Good poker players know how to play their cards, but great poker players master how to play their opponents. They gather intel about the people they’re in a pot with and study how they act and react to various outcomes. They then use this information to determine the probabilities that their cards are better, or if they can make their opponent fold by having them think they are. The more you learn about your competitor, the better chance you have of being three steps ahead and gaining a competitive edge.
In marketing, we can substitute cards with products and pots with customers. The strategy, however, remains the same: if you want to learn from your competitor’s marketing success, you have to figure where, how, and why your competitor is successful in the first place. Then, by determining a way to be more innovative and more creative, you can get the lion’s share of your niche market.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
One of the most—if not the most—important analysis you can conduct for your business is a SWOT analysis. Here, you are learning about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunites, and Threats for your company.
Strengths and weaknesses refer to internal factors, which includes the experience and resources that your company has readily available to them. Some examples include human, financial, and physical resources. Opportunities and threats are external forces that your company doesn’t have control over, such as marketing and economic trends, demographics, or regulations.
You can bet every business has conducted a SWOT analysis (as every business should) for themselves, but if you’re looking to gain a competitive edge, perform a SWOT analysis on your biggest competitor. What are some things that they are excelling in, and what can they improve upon?
By conducting a SWOT analysis on both your business and a competitor’s, you can more directly compare your strengths and weaknesses. You can further determine what market opportunities are readily available to you, and discuss how threats influence both companies in different ways. This glimpse into your competitor’s mindset will allow you to develop a marketing strategy that takes advantage in the weaknesses you find in theirs.
Read customer reviews
When customers rave about your competitor’s product or service, you’re getting access to free inside information about the wants and needs of their customers. Features on their products that yours lacks could be the difference between a buyer selecting your competitor’s product over yours. Scroll through these reviews and create a list of common extras or features that customers enjoyed about a product or service and compare them to your product.
You may also learn how your competitor found these customers and what strategies encouraged them to pursue their buyer’s journey. This insight could help you develop a better funnel that speaks more directly to your competitor’s audience.
Product reviews also point out customer complaints. Approach scrolling through these the same way you looked at rave reviews and conduct a list of reasons why a user’s experience was imperfect. From there, you can write a white paper that addresses the pain points your competitor’s customers are still experiencing.
Not only will reading customer reviews give you insight to the strengths and weaknesses aspect of your competitor SWOT analysis, but they can offer the building blocks of your next marketing campaign!
Run analytics tests
Web analytics can show you everything from how your competitor’s display ads are performing, which keywords your competitors are ranking for, and where their backlinks are coming from.
By typing your competitor’s domain name in a search bar, you can get access to how much traffic they are receiving from their website, various social media platforms, organic searches, paid searches, and more. Forbes recommends tools like SEMRush, SimilarWeb, and WhatRunsWhere, but those are just some of the few web analytics tools that are out there.
Understand your competitor’s process
Every company has (or should have) a step-by-step process that they use to find their customers and help them through their buyer’s journey. While a competitor won’t just hand over their sales process, signing up for a demo of a competitor’s product can give you insight into at least the beginnings of their sales process and how they nurture leads moving forward.
Analyze their process for commonalities and fundamental differences, and determine what would be beneficial for your company. Be sure not to copy and paste their ideas. Their process is specific to them, and copying them exactly would be like playing a game of chess where you do nothing but emulating your opponent’s moves. You’ll always be one step behind and lose in the long run.
Like in poker, if you want to be good at marketing, know how to play your hand. If you want to great, however, learn how to play your opponent’s hand. Understanding that is a surefire way for you to achieve a competitive advantage.