Your brand reputation is based as much on perception as it is on experience. In fact, thanks to the Internet, most people will have an opinion of your brand long before they purchase your product or service. If you want to create a certain perception that resonates with your ideal customer, market research can help, and one important aspect of this research is the competitive review. Recently, we spoke with Jennifer Friedlin, founder and owner of Hungry Marketing, about the importance of taking stock of the competition.
What is a competitive review?
A competitive review entails surveying your sector’s landscape to get a sense of everything from how your competitors message their goods and services to how effective they are on social media to how they price their products. So, let’s say you were going to launch a new line of crafts products. You would want to look at the other companies and goods in the space to get a sense of where and how they talk about themselves and to whom they are trying to speak.
Why is a competitive review necessary?
Unless you are first to market with a novel product, chances are your company operates in or is looking to enter an already competitive playing field. So the question becomes, “How can your business command people’s attention and generate a strong reputation with the right audience?” If you want to stand apart from the others in your sector you will need to find a way to differentiate your brand from the competition. A competitive review will help you understand your market so that you can claim a piece of it.
How do you conduct a competitive review?
To conduct a competitive review, create a spreadsheet that lists all of the companies you want to evaluate and then systematically start filling in the following seven categories for each one:
Company Description: How do your competitors describe themselves? What tone and language do they use? The description and how it’s written can tip you off to the target market your competitors are looking to reach. If the company description uses a lot of colloquialisms, they are likely targeting a younger audience. If the description is overly broad or generic, then the company is likely trying to cast a wide net. If that’s the case, then perhaps there is room for you to narrow your messaging focus to go after a particular market segment.
Tagline: What catch phrases do your competitors use to embody their businesses? Are they pithy and smart or boring and general? Again, a great tagline can indicate that a company has given thought to its messaging and marketing while a tagline that could apply to many different companies is likely not doing much to captivate audiences. If the latter is true, then, again, there’s a lot of room for you to differentiate your brand through strong, focused messaging.
Social Media: What channels are your competitors on? How many followers and likes do they have? How often do they post and what kind of traction do they get? By looking at your competitors’ social media channels, posts, and followings you will soon see whether they are dominating in that sphere or if there is room to make headway using any or all of the available channels.
Target Market: Whom do your competitors seem to be targeting through their messaging and marketing? Are they aiming at millennials? Moms? High net worth individuals? If all of your competitors are going after the same target market you wish to go for, then you will have to think long and hard about how to get your audience’s attention and win their loyalty. If everyone’s going after one market, but you have a way to appeal to a different sector, then you might have an easier time making inroads.
Distribution: How do your competitors distribute their goods? Are they direct to consumer? Do they sell through third party retailers? Can you find their goods on Amazon? Has the competition overlooked any marketing channels on which you could capitalize? A look at how the competition sells its products will help you decide where and how to sell yours.
Pricing: How do your competitors price their goods? Knowing what others charge will give you a good sense of what the market will bear.
Points of Differentiation: In relation to the competition how are you different? What makes your product better? Do you offer your potential customers something they can’t find in the competition? How would you message and market your company in order to stand apart? Figuring out how you are different will help you home in on everything from your message to branding to your marketing to your PR so get as clear and specific as you can.
What do you do once you have done the competitive review?
After you have evaluated all of these elements for your primary competitors you will gain many insights into the industry. It should also help inform your brand message and branding, meaning logo and tagline. Remember: People have choices so you will want to do as much as you can to create a strong message, brand, and marketing strategy that leave a favorable impression. A look at the competition is a great place to start.
Jennifer Friedlin is the founder and owner of Hungry Marketing, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based agency that works with non-profits and companies to define their messages, generate sparkling content, and implement effective marketing plans.
This is the eleventh in a series of interviews with experts whose work relates to online reputation management.