How To Conduct Smart Competitive Analysis For Knowledge Commerce? Look For Weak Bonding Between Your Competitor And His Audiences You Covet.
Why do we marketers need competitor analysis? Experts say it’s for many things – like looking for market gaps you can enter, or to be able to beat your competitors at their strategy and tactics.
But ask yourself this. Your real competitor is one who has the audiences you covet, right? So should your real goal not be to prise the audiences you want out of the competitor’s clasp?
If your answer to this is “Yes!” then you have to be able to spot the weak links in the bonding your competitor has with his target audiences. You have to see where you can break those bonds and supplant yourself in the life of those audiences.
At Solohacks Academy, we think you should go into competitor analysis with two objectives. One, examine your competitor’s areas of weak hold on audiences to get those customers he has readied for purchases. Two, notice where he has erred in holding customers so you can learn never to make the mistakes he has.
1. Get A Strong Fix On Your Competitor, And His Products-To-Audience Matching
One of the first set of tasks you have to complete in your competitor analysis is to see who your main competitor is, based on who his audiences are. At first, you may list many probable competitors, but eventually you have to boil it down to a one-to-one fight, because it’s foolhardy to take on the whole bunch of competitors simultaneously. Beat the biggest one and you beat them all.
Your second task is to notice carefully how the real competitor has segmented his audience to be able to offer products suitable to those segments. If there is an area of mismatch between the audience segments and the products the competitor offers to those segments, you have uncovered your first weak link in the competitor’s game.
a. Make Sure You Know Who Your Direct And Indirect Competitors Are
When you first start looking for your real competitors, you will likely find two types of competitors – the direct competitors and the indirect competitors. The direct competitors are those who have the same audiences you want for yourself, and who offer products similar to the knowledge products you want to sell through Knowledge Commerce. Indirect competitors are those who can also serve the needs of customers, but perhaps not directly with the kind of products that are their first choice. They may offer alternative products that customers may or may not find to be the best solution.
If you take an example from Knowledge Commerce, let’s say you are an expert in the area of “gym exercises for muscle building for men”. Your direct competitors would be other experts in that exact same niche, offering courses or ebooks of the kind that you may want to write. However, your indirect competition may come from other types of fitness experts – like those into protein shakes for muscle building in men, or power yoga instructors who focus on men’s muscles. They too may offer solutions for muscle building, but the audiences may be specifically looking for gym exercises, whereas the indirect competitors may be offering second or third priority options to the audiences.
Once you have identified the list of direct and indirect competitors, choose the strongest direct competitor to have your face-off with. Yes, that’s right. Go for the strongest contender. Like they used to say in olden times, “Grab the fort on the hilltop if you want the surrounding country around it.”
b. Identify Your Competitor’s Target Audience Segmentation Strategy
Once you’ve got an idea of the one competitor to analyze in full detail, see how he has segmented his target audience. Staying with the same example as before, your competitor may perhaps choose to segment his muscle-building gym fitness programs by men’s ages … or he may segment them by types of muscles to build … or he may segment them by their reasons for wanting to build muscles (e.g. for accident victims aiming for recovery, or body-building competition participants).
As you can see, there are many ways to slice and dice the target audience into segments. If you know how you’re competitor is doing his segmentation, there could be an opportunity for you to do it another and more effective way. You can cross-check with a sample audience on how they’d like solutions to their muscle-building programs – by age, or by type of muscles, or by reason for joining the program.
If there is a mismatch between the way people would like to be offered program advice, versus what your competitor is doing, you again have an opportunity to become more relevant to the audiences than your competitor.
c. Check How Your Competitor’s Products Matches His Audience Segmentation
After you’ve studied how your competitor segments his audience, you should check how his product range has been built. Has he tried to offer the right products at the right price points to the right audience segments? Has he over-supported some audience segments, while keeping only a thin spread of products for other audience segments? Is there an opportunity for you to grab his poorly-served audience segments?
Most often, a mismatch between product offerings and target audience segments occurs because marketers don’t have clear “personas” for all their audience segments. A persona is a fictional character – a prototype of a person – who best represents an audience segment.
Let’s take further the same example of muscle-building gym programs for men, to see if the competitor has done a mismatch of products to audience segments. You may want to check if has he got too many courses or ebooks for older men, with relatively more problems doing his exercises, and fewer products aimed at younger men, who may be more eager and able to follow his programs? Has he used the right language and tone to the right segments? All too often marketers either dumb down content to intelligent audiences, or throw tough jargon at relative newbie audiences.
Now you may want to ask: “How would I know what the competitor is doing? I can’t see exactly what his audiences are getting from him?” The answer is simple. Make it an investment in your learning to pay for one of his programs and become his student. Then, from the inside, you’ll know how he treats his audiences, and whether he is mismatching his products to his audiences. It’s okay – and good – to spend a bit to know the innards of your competitor’s world of audiences.
2. Make A Thorough Analysis Of Your Competitor’s Marketing Strategies
Once you’ve understood your main competitor’s audiences and products, you need to study his marketing strategy and tactics. For this, you may have to look in several different places and piece together the big picture.
If you are ready, then let’s go …
a. Check How Your Competitor Is Executing His Marketing Plan
Just Google the competitor’s name and you’ll usually get a whole list of social sites and platforms on which he is present and active. I just did this for Guy Kawasaki, the author-expert, and Google showed me every platform Guy is on. You can try this for your competitor by his personal name, and additionally by his business name.
Once you know which blogging platforms, sites, and social channels the competitor seems to be on, go into each one and note the following points:
- How long has he been on the platform or channel?
- How does he link back to his site from his bio or profile?
- How does he describe himself on these channels and platforms? Is it consistent signage?
- How often does he contribute content there?
- What type of content does he contribute there?
- Who are his followers and fans on each platform or channel?
- How are they engaging with his content (comments, social shares, likes etc.)
- Does he vary his content – or does it look like he just repurposes his blog post for distribution to these channels?
The idea here is to look for regularity, reach and coherence in his marketing.
b. Notice All The Details Of Your Competitor’s Content Strategies
The best place to analyze a competitor’s content strategy is his website. Look hard to see if you can spot answers to these types of questions:
- Is there a blog? What is the quality of the blog posts?
- Are there whitepapers or ebooks or case studies?
- Does the competitor post videos or webinars or a podcast?
- Does he use only stock images or also videos, infographics etc.?
- Does his site have an ecommerce store full of his products?
- Do you see press releases? Does he have a media kit?
- Does he include sponsored reviews of tools and resources?
- Does he have an FAQ section?
- Is his branding powerful and memorable?
Check all his site’s content for three factors: frequency of posting, quality of content and accuracy or reliability of information. Also try to get a feel of whether he writes all his content himself (visible in his consistency of tone and style) or does he hire varied sub-optimal freelance writers (who write without depth in their own medley of styles)?
c. Track The Nuances Of Your Competitor’s SEO And Social Strategies
It’s pretty easy these days to check out the SEO and social strategies your competitor uses. Let’s get to the SEO part first. You can use the free Ubersuggest tool to just type in the competitor’s website URL, as in the screenshot below. The tool will spit out all the keywords he uses, his high ranking blog posts, his backlinks profile and even his domain authority on his topic. You’ll get to know what to beat to overcome his tactics.
Now let’s get to the social media strategies of the competitor. Check his social posts for the hashtags he goes for. That should tell you how he attracts his social audiences. People gravitate towards following those who write on their favorite topics. In the social world, hashtags are what segregate topics. So check the top 50-100 social posts of your competitor and make a note of all the hashtags he uses. That’s where he gets his followers and fans from.
3. Analyze Your Competitor’s Audience Relationship Strategies
This section could be the most important part of your competitor analysis, because it will show you how strong are the relationship bonds the competitor has built with his audiences. This is something you can gauge only if you are one of his subscribers or buyers, so be sure to opt into his mailing list, become a subscriber and then buy something from him to see how he treats his buyers.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of one of the demanding buyers who gets easily prickled by lack of attention. Don’t be like one of those lackadaisical ones. That way you can set stiff standards to judge your competitor’s methods of keeping you in his community.
a. Notice Your Competitor’s Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing is the way most marketers keep in touch with their site visitors and build relationships and community with their subscribers. So check out your competitor’s email marketing by becoming a subscriber.
Here are a few things to take note of:
- How often does the competitor email his subscribers?
- Does he send formal non-personalized emails or more personalized emails?
- Does he send you a variety of emails or just his blog updates?
- Does he adopt a business-like tone or a friendly one-to-one tone in his emails?
- Have you ever felt like replying to one of his emails?
- Are his emails so predictable that you skip many in-between and read only a few now and then?
- Are there any invite emails to special events like webinars or mastermind sessions?
- Do his emails seem to follow a particular topic that you recently read on his site?
- If you change what you read on his site (more of another topic) do his emails also change to match that topic?
If a competitor is able to follow your last visits to his site and gauge your topics of interest and customize his emails to your displayed taste, you can be sure he uses some form of automation on his site. This shows he cares to stay close to his audiences and their preferences.
b. See How Your Competitor Is Building Audience Relationships
There are many ways marketers build relationships with their audiences. One, of course, is by regular emailing. But the second most important tactic is usually to host events to invite people to build a sense of community. His audiences get to know who they are keeping company with when they attend his group events.
See if there is a forum of a Facebook or LinkedIn Group you are invited to join. See if there is a lot of activity on such groups, and that the other members are of your ilk as a target audience member. Or does the group have a disparate gaggle of members just hanging out there for a lark?
See if there are occasional members-only events like webinars or group coaching sessions or FAQ sessions where people are invited to send in queries or attend and participate? Are there other attractions on his website like polls or quizzes where you can add your two bits, or see what the results are so far? Is there a way the competitor keeps his audiences abreast of happenings in the tech world that can affect his audiences? Does he seem to go the extra mile to give his audiences more value than others?
Also, see if he asks his subscribers to get him more subscribers? What incentives does he offer? After you buy a product, what’s the follow-up service like? Are you moved to a privilege mailing list for buyers? Do you get discounts for more purchases? Do you get earlier alerts of new products? How long does he follow you up for upselling or cross-selling other products to you? In other words, does he tend to drop you off his radar if you’ve left six or seven emails unclicked?
c. Check Out The Competitor’s Reputation In The Market
There is a smart way to check out what people say about your competitor and his brand. You can check out if his reputation is good, bad or ugly via “social listening”. There are tools that help you do this. My favorite is Hootsuite. It lets you set up all your social accounts in one dashboard, and enables you to follow mentions of your brand or a competitor’s brand. You can also monitor all conversations around any hashtags of your choice. Better still, you can participate in these ongoing decisions and ask a few questions on the social media about your competitor’s brand that elicit positive or negative responses.
When I tried this one time, I asked about my competitor’s brand: “Should I buy this XYZ product at this price?” Guess what, I got swamped with hundreds of pros and cons, and the cons outweighed the pros on some key parameters. This gave me a clue on how to beat my competitor in the areas he is perceived as weak. The thing here is that the competitor may not be really weak in certain areas, but audience perception matters more than reality. If his buyers think he is weak in some areas, that is his reputation, unfortunately. He suffers with the reputation he has earned, for reasons best known to him
In Summary …
- The idea is to look for the type of bonding between your competitor and the audiences he has that you covet.
- Spot the weak links in the bonding your competitor has with his target audiences. You can break those bonds.
- Get a strong fix on your competitor, his audience segmentation, and his products-to-audience matching.
- Make a thorough analysis of your competitor’s marketing strategies, including his reach and regularity.
- Analyze your competitors’ audience relationship and community-building strategies.
- Check out the competitor’s reputation in the market with some astute social listening.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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- How To Find A Profitable Niche … Solohacks RoundUp