Why You Should Love Your Competitors

1 November 2016

The wise learn many things from their enemies.


‘Enemies’ may be a slightly too strong a term, but you get the point. No matter what your sector, business, location, size – you should love your competitors. Yes, they are a threat and yes, there may be times when you wish they didn’t exist at all, but they can be incredibly valuable to the development of your business. Here are just a few reasons why…

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You can learn from their mistakes

Highlighting the mistakes of other companies is often easier than reflecting upon your own as you are able to look more objectively, detaching yourself from the finer details. Acknowledging errors in competitors may help to uncover mistakes you are making yourself, or prevent you from making them in the first place.

Be inspired

Competitor analysis can be incredibly useful for highlighting what works well for them, sparking ideas for your own business. We’re not advocating copying here, that would just leave you one step behind, but instead a bit of window shopping to gather ideas.

Understand the market

Your competitors are one of the greatest sources of information when it comes to gaining and retaining a thorough understanding of the market. It’s not just about knowing what you’re up against, it’s about discovering as much as possible about your area of work (which includes a bit of digital stalking every now and again).

This also helps you to develop your business by highlighting new opportunities and untapped markets for your service or product.

A thorough understanding of gaps in the market can be used to drive your marketing strategies, boosting lead generation and inspiring a better understanding of how to convert visitors into customers.

Know where to look

When conducting a digital competitor analysis, there are five main areas to analyse:

  • Content – What types of content are they using on their digital channels? Are they relevant to the business and the target market? Have any important bits of information been missed? Are the pages well laid-out and aesthetically pleasing? Pinpointing areas of both strength and weakness in your competitors often helps to reveal your own areas of strength and weakness, sparking ideas on how to adapt your content. This doesn’t only relate to website landing pages, blogs, news postings and email newsletters are also a vital part of the content strategy, especially when it comes to lead generation.
  • User experience – Put yourself in the shoes of the end-user and look into factors such as how easy the site is to navigate, how long pages take to load, if you come across any obstacles during your journey, and if effort is made to, for example, tailor marketing emails to the recipient. Take some time to explore the little details that can make or break the big picture.
  • Social media – Whilst the website may be your first port of call, seeing how customers are engaging with your competitor’s social networks and the tactics they are using to achieve this provides insight into your shared target audience and how they respond to certain content and the business as a whole.
  • SEO analysis – Tracking how you rank against competitors and looking into the reasoning behind this can be incredibly valuable. For example, if you are an online fashion retailer in the UK and when searching ‘women’s dress size 10 UK’ you appear on page nine of the Google search results, where your key competitors appear on page one, there are issues to be addressed. Examining their pages and the keywords used throughout can give an idea of how your content, and especially metadata and headings, could be better optimised for your target market.
  • Pricing – As important online as it is offline, comparing your pricing to a range of competitors is crucial to ensure your business remains competitive. It is also worth noting if they offer any online-only initiatives such as downloadable eBooks or 20% off when you register to boost lead generation.

Don’t let competitors become your focus

Whilst knowing the competition inside out can be invaluable, it’s important to develop your business independently. Business developments should not be driven solely by the desire to overcome your competitors, but rather by foreseeing gaps in the market and knowing your own customers and business objectives.

True nobility isn’t about being better than someone else, it is about being better than you used to be.

Portia de Rossi

Remember, having competitors at all is a good sign

If you’re just starting out, competitor research can be daunting to say the least. There are always a million excuses to give up – people are already doing it, it’s a saturated market, the competitors are well-established, I’m too old to start a business, I haven’t got the experience – but so many companies have become highly successful against all odds.

See Uber, Air BnB, EE; the fact that competitors exist means there is a market and, as these companies have shown, with the right idea and strategy you can overcome pretty much any obstacle.

Competitors can teach you things about your company, target market and industry that you may not have otherwise discovered.

These lessons can play an instrumental role in the development of your strategy, from core business decisions to improving your digital customer acquisition strategy.

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