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One of the most interesting parts of my job is to perform a competitive analysis where I get to have some “fun” and monitor, track, and analyze the activities and workings of a client’s competitors.

The goal is to get a glimpse into competitors’ online activities, methods, content patterns, best/worst performing online assets and particular campaigns in order to gain valuable insights that are being implemented into client’s marketing programs.

But, what is the underlying value of competitive analysis? What marketing challenges does competitive intelligence actually solve? Here are the top 5 challenges solved by competitive intelligence.

1.   Content

It is no secret, that this day and age a great portion of digital marketing is based on great content, providing high value to a segmented audience that in turn will consume your product or service. But, how do we know what content will best perform? Which content resonates with whom? Where can we get content ideas? Best practices? or plain old benchmarking our efforts?

Well, a significant portion of competitive intelligence involves content-based analysis. We can track and take notice what are your competitors’ best performing online channels, that actually fuel their online marketing efforts. Another crucial point here is patterns. More often than not, companies follow specific content patterns in their online distribution efforts. Those patterns are in fact work processes that are designed to (1) Continuously deliver results (and are usually based on some kind of methodology, best practices following trial and error) (2) Scaling, it is meant to for their marketing team to be able to create and distribute content at a reasonable time and effort. These work processes reduce the friction and effort it takes an organization to create, distribute and engage based on their online content. By identifying these patterns, best/worst performing content types and channels we can gain valuable intelligence that serves to focus, empower and save valuable time and money for clients.

2.   Buyer/influencer personas

Another big portion of today’s online marketing involves an intimate and a granular segmentation of your audience and buyers. Why? Well,  If you’re familiar with your buyers and influencer’s personas you can tailor and personalize your messaging, channels, content (as we’ve discussed above) and more. But, who are you actually attempting to reach? What are their pain points? What are their fears/concerns or questions they have as they’re going through their customer journey? Do you have an effective messaging in place to reach them? Can we tailor different pieces of content for different stages of the funnel?  

Competitive research and analysis can significantly remove these barriers and assist answering these question by carefully assessing what your competitors are doing and why. By examining what works for your competition, you can dramatically improve your messaging, targeting, content tailoring and much more.

P.S. if you’re flummoxed by the questions I’ve just raised here, I’d suggest taking a step back and work on your segmentation and buyers persona as they are one of the fundamentals for demand generation and content marketers. (or just shoot me an email for a free consultation).

3.   Advertising

Targeted advertising is an important skill set of any digital marketer and can greatly boost one’s efforts when building a content marketing operation, and attempting to bringing leads through your funnel (especially as they’re progressing in the journey).  But, how do you divide your budget? Segment your target audience? What are the most effective/right advertising networks for your audience? Should you advertise on Google Adwords? Bing? Twitter? Linkedin? Should you start a bidding war or bid on competitor’s branded terms? Which countries should you target?  How about banner placements and sizes?

All those and more can be answered with the competitive analysis of your competition’s advertising patterns, practices and provide a great reference and a comparison point for your advertising strategy.

4.   Communities

You may wonder, why did I dedicate a whole section to communities, shouldn’t it be a part of the buyer/influencer persona? Sure, one can include them under Personas, but the main reason I decided to write about it separately is that I believe communities are essential in today’s digital marketing environment, as such it is very important to identify, track and analyze them.  

Whether you’re building a community around your product or service, attempting to analyze, segment or profile online personas, the community aspects and attributes are more important than ever, as more people conduct businesses online, share and participate in meaningful online discussions on a variety of different platform, and share (sometimes even intimate experiences, publically and openly).

There are many ways to define a community. The definition I use is quite of a broader term:

“People with common interests, attributes, or characteristics, who are active online”.

It doesn’t really matter whether we’re dealing with C-level execs in mobile operators in north America or directors of medical facilities across Asia, at the end of the day both are unique and different group of individuals who have some common grounds and attributes that distinguish them from the masses. (the content they share, their concerns and interests, the unique terms they use and types of conversations they hold, the channels they use and much more).

Competitive analysis and research allow you to get a close look at your competitor’s communities of interest and their efforts. By tracking the personas in their respective communities, we can learn a lot about the competitor’s stakeholders and influencers (Vertical thought leaders, Journalists, company stakeholders, employees and more).

5.   Technical based insights

The final set of challenges that are addressable via competitive intelligence are somewhat more technical. There are plenty of benefits knowing which marketing related tech your competitors use. Especially when it comes down to their content management system,  various analytics platforms, advertising platforms and more. Those come handy when attempting to figure out specific usage patterns and marketing campaigns that have been conducted by the competition or when one might try to “reverse engineer” the competitor’s funnel.

Luckily, this day and age there are wonderful tools such as Builtwith and the more recently launched Similartech. Both tools offer a glimpse into 3rd party website (in this case your competition) and offer a close-up look at their core technologies stack that are being used across their digital assets.

There are many benefits to conducting competitive research, analysis and carefully observing your competitors actions and plans. These can be translated into actionable insights that often times offer high value to client’s marketing programs and activities.

Do you track your competition? Have I missed any ideas or methods in this post? Would love to read your take and thoughts.