When was the last time you took a peek at your competition? If you plan on 2024 being your stand-out year, you’ll want to for the sake of your strategy. To stand out, you must know what’s out there, hence why researching your competitors is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The integration of competitor research, market positioning analysis and customer feedback is a trifecta that can guide your business toward strategic excellence. So if you’re ready to gain the know-how to go toe-to-toe with your competitors and update your business strategy this year, grab your journal. It’s time to research.

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The Importance of Understanding Competitors

The cornerstone of any successful competitor research strategy is identifying those business rivals and whether they fall under the category of direct or indirect competitors.

Direct competitors are those businesses that are offering the same or similar services to yours, competing for the same customer base. An indirect competitor, on the other hand, may target a similar audience but provides differing services.

An example of this could be if you’re a specialty cake baker. Your direct competition is other bakers in your area; however, your indirect competition is the supermarkets in your area or even online dessert subscriptions that are trying to steal your customers’ sweet tooth from you.

A quick Google search can help identify these competitors, but you may find it helps to look into industry-specific reports and databases to get a bit more insight into up-and-coming businesses and any niche players. This is particularly important for service-based businesses that run online and essentially compete globally, like consultants, planners and software companies.

Identifying competitors is not just about listing out names and evaluating their aesthetics, but rather understanding them. What are their strategies and market positions, and how are they interacting with their customers? Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s get started showing you how you can conduct your own research.

Analyze Competitor Strategies

You already pop on your investigator cap while watching your favorite thriller, so why not do the same for your business? Once you’ve identified your competition, your next step is dissecting their strategies for each touchpoint.

 You’ll want to take a look at these three points.

Website: Delve into their user experience, quality, various types of content and any highlighted unique offerings. Understanding their positioning helps identify areas where your business can either differentiate or optimize its approach.

Social media: The world of social media provides a wealth of information—insights into engagement levels, content strategy, posting frequency and the audience type they attract. Examining tone differences on various platforms provides a clearer understanding of how they connect with their audiences.

Organic Search: When you Google a business competitor, what do you see? When using SEO tools, what keywords are they ranking for? SEO strategy determines online visibility which directly impacts potential customer reach. By uncovering these strategies, your business can gain insight into the keywords and content that are working, or not, as well as the effectiveness of their backlinking and technical SEO practices.

Assess Market Positioning

Assessing market positioning requires you to understand where your competitors stand within the market and what their unique selling points are. 

What is the distinctive element that makes them stand out? For the local landscaper, this could be organic products and pesticides. At a gym, that may look like training for those with disabilities. As for salons, perhaps they have an award-winning stylist who specializes in reviving heat and color-damaged hair in one visit. Regardless of the angle, understanding the point of differentiation will allow you to refine your strategies and carve out a distinct identity in the industry.

Conducting a SWOT analysis is key in evaluating your competitors’ market positioning. SWOT (an abbreviation for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) increases awareness of the aspects that go into making a business decision or establishing a business strategy.

You might find that your SWOT analysis for your competition looks like this:

  • Strengths: Specialized expertise, robust client portfolio, agile operations
  • Weaknesses: Limited resources, limited brand awareness
  • Opportunities: Influencer marketing, specialized training
  • Threats: Specific client dependencies, trend shifts

By having this information on hand, you’re able to refine your business’s strategy in a way that helps you to better stand out.

Understand Customer Feedback and Reviews

While researching your competitors is important, who better to get nuanced insight from than your clientele? Customer feedback and reviews serve as unfiltered testimonials, providing a direct line into your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. 

Check in with customers to see how they view your services and better understand their pain points. Moreover, customer feedback often unveils trend shifts within your industry. By staying attuned to these sentiments, you proactively stay on top of customer expectations and ensure your offerings are competitive.

Implementing these findings into your 2024 strategy is paramount for staying relevant and meeting the evolving demands of the market. This holistic approach not only helps you learn about where your business can leverage opportunities but also allows you to navigate any potential threats.

Use this information to keep your business agile and responsive. For more tricks and tips to improving your business, check out our archive of guides.

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Free Guide: The Modern Small Business Playbook