Take the Lead: Conducting a Competitive Analysis




Take the Lead: Conducting a Competitive Analysis

If you watched any of the recent Olympic cycling events, you may have noticed the lead cyclist quickly turn his or her head to look for fellow racers. This move may appear to be a small twitch, but it’s an important part of a cyclist’s race strategy. Knowing where competitors are on the course is key to setting a winning pace.

Coincidentally, this same move applies to professional service firms.

Determining what your competitors are up to—and where they’re headed—helps you better understand your position in the marketplace, which is critical when developing a game plan for getting ahead. Of course, checking in on the competition does involve a bit of sleuthing. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you sift through dumpsters or sneak around offices. We at Hollinden live by the Aggie Code of Honor, after all! The information you need to successfully profile your competitors is right at your fingertips.

Identify What You Know
Although your competitors will not hand over their business plans, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good idea of what they entail. Start by identifying what you know about the competition. Which segments of the market do your competitors serve? Are you able to identify their customer bases? Given what you know about the industry, do you expect their market share to increase or decrease? Think about external factors that may come into play. Once you gather all the information you know, you can begin to supplement it with additional research.

Research Digital Presence 
In this day and age, digital presence is everything, which means your competitors’ websites provide a wealth of information. Beyond revealing mission statements and staff credentials, you can glean valuable insight into how they engage with their audiences. Note the number of pages and types of information the website includes, as well as its ease of use, appearance on different web browsers and mobile devices, and social-media icons.

Additionally, determine if their website is optimized for search engines. In fact, there are several tools out there that can help you gather intelligence on everything from your competitors’ keyword rankings to website traffic and backlinks. But before you employ any tool, confirm that it follows Google’s terms of use. Remember, we’re keeping this all above-board.

Next, review their social channels and gauge their level of engagement with customers and prospects. This will give you a better idea of where they may be headed in the marketplace. Identify which platforms they use, the timing and frequency of their posts and responses, and the nature of their content.

Evaluate Content Marketing 
Diving into your competitors’ digital presence should also give you a foothold in evaluating their content marketing efforts. Note the nature of their content—are they simply re-posting content from industry sources or are they creating their own? Does their content appear to be produced on the fly or are they taking time to craft quality pieces? Examine the ways they are pushing out content and the number of shares or retweets that follow. Does their website tout an email newsletter or white paper? Be sure to look beyond the web, too. Do your competitors have a byline in industry publications? This will indicate whether they are viewed as thought-leaders and experts in the industry.

Compare, Compare, Compare 
Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to use it to your advantage. Take what you know about your competitors’ client base, market share, digital presence, and content marketing efforts and hold it up against those same elements of your firm. Note the areas where your competitors are out-pacing or out-performing your firm, and design strategies for eliminating these gaps. Now that you know where you sit in the race, you can make better decisions for how you’ll take the lead.