Regardless of the sector, you operate in and regardless of the service you provide, you will always have competitors. To keep your business at the forefront of its sector, you need to identify these competitors. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your potential clients are spoilt for choice. This is in part due to the internet and because of how international businesses have become. There are now so many alternative organisations and services out there that it can be extremely difficult to identify them all.
Whilst it may seem daunting that a competitor can be anyone from anywhere in the world, there are ways to identify them. Alex Lovesey, a Digital PR Executive from Dark Horse, has come up with 10 ways that he identifies competitors for clients.
- Start off with a Google Search
This step is as simple as it sounds. If you sell flowers in Peterborough, then your first search should be ‘Florists in Peterborough’ From there you should create a list of all the websites that appear on the top couple of pages. After that, try searching for your individual products and services. You might want to try roses or flower delivery service, or whatever it is that you sell or do. Beyond that, it’s getting into the nitty-gritty of your sector and making sure that every item in your list is relevant to you.
After you have a substantial number of competitors on this list, then you should go through their websites and look for key information. Simple things like what services they offer, the price of their product, how many people they employ and so on. This allows you to see how you compare to other people in your sector.
- Scour Local Business Directories
Not everybody has a website, but most businesses have a directory of some kind. The most common would be Google Business. However, you can simply type in ‘your sector’ directories into Google and you will be faced with hundreds or thousands of different businesses. This can give you additional information on how each business markets itself, as well as provide you with their address, contact information and opening hours. This information can help inform your future business decisions. It can also help you find competitors you may have missed in your Google search.
- Use Google Maps
To find local competitors, it might be worth using a local search to find competitors in your area. This helps you find competitors that don’t have much of an online presence. It means you can have a really comprehensive overview of who could be taking your potential customers.
- Set up Tweet Deck
Tweet Deck is an invaluable tool that organises tweets into categories of your choosing. You can receive constant updates about industry-related hashtags. This lets you see who is talking about your sector and allows you to keep up with the conversation. You can also follow the accounts and mentions of known competitors. This lets you keep an eye on their marketing practices, to see what works and adapt your own approach.
- Keep an eye on Social Media and Forums
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are all social media sites that could be relevant to your sector. Making sure that you know where your potential customers spend their time is critical in getting them to purchase your products and services. However, it is also important to remember that forums still exist. There are popular ones like Reddit and Quora, but you should also search for industry-specific forums. These will help you see who your potential customers are shopping from and their sentiment towards you and your competitors.
- Set up Talkwalker Alerts
Talkwalker scours the internet in search of keywords that you select. So by choosing industry-specific keywords, you will get an email in your inbox showing all the websites that are talking about those keywords. This can identify new actions taken by competitors, it is also useful for identifying relevant trade publications and opportunities to liaise with journalists. You can choose to only get an email a day that has all of the relevant sector keywords, making sure you’re not getting inundated with information.
- Ask your Customers
Your clients will know your direct competitors better than you do because deciding between your product and your competitors’ is what they do all the time. Take to social media or the forums that you discovered and ask them who they prefer and why. Any feedback is useful in ensuring that you improve your products and services. It also means you are keeping up with all your competitors by finding out what they do differently from you.
- Keyword Research
Keyword research is the best way to identify your indirect competition. By conducting a competitive SEO analysis, you can determine which businesses or publishers are competing for people’s attention on Google. Most customers typically search for products and services on Google rather than looking for specific companies. The better your keyword ranking, the higher you will appear on the Google Search results. Bigger companies often take the top spot, which is why businesses are frequently competing with international companies.
- Take a look at the sponsored results
Sponsored results are paid for by the website. These usually appear at the top of the Google page and have the word ‘Ad’ next to the URL of the website. These websites are using pay-per-click advertising to reach more potential customers. This obviously costs money. If you cannot afford pay-per-click advertising in your budget, then it is best practice to focus on these competitors and see how you can beat them in quality of service or price.
- Hire an SEO agency
As part of improving your Search Engine Optimisation, an SEO agency will do a competitor analysis to see how you compare to other businesses in your sector. This will include things like a keyword and a backlink analysis. A keyword analysis allows you to see who else is using relevant search engine terms and a backlink analysis will help you identify trade magazines and other sites that are linking to your competitor. Both are incredibly useful when it comes to identifying your competitors.
Using these tips will ensure that you will always remain at the forefront of your sector. You can identify key areas of opportunity and optimisation.