Another important and helpful tool in your content strategy tool belt is conducting a basic competitive analysis. Understanding who your key competitors are, how they’re positioning themselves, what products and services they offer, and how their talking about them, is an extremely helpful way for you to ensure your content is differentiated and compelling to your personas (who are probably looking at your competitors, too).
Keeping an eye on the competition can also help you keep a finger on the pulse of what other businesses in your industry are doing, saying and offering. In return, this helps you stay competitive and relevant to your customers.
HubSpot has a Competitor app under the Analyze tab which will help you see how your competitors are performing. Using the app by itself, however, only tells part of the story. To really understand your competitive set, you need to go to their sites, explore their About Us and Product pages and really see for yourself what they’re saying.
If they have a blog, what are they blogging about? What are the products and services they offer? What are their special offers? Do they have any thought leadership? The information you gather will be invaluable to you while creating your own content.
The first step is creating your competitive list.
Start by identifying 3 to 5 core competitors for your research. You can create a longer list to use in the Competitors app—but for your core list, try to limit it to your direct competitors. Specifically the competitors that will be within your personas’ consideration set.
Add to this list one business that you consider a “best in breed” example of an online presence. This one doesn’t necessarily need to be a direct competitor, but the more relevant it is to you and your industry, the more it will help you. This will be your benchmark example of who you think is doing a good job of positioning themselves.
Last, add one business, not necessarily a competitor—but in your industry, that you think is not doing a great job at positioning themselves online. This will help you see what not to do with your content.
To help build-out a larger list, you can use Google to search for your keywords or core products and see who else comes up. Doing this research can also help you see who else is out there and what they are saying.
Take your new list and use the Competitor Analysis Chart to organize information about your competition. In most cases, you can find this information by doing a quick scan of their website and associated social networks and blogs.
A good place to look for positioning information is always the About Us page. Careers or Jobs sections are also a good place to mine for information.
Don’t be shy! Step into your personas’ shoes and do some digging. Do they have marketing materials for download? Great! Download them! You might be surprised at what you find…or don’t find, for that matter.
Once you have everything together, take a holistic look at the common words and phrases everyone is using. Is everyone an “expert?” Are all their products/service “comprehensive?” After looking at a few, you’ll get the gist.
You can use this data to:
Help you position yourself in a differentiated and compelling way (who are you, what do you offer and why a customer should care)
Learn what about you and your offer is truly unique
Figure out what special offers would be exclusive
Identify thought leadership opportunities that can take ownership of (whitepapers, eBooks, checklists, etc.)
Identify products and services you should consider offering
Again, the goal of doing this is to make sure you look and sound different—all of which comes back to being relevant to your personas.
Spend as much or as little time on this as you find helpful. At the very least, keep a list of your core competitors and check out their sites once a month to see what’s changed.
Did you find this helpful? Would you like to learn more about doing a more in-depth competitive audit? Let me know! I’d be happy to provide more tips and tricks in future blog posts.
Originally published Sep 26, 2011 4:32:00 PM, updated January 24 2014