How to understand and stay ahead of your competitors

You may know who your main competitors are in the advertising media, but how much do you know about them? Do you understand their strengths and weaknesses? How much they charge? Why customers choose them?

Your team needs to know who else is talking to businesses about promotion, especially as the market grows and changes. It’s important to understand what they offer and how you can compete with them when you’re trying to win new business.

Competitor research can help – it doesn’t have to take ages but it can have big benefits.

Why it matters

By investing a small amount of time in getting to know your competitors, you can:
• Better understand your relative strengths and weaknesses as a business
• Find better ways to communicate the benefits of advertising with you
• Exploit your competitors’ weaknesses
• Win new customers
• Stay in business and keep growing

How to do it

If that sounds appealing, here are some ways to understand more about your competitors.

1. Know who they are

The first step may sound simple but there’s now so many ways for businesses to promote themselves that you might find your competitors aren’t just other media partners. Google and Facebook are now very popular with small businesses as a way to reach a targeted audience at a low initial cost. Look at the whole range of competitors to get a true picture.

2. Check out their website

All advertisers, from Google to local publications, include useful information on their website. Not only will you glean the basic information (what they offer, who they are, etc) but you can also see how they explain what they do and what messages they use to draw in customers.

3. Get social

Social media can tell you a lot about how a customers view a competitor because you can read what people are saying. Check out what people like, what concerns they raise and anything they wish they would offer.

4. Look at their financial accounts

This is obviously more useful for direct competitors (we all know Google is rich). But looking at other media partners’ accounts will show you if their business is growing and can give you an indication of overheads, staffing and sales. Sites like Dun and Bradstreet (https://creditreports.dnb.com) allow you to see the financial information they submit as part of their year end accounts.

5. Do some mystery shopping

If you want to find out exactly what a competitor offers, you could experience it firsthand. Mystery shopping lets you see things from the perspective of a customer and shows you everything from products to customer care. You could do it informally by signing up for a few online accounts or you could use a professional mystery shopping company. It can give you a real insight into how your competitors work.

Next steps

Whichever route you choose, make sure that you use the information you gain. Now you know how your competitors work, think about how you can stay ahead.

1. Know what makes you unique

Once you understand what your competitors offer, you can look at what makes you different. Is there anything you do or offer that they don’t? Do you offer advice and support for your customers? Can you create their ads for them or offer advice about the market? This is often where media partners have a significant advantage over companies like Google and Facebook.

You may need to undertake some research about your company too, in order to fully compare. For example, do you know your reach, which demographics you can target, the typical response rates and ROI? All of this will help you benchmark against your competition and help you when you’re talking to your customers.

2. Get your messaging right

The next step is translating those benefits into messages that your customers will understand and act upon. Think about the challenges they face and why your unique proposition will help them. If you can translate what makes you different into a benefit for your prospective customers, then they’re likely to consider buying from you.

What are their worries and concerns? Is there anything about the way you work that will help guide them through the challenges of marketing their business? Be sure to include this in all your communications and brief your sales team so they’re able to discuss this with prospects.

Deliver on your promises

It’s vital that once people come to you, the service that you offer matches what you promise. As the phrase goes, “you only get one chance to make a first impression”.

Make sure your customers have a great experience when they come to your business. Little touches can help, from mirroring some of the language you use in your advertising to offering help that they might not get elsewhere.

Make sure that your service showcases what makes you different. By doing that, you should stay competitive and win repeat business.


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