spend some time visiting your competitors’ sites and taking note of what their sites look like. Some things to take note of:
- What fonts and colors are used?
- What is the ratio of text to images, videos and other elements?
- How many ads does the site contain and how are they placed?
- How quickly do the pages load? Having too many features can slow down the site.
- What is the overall feeling that you get when you visit the site?
You don’t want to make your own site a clone of your competitors’, but you can still learn a lot by carefully looking over their sites. You should also take into consideration of how popular the site in question is. This can be gauged by taking into consideration Alexa and Google Page Rank. If the site is high ranking, you can be sure they are doing certain things right in terms of attracting visitors.
What You Can Learn From the Competition
There is a lot you can learn when you study your competition. There are many mistakes commonly made by entrepreneurs in the course of running their businesses. Not paying sufficient attention to the competition is one such mistake. By learning what the competition is doing right, as well as where they are falling short, you can make better decisions about your own business.
Do you have any of your own techniques for studying the competition?
You can share these with other entrepreneurs in our comments section!