If there is one word to sum up the fatal flaw in a marketing competitive analysis it would be … Assumptions!
Assumptions around what your competition offers can kill your marketing and sales efforts. Here are some of the most common ways people mistake assumptions for truths:
- Assuming what your sales representatives say about your competition is accurate.
Your sales representatives have one important job to do … Sell! Their job is not to do market research. That’s why you should have a marketing team. Sales reps are a great place to start your market research, but you should always check and verify the information they are providing about how you differentiate from the competition is accurate. Once you have a complete and accurate picture of this, everyone in your company should consistently deliver the same message.
- Assuming what clients who formerly used your competition say is accurate.
If your competition is good at what they do, they will continually be looking for ways to innovate their business. A client who used your competitor a few years ago will only have stories to tell about your competitor from a few years ago. Talking to current clients about their experience using other companies is a great place to start, but it is imperative that you do some vetting of the information you receive before using it.
- Assuming your marketing firm or agency has properly done their homework.
Prior to starting Mended Marketing, I worked with multiple marketing firms whose first step in creating marketing plans for the companies I was employed by always claimed to be doing a competitive analysis. These firms claimed they had done comprehensive studies of our marketplace before they started developing marketing and advertising strategies for us. On three different occasions, working with three different marketing firms, we learned too late they had relied solely on number one or number two above, and the “unique” positions and “hot buttons” they had created for us were not entirely accurate.
There are three easy ways to fix your assumption problem.
All three stages must be done to get a thoroughly accurate picture of your marketplace. Below is the three-tiered process Mended Marketing put into place to ensure our clients never end up shorted when we help stitch their marketing strategy into place:
- Ask your current clients and prospects.
One of the first questions you should ask every new client is, “What made you decide to go with our company?” The answers they give you will help you identify where you stand out in your marketplace. Once you have developed a good relationship with your clients, oftentimes they will voluntarily provide you with information about your competitors, especially when your competition starts trying to woo them away.Additionally, you should ask every prospect considering another company what things are they on the fence about. You may learn it is as simple as price — in which case your job is to educate your prospect on why you’re priced differently than your competitor. Or you may learn your competition is truly doing things more or less innovative than you are doing.
This process often means questioning your sales or customer service team for feedback. But you can also put together a client focus group or do one-on-one interviews with clients to dig out this information. When possible, record and transcribe these conversations. It will help with your analysis and with crafting stories for your marketing message. Mended Marketing uses a specific set of questions to dig out the information you need to gather during these interviews.
- Research your competition’s marketing message.
Study any and all marketing material publicly available. The best place to start is your competition’s website. Download their whitepapers. Study their email nurture campaigns and social media channels. Visit their booths at tradeshows or community events.Understanding how your competition markets themselves ensures you can outperform them in the marketing arena.
- Secret shop your competition.
Finally, pick up the phone and secret shop your competition. You can create an alias, ask a friend, or hire a company who specializes in this to help you. Once you’ve done steps one and two, you’ll know the questions you still have for your competitors. This is the perfect place to start vetting all of the information you’ve gathered from conversations. Don’t overlook the importance of asking your competition to provide references and testimonials for you to contact during the secret shopping stage. These calls may be the most valuable part of all the research you do.
Understanding the features and benefits your competition promotes allows you to truly create a unique marketing strategy and materials to better educate your prospects on why you are the best choice in your industry. Additionally, it allows you insights on how to innovate and ultimately dominate your market.
If you have questions on how to mend this part of your marketing strategy, contact Mended Marketing. Unlike other marketing firms, we truly specialize in competitive market research. In fact, we dedicate the first six weeks of working with any new client to properly doing a market analysis.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tina Bell is the founder of Mended Marketing. She developed her marketing experience serving a variety of industries, mostly in smaller sized companies, where she was hired to build their marketing programs. These experiences provided her the opportunity to wear many hats and learn multiple facets of marketing. She spent over six years in medical marketing, helping build an urgent care business from two urgent care clinics to over 13 clinics in four states. In addition to being well versed in copywriting, grassroots and community marketing initiatives, Tina is a sought after speaker and regularly presents educational webinars. She was ranked the top speaker at the Urgent Care Association of America Conference and spearheaded the development of an online medical training newsletter before she left that industry to start her own marketing firm.