Published on February 16, 2011

Marketing Thought of the Day: Researching Your Competitors

Before launching a marketing campaign, it’s worth spending a little time gathering information on your competitors. This information-gathering not only gives you an insight into what’s going on in your industry and how other businesses are performing, but can also offer an indication of what gaps, if any, currently exist in the market.

Later, the information you gather could be incorporated into a larger SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of your organisation.

Perform a Google Search

Basic information about most companies can be obtained via a Google search. Entering the name of a rival company into a search engine will very likely link you to their website, where you may be able to access price lists, and possibly even request samples of their products. The website will also give you an idea of the company’s brand and values, how much money it invests in online marketing and what it represents- a poorly-designed or incomplete site, for example, may suggest that the company has little interest in promoting its services online, or that its target audience are not heavy users of the internet.

A web search can also lead you to customer reviews of rival companies, which may indicate how your competitors are perceived by those who have used their services previously.

Collect Brochures and Marketing Materials

Many companies’ websites allow you to order copies of their brochures, while organisations with little or no online presence will normally dispatch price lists and catalogues to potential customers who contact them by telephone. Brochures and catalogues, like websites, offer a snapshot of a company’s brand and values- what they do, how they do it, and whom they are targeting.

The price listings that accompany brochures and catalogue material allow you to make price comparisons, and to consider your own pricing structure in relation to your rivals’. How much are they charging for each product or service? How do their prices compare to yours?

If they are charging significantly more for a given service, it might be valuable to ask what “added extras” they are supplying to their customers. If they charge significantly less, it might be worth asking what they aren’t adding that other organisations are.      

Any vouchers or stamps that accompany their brochures can also give an insight into any promotions or discounts they are offering.

Use the Service Yourself

Nothing beats first-hand experience of a company’s services. Therefore, if possible, you should endeavour to use them yourself. As a customer (or a potential customer), you can uncover information about

  • Customer service- for example, are they polite? Do they offer tea or coffee to potential clients?
  • Pricing- do the prices they offer customers in the flesh differ from those listed in the brochures or on their website?
  • Premises- where are they based? Are their offices modern or traditional? Clean or dirty? How do their premises fit with their overall brand identity?
  • Professionalism- did they handle your query efficiently? Would you, as a customer, use them again?

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