The United States operates a free market economy that prospers thanks to unobstructed competition. Competition pushes companies to improve and innovate. Whether they want to or not, your competitors provide a great opportunity for you to learn and grow your business.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Each of your competitors is a valuable resource for improving your business
  • Study your competition’s marketing, financials, and customer reviews to find their strengths and weaknesses
  • You can turn the information you collect into a comprehensive strategy for your business

Why Is It Important to Pay Attention to and Learn From Your Competitors?

Source: Talkroute.com

How do you feel when you think about your business competitors? Frustrated? Jealous? It’s easy to understand why these might be your initial reactions since competitors can make it more difficult to capitalize on your audience.

However, we recommend changing up your perspective. When you think about your competitors, feel grateful. You can learn so much from evaluating different areas of your competitors’ businesses strategically. All you have to do is pay attention and take notes. They can help you hone your marketing skills, improve your product, provide better customer service, and grow your business, all without spending a dime.

As a general rule, look to more successful competitors to find inspiration for positive changes you can make to your business. Look to less successful competitors to learn what pitfalls to avoid.

7 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You

1. How To Improve Your Social Media Strategy

Source: Thestoryexchange.org

More than 35% of customers report that social media influences their purchase decisions. When it comes to Gen Z, that percentage jumps to an astonishing 75% (Statista, 2021). If your social media strategy is lacking, it’s time to look at your competitors to find what works and what doesn’t.

Keep these questions in mind when reviewing competitors’ social media:

  • Which social platforms do they use? On which channels do they get the most engagement? These are the ones you should focus on.
  • What level of engagement do they get on their posts? Find posts with high shares, likes, or comments and note what makes these stand out from their other content.
  • How often do they post? Do they seem to have a schedule? If so, they may be using a tool, such as Hootsuite, to schedule posts at the best times. Create a similar posting schedule for your social media.
  • Do they use a mix of text, images, and video, or do they strongly favor one content type? Identify which content type performs best and consider incorporating it into your social media strategy.

2. Improve Your Email Marketing

Email marketing has been going strong since 1978, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. It’s such an effective way to connect with your audience because you’re landing directly in their personal inbox.

If you have an existing email marketing strategy, you can look to your competitors for inspiration. If you don’t have an email strategy yet, it’s well past time to start one. Use the information you gather from your competitor research to build an effective email marketing plan.

To study your competitors’ email marketing, go to their websites and sign up for their newsletters or email updates. When you receive emails from them, ask these questions:

  • What type of emails do they send? A newsletter with tips and other valuable content? Notifications about sales?
  • How frequently do they send out emails?
  • What email marketing service do they use, such as Mailchimp or ConvertKit?
  • What calls-to-action (CTAs) do they use in their marketing emails?

3. Review How Your Content Is Created

Source: Asaporg.com

Consistent, high-quality content marketing can significantly boost your organic website traffic. But what exactly makes content high quality? Your competitors can tell you.

Check the websites of your top competitors. Which ones have a blog? You can use marketing analytics tools to identify the top-performing content on each site. Take note of the topics. You never want to copy another company’s content ― Google doesn’t like that, and neither do customers ― but you can find inspiration in the topics and put your unique spin on them.

While reviewing the blog content, be sure to study the way it’s formatted, the article length, whether they include pictures or videos, and the tone of the writing. Incorporate these features into your blog strategy.

4. Look at Your Financial Health

It’s always good to know where your business stands in a financial comparison with competitors. Publicly traded companies are legally required to disclose their financial data. You can use EDGAR, a free research tool provided by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, to look up financial details of public companies.

Private companies aren’t required to release financial information, but some choose to do so. Check your competitor’s website to see if they have an annual report available.

Once you have the financial data in front of you, look for your competitors’ net profit margins and see how yours compares. It’s also helpful to identify what percentage of their revenue they spend on advertising, salaries, and inventory.

Even if these competitors are far ahead of your business, this data can serve as a benchmark to aim for as your company grows.

5. Include Local SEO

When researching your competitors, be sure to include those that operate within your local area. If you search your location plus common keywords for your industry, such as “Dallas print shop,” which companies appear in the top results?

If your business isn’t among them, it’s time to boost your local SEO efforts. The best way to do this is to create a Google My Business (GMB) listing. A GMB listing appears when you click one of the businesses in the top results of your search. It displays the company’s hours, address, website, photos, customer reviews, and much more.

You may already have a Google My Business listing. Google often auto-generates them when it has enough details about the business. However, this information isn’t always correct, so it’s critical to claim your page and provide accurate details.

Once you’ve created or claimed your GMB listing, you’ll be able to choose relevant categories for your business, respond to customer reviews, add photos, and post announcements. Your local search rankings will improve when you actively manage your listing, so you can work to get your business shown ahead of the competition.

6. Consider the Mistakes to Avoid

Reading competitor reviews is a great way to find out what they’re doing wrong. You may also pick up some tips about what they’re doing right, but a dissatisfied customer is more likely to leave a review than a happy customer. Google, Yelp, and Facebook are common places customers leave reviews, so these sites can provide you with a wealth of information.

Do you see any repeated complaints from customers? Maybe the company’s product descriptions are inaccurate, or their customer service is lacking. Whatever issues pop up repeatedly are the ones you want to take note of. Review these areas in your business to see what preemptive changes you can make to avoid unhappy customers.

7. Prioritize Customer Experience

It’s time to look at your competitors from the perspective of a customer. (Don’t worry ― you don’t have to buy anything from them.) Go to a competitor’s brick-and-mortar store and look at it from the eyes of a customer. Is the inventory organized and easy to find? Are the employees knowledgeable and happy to help? Identify your likes and dislikes and use this information to improve your own store.

Even if your competitor uses an e-commerce platform, you can do the same process online. Spend some time “shopping” on the website. Is it well designed and easy to navigate? What’s the “add to cart” experience like? Are there annoying pop-ups distracting you? Once you’ve walked through the beginning steps of making a purchase, you’ll have ample insight into what your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses are.

What To Do Next

Now that you’ve collected competitor information in a wide range of categories, the next step is to apply this information to your business. Use what you’ve learned to overhaul your social media, email, and content marketing; improve your local SEO; create financial benchmarks; avoid common issues; and provide a better customer experience.

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