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How to Conduct Competitive Research…Without Hiring a Consultant

Have you ever wondered how your company’s product stacks up against the competition? What about your pricing, or your content?

While it was once a cumbersome and time-consuming task to do competitive research, the internet has made it much easier to gather information on your competitors. Now, investing a little bit of time into competitive research can give you valuable intel about your rivals, their position in the market, and their strengths and weaknesses. Not only will you gain a better understanding of your market, but you’ll also be able to forecast trends in your industry, understand your competitors’ offerings, stay updated on competitive pricing, and find and target new customers. The only question that remains is…how do you get started?

Decide What You Want to Know

While competitive research is often outsourced to consultants, you can do just as much on your own — without having to spend the additional money. Start by choosing the competitive factors that you’d like to focus on, and create a document or spreadsheet to keep track of them. Here are a few basic pieces of information to start with:

1. Website URL
2. Brief description of company (think boilerplate copy)
3. Name of products or services
4. Pricing
5. Strengths
6. Weaknesses
7. Unique positioning statement (what makes them different from other companies in your space)
8. Types of content on site

Do Your Research

Once you know what information you want, it’s time to get to work. Start by visiting your competitors’ websites and recording the first 4 items on the list (their website URL, boilerplate, the name of their products, and pricing). The last 4 might require a little bit more digging. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Explore blogs, news articles, and any feeds that might discuss your competitors, and see what people in your industry are saying about them. This is a great way to get unbiased intelligence on your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and key differentiators.
  • Use tools like Tweetdeck to monitor social networks for mentions of your competitors. This can be helpful because tweets and facebook comments often come from a competitors’ clients, which can give you another perspective on the company.
  • Check industry reports to see if any outside firms like Forrester Research or Gartner have put together profiles of your competitors. If you’re lucky, they may have already done the work for you.

When you’re finished, you should have a detailed, updateable catalogue of everything you would want to know about your competitors. Just make sure you continue to keep it up to date over time, otherwise your research will lose its value.

Up-to-date research can help you identify opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition, see areas where you are already excelling over the competition, and spot any threats that may be on the horizon. In a competitive industry, knowledge is power and knowing where your competition stands will keep you one step ahead.

Do you do competitive research at your company? What kinds of information do you keep track of? Let us know in the comments!