What is a competitor audit?
How well do you know your market?
It’s quite understandable many business owners, especially small ones, spend all their time focused on creating, building and operating their businesses. While making sure what you offer is the best in terms of quality, service and price, without a handle on what your competitors are offering and communicating you could be wasting time and money focusing on the wrong things to keep your business in business.
Stepping back and putting time into conducting a competitor audit can add real value. You’ll learn what everyone is doing and more importantly, assess them against your own business and find gaps in areas to be more competitive.
How can you use the findings
The information you glean can be used in several ways from guiding general business strategy and policies to looking at brand and marketing to more specific areas such as social media trends and SEO.
Here are just a few ways you can use the findings:
Develop a best practice checklist to use as a reference
Help inform a brief for you to develop or refresh your website
Use as a springboard to develop and evolve your brand identity and brand positioning
Inform your pricing strategy
Evolve your product offering
Creating a social media strategy and learning which platforms are most common
Help inform your marketing strategy and general marketing communication
Where to start?
Make a list of key competitor businesses, either locally if relevant, nationally or even internationally. The best place to start is Google. It’s your online friend who can instantly tell you who they are, where they are and guide you to their websites. Once you’ve completed this, it’s worth condensing to five.
Now you have your top list, you can look at each one using a list of criteria to gather information on them. A good idea is to create a table putting the competitors down the left and your criteria in columns across the top. By populating it in one place you can save it and see a full view of the information, allowing you to compare them against each other and your business.
We've highlighted the most common areas of information you can gather to help you assess each competitor. You can cherry-pick key areas based on whether you’re starting from scratch or already have a good idea and of course consider how you’re using this information.
Collect the main parts of your competitor’s identity. Note down the name, examine their logo, primary colours, photography style and a reference to the tone of voice they use. How do they come across? Are they a premium brand or a value brand? And what do you think are there brand values? Common values businesses have are innovative, transparency, quality and service led.
2. Proposition & messages
Find their lead headline, strapline or sentiment and then look at the introductory wording paragraphs. Are there 1-2 key messages that stand out? Make a note of these.
Do they focus on customer service or key features? Is there something unique they centre their offer on?
Now bring this together and see if their is consistency in their messaging.
3. Products and services
Review their main products and services. Do they offer any added value? How do they sell their products – instore, online or face to face?
Summarise each of your competitor's pricing. Make sure you categorise by product size or service type. See if you can find any offers, introductory incentives or multiple purchase bundles. Do they offer a loyalty scheme as a regular customer? What are their prices and pricing policy?
Can you determine who are their main customers and what type of customer they are? This will give you a feel for how they’re targeting the market and if you should be targeting the same groups of people/businesses or aiming at another group of potential customers. If you are not sure you can always looks at any customer reviews or case studies.
A general review of your competitor's website can highlight the traits of your competitors. Is the website up to date, modern and easy to navigate? What information or key sections do they have? Do they offer free, downloadable information in the form of a blog. What overall feeling do you get from reviewing their website? Does it come across as slick, content rich and professional? Or outdated, disjointed and content light? Does it present a strong customer experience? Is it up to date? Can you download any material? There are lots of things you can learn from reviewing your rivals website so spend some time on this particular one.
7. Marketing collateral
Can you find, access and download any brochures, product or service information, customer testimonials and case studies. Keep a record of these. Look at the style and general themes.
8. Social media presence
What social media platforms are they on? Are they using it regularly, sporadically or have they stopped posting completely? What are they communicating? Is it heavy selling or more subtle information about their business and behind the scenes? How many people follow or engage with them? Do they have strong engagement levels with customers? This is a very useful exercise to help create a social media strategy for your business.
Check reviews of your competitors on external platforms like Trustpilot. Each sector will have an independent ‘go to’ body, always found online, to check scores and reviews customers have given. And don’t forget to look them up on Google as well.
10. Compare and find trends and gaps
With all the information collected, spend a good amount of time assessing what you’ve discovered. Make a note of the top 10 key learnings. As you compare them against each other and your business, can you spot any trends and where there are gaps to allow your business to be different. You could also plot your competitors to see where the gaps are visually based using a graph.
A common insight is a lot of businesses tend to focus on product features. It is important to separate our features and benefits. You can position yourself leveraging your customers challenges and, in turn, the minds of the customer to demonstrate added value. Kayla Carmichael at Hubspot provides some useful examples.
We would recommend doing this annually. It can be extremely insightful. Based on the findings, you then review your marketing.
For more marketing advice and insight, check out our Sharp End blog content. For a free 30-minute consultation to discuss any element of marketing for your business, then please drop us a line.