Although no one knows your brand better than you, it never hurts to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. From small businesses to major corporations, everyone can benefit from looking at what others in their industry are doing. As well as helping to distinguish your brand, keeping up-to-date with your competition may also provide inspiration and opportunities for your own activities.
There are a few examples of this kind of branding on a national level. For instance, back in 2014, UK retailer Sainsbury’s came under fire after displaying an employee incentive poster in their shop window by accident.
This poster obviously wasn’t intended for customers’ eyes and led to the brand getting some negative coverage in the press and on social media. But the reason we bring it up is a responding campaign from Lidl, which was released that week.
Directly referencing the competing retailer’s blunder without specifically attacking them, this campaign advances Lidl’s brand as a budget alternative to bigger supermarkets.
This campaign positioned them as a company that aspires to help their customers save money rather than squeeze pennies out of them, capitalising on the opportunity presented by topical coverage. This shows the benefits of following what your brand’s competitors are doing and using it to refine your own brand.
Identify Your Competition
Unless you run a major chain of supermarkets, it’s unlikely that Lidl and Sainsburys are your main competitors.
While it’s always helpful to stay abreast of what’s going on in your industry, the first step in determining whether your findings are relevant to your brand or not is to identify your Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary competitors.
Your Primary Competitors are your direct competitors. They target the same audience as you, usually in the same area, with very similar products and services.
Your Secondary Competitors are companies that offer a similar product to a different audience. They’re usually based elsewhere and probably offer the high- or low-end version of your products.
Your Tertiary Competitors are businesses in your industry who have related products and services. For instance, if you are a garden landscaping company and they sell gardening equipment, they’re not playing for your audience, but they’re reaching theirs effectively.
Depending on the level of competition, you’re looking to learn something different from each of these brands. All three types will help to provide current and relevant context for your own business, which may prove instructive in your own branding and marketing activities.
The Customer Experience
With primary competitors especially, you should be interested in the customer experience that they are offering. Your brand usually shapes how your visitors experience your site, which will in turn influence whether or not they decide to become customers.
As it applies to your website, you can always benefit from seeing what others in your industry are doing, in order to determine what you are doing right, what you could stand to improve, and what you could be doing to distinguish yourself in the market.
It’s not about copying whatever more successful brands are doing, it’s about honest self-assessment. Be accountable to yourself by measuring your strengths and weaknesses against other brands and use your findings to develop your brand in the future.
When you browse a competitor’s website, there are a number of features to look out for in order to compare with your own customer experience.
Products and Services
Even if you don’t have eCommerce functionality, your website is where you sell your products and services to visitors. Look at how others are using product descriptions and photos to attract customers. This will help you to ensure that your own website represents your products/services and your brand accurately and attractively.
As well as descriptions, you need to be aware of competitors offering products which are the same as or similar to yours, but at a different price point. If they’re offering the same products as you at a cheaper price, you may need to consider lowering your price. If their products are more expensive, you may want to emphasise that your brand is offering better value for money.
Keyword research is a crucial part of online brand visibility. Effective and relevant keywords will attract your customers’ attention, but as well as using various search tools, you could also learn from your competitors. Make a note of the most commonly occurring keywords on their site and compare these to your own keywords – this can be as useful for distinguishing yourself as it is for finding common ground.
Call to Action
A good call to action will direct site visitors to do what you want them to do. As with keywords, your primary competitors are aiming for the same target audience as your brand, so it stands to reason that you might be able to gain some insight or inspiration from checking their CTAs as well.
Blogging and Social Media
Beyond products and services, blogging is a great way to add value to your customer experience, providing useful content that suits your brand’s tone of voice. Equally, maintaining a social media presence allows you to further your brand with regular updates. Of course, you don’t have access to competitors’ analytics, but upon visiting their blog or social media platforms, you will be able to see how they are using this content to engage with the public.
Awards and Reviews
Industry awards and customer reviews support your brand by corroborating what you’re saying about your own products and services. Find out what your competitors’ customers are saying about them and evaluate your own company accordingly. If their site or social media platform enables open submissions for reviews, study the negative feedback, as well as the company’s response to it, for further insight.
When browsing a business website, there should be clear options about how to get in touch with them. More than just contact details in the header, you want to appear open and approachable. Examine how your competitors engage with their site visitors and compare your findings with your own on-site engagements.
Conclusion: What’s Going on in Your Industry?
Branding is about telling your story, so it’s always worth looking at how your competitors are telling their own brand story. From finding strong keywords to seeing what customers are saying about other companies, there are various key benefits to following what others in your industry are doing.
This will help you to identify areas where you are either falling behind other brands or offering something too similar to your primary competitors. Through careful research and thorough performance analysis, you can use your findings to build a picture of current market dynamics and tailor your own brand performance accordingly.