In our online business reality, it’s easier than ever before to conduct competitive market research and analysis.
And here you will learn how to analyze a competitive product, investigate your competitors’ customers, check competitor website properly, perform social media and SEO competitive intelligence, easily like a pro.
You can effortlessly spy, track, and understand where your competitors are and what makes them successful.
On this page:
- What is competitive market research? Definition and benefits.
- How to do market research on competitors? The complete guide.
- Infographic in PDF: 23 actionable techniques and ways to research the competitor’s customers, products, employees, marketing content, social media, and SEO.
What is competitive market research?
Let’s define it:
Practically, you can track everything your competitors do – from product to people to promotions.
The goal is to find out what is working for other businesses in your industry so that you can make the most informed decisions and gain competitive advantages.
There are plenty of good benefits you can gain when tracking what competitors are doing:
- Discover in which areas competitors are better than you and how you can approve your offerings.
- Get new ideas to serve your customers better.
- Discover new marketing channels.
- Act upon your competitor information and plan your business next move.
- Identify gaps and see a new product that fills a need within the market.
- Understand more clearly how your company is performing and where you need to concentrate more energy.
Now, let’s see how to collect insights into your competitors and leverage the competitive market research for business decisions.
How to do market research on competitors?
The complete guide.
1. Research On Your Competitor’s Products and Services
Researching competitors’ products and services is a core step in the overall competitive market research for finding out what your competitors are offering, to which customers and how your rivals innovate and update their proposals.
There are industries (like tech) where companies’ products and services are in a constant cycle of innovation.
And if you are operating in such an industry, it’s even more critical to gain constant and huge insight into competitor’s offerings to be able to stay ahead and to offer more.
Here are some essential questions you should find the answer:
- How are your competitor’s products positioned in the market?
(low-cost products, high-quality products, products with unique features, ease of use, etc.)
- What are the key marketing channels of the competitors for distributing their products/services?
(retail, brokers, franchising, direct marketing, affiliate marketing, etc.)
- Does your sales team know the strengths and weakness of your competitors’ products and services?
Is your team ready to sell effectively against them?
- Do competitors regularly discount their products or services? What is the size of the discount?
- How does your pricing compare? Are the competitors more or less costly? Why?
- How innovative are your competitor’s products? How regularly they update features?
How to gain answers to these questions. Here are actionable techniques and ways for effective but easy product research on your competitors:
1. Check any of the product-related pages on your competitors’ websites.
This includes product descriptions, product reviews by customers, help articles, forum activities, product photography, and more.
For example, the forum topics can give you valuable information about user experience (UX) and to show you which product areas are difficult to use.
The product description will give you an idea of how competitors explain their products and communicate details and benefits. Spot what information is missing in descriptions and think why.
The key point here is to check regularly competitor’s page to stay updated with the new movements and offers.
2. Purchase competitor products
The best way to understand how customers feel about your competitor’s products is to become a customer of your competitor.
And I mean to be a customer on a regular basis to follow updates and changes in the product strategies.
Purchasing competitor’s products will not only allow you to check out the product itself, but also discover important details such as the time it takes to ship, the level of service, customer experience, how their packaging looks, etc.
3. Understand the pricing
The pricing strategy is one of the most important components of every business – and holds key competitive advantages.
But just watching the numbers of prices is not enough for successful competitive market research.
You need to evaluate and understand all of the features and components of your competitor’s pricing strategy (such as discounts, fees, distributing channels, additional services, pricing segmentation, etc. )
Moreover, it is a must to educate your sales team about your competitor’s prices so that they can best position the value of your solutions.
How you can find info about competition prices?
Check competitor’s websites and discount announcements, use competitor price tracking software as Prisync and Price2Spy, check sites specially created for reviewing products (as G2 Crowd and Software Advice in the software industry).
4. Keep an eye on product reviews
The number of third-party review sites for sharing customer feedback is constantly growing. It makes it incredibly easy for you to gain valuable info about your competitors.
For example, review websites such as G2 Crowd and Software Advice in the software industry, are full of customer advice, praise, recommendations, or complaining about your competitor’s products.
Other popular examples of sites where people share their experiences are Google Plus Local and Yelp.
Pay attention to how many reviews your competitors have in comparison to yours and how satisfied people are.
5. Use competitive intelligence tools
Nowadays, there are so many free and premium competitive intelligence tools that allow you to monitor almost all aspects of your competition and to perform marketing intelligence on a high level with no efforts.
For example, Crayon is a powerful software solution that helps you track products and services at scale. They track 100+ different signals to provide you with a full picture of your competitors’ digital footprints.
Custodee is another tool that offers individual website monitoring and competitor tracking. You can use this tool to get notifications about availability, prices, and content changes of competitors and their products.
2. Research On Your Competitor’s Employees and Team
The employees and teams are one of the most valuable strengths of your competitor. Every employee has a significant influence on customer relationships and satisfaction. Click To Tweet
The staff is the reason why your competitor’s product is high-quality, the service is good, and the customer experience is excellent (or not).
So, the competitive market research and analysis on staff and teams is critical. Learning about human resources will show you where the company is investing and the skills that keep the business running successfully.
Here are some important questions you should find the answer:
- How often are your competitors hiring? In which departments and regions?
- What types of skills and qualifications are your competitors searching the most?
- What do candidates share about their recruiting process?
- What do employees say about their work environment and motivation? Are they satisfied with the conditions?
- Who are the biggest talents in your competitor and why they work for the company?
And here are some very useful techniques and methods to find out the answer to the above questions.
1. Read employee reviews
This is one of the easiest ways to research employee information. Just go to third-party review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed and check what current and ex-employees are saying about the company.
Do not forget to check regularly these sites to be updated about the latest ratings on you and your competitors.
2. Research LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a very useful place when it comes to finding employee-related information for your competitive market research. Sign up on LinkedIn to follow a company and get alerts when updates are published on its LinkedIn page.
You also can find former employees and new hires. Check in details the profiles of the employees – their qualifications, previous jobs, positions, skills, certificates, and etc.
This is precious information about the people’s level of knowledge, experience, and professionalism.
3. Check Who’s on Quora
Quora holds a tremendous database of interesting competitive questions on various topics.
Regularly, company employees provide professional answers and they reply using their true identities to promote the company where they work.
Find the answers of your competitor’s staff and pay attention to their writing style, profile, company presentation, etc.
4. Keep an eye on the team page on the competitor’s website
Keeping track on team page can show you not only more detailed info about the team, but also will give you a clue about the employee retention rates and other details for solid competitive market research.
For example, if a competitor’s Sales Managers leave often, it may be a sign that employee retention rates are low or that sales are not on the desired level.
Also, research the employees who hold respected and leadership positions by reading the “About Us” page and employee bios on the company’s website.
5. Monitor hiring pages, job ads, and the key job boards
Knowing the open job positions can provide insight into where are the competitor’s efforts on future growth. Are they developing a new solution or technology?
Are they going international? Are they hiring in marketing or project management?
Job portals like Indeed are a massive place for position postings because it compounds listings from many online job boards.
Keep special attention to the skills a company want to hire. They’re a leading indicator for new initiatives and moves.
3. Research On Your Competitor’s Customers
Customers are the core signal of the growth rate of your competitors. Besides this, your competitors are hungry for your customers or want to attract the same customers as you, with similar offerings.
So, it is absolutely critical to perform sophisticated competitive market research on your rival’s clients and prospects. It can help you arm your sales team with the best positioning of your benefits versus your competitors’ role.
You can be sure that your business rivals already deeply research and analyze your current and potential customers.
Here are some critical questions you should know the answer:
- Who are your competitors’ customers? What is their profile related to market segmentation (demographics, interests, incomes, region, etc)?
- What are those customers saying about the competitors? Are they satisfied with competitor’s products and level of service or not?
- Which benefits or features provided by your rivals do customers love the most? Why?
- What customer retention strategies use other businesses in the industry? (loyalty programs, gifts, extraordinary customer service, referral programs, etc.)
Let’s see some powerful tips and techniques to find out the answer to the above questions.
1. Track testimonials and case studies on competitor’s website
To stay on top of who are the most valuable customers of your competitors and how they are winning or losing clients, you need to track and analyze their testimonial pages, case study pages, YouTube channel, and other pages where they feature quotes.
Are competitors adding new case studies or customer testimonials on or off their web pages?
Check these pages regularly as they are an important part of the competitive market research that show how effectively your competitor builds brand strength across your industry.
2. Survey competitor customers
Your competitor’s customers can give you fresh and real information on their new proposals, discounts, promotions, or loyalty programs.
Do your competitor surprise their customers on their birthday or invite them to education events?
Ask clients what features and benefits do they like about their products and what they don’t.
Revise your rivals’ social media pages, where they are frequently reviewed. Learn from the reviews, opinions, and suggestions, and use them in your business.
Also, if it’s possible try to survey high profile competitor customers as they can explain what keeps them loyal to the brand.
3. Survey customers that you lost to competitors
This is an absolutely critical moment in your competitive market research – to ask lost customers why they chose a competitor over you.
Is the reason the price, the product quality, the level of service?
You will find valuable information about your competitor and your business in their responses.
4. Ask your customers
Whenever you acquire a new customer, ask them who they used before, and why they turned to you. Find out why they are dissatisfied with the previous supplier.
If you collect a good number of answers from your lost and current clients as well as those of your competitors’, you’ll understand clearly which benefits customers view as important and preferable.
You can then adjust your own proposals to gain competitive advantages and even beat competitors.
5. Use customer intelligence tools
Today, there are powerful customer intelligence tools that show you key insights into customers’ needs, desires, motivations, and behaviors.
They allow you to track competitors customer updates at scale.
For example, UserVoice is a tool built from rich data analysis methods. It allows you to understand customer needs and assess the potential impact of product features. With UserVoice your team can capture feedback from customers, no matter where they are.
Qualtrics is another powerful enough platform to provide an omnichannel view of the customer experience across any digital interaction.
4. Research On Your Competitor’s Content Marketing, Social Media, and SEO
Do you know the phrase, “content is king”? Nowadays, few businesses dare to doubt the power of content marketing.Content marketing is not just a necessity for any modern brand. It is one of the key weapons to set yourself apart from your competitors. Click To Tweet
Including content analysis in your competitive market research is a must, not a suggestion.
Content marketing attracts and retains customers by consistently publishing valuable content.
From well-researched blog posts to social media, content has the power to change the relationship between the company and consumer.
Monitoring what your competitors are publishing is a way to get insights into what type of media brings them the best results, and find ideas to improve your content and social media activities.
Here are some key questions you should know the answer:
- What type of content your competitor is publishing? (blog posts, case studies, white papers, ebooks, etc.) What is the quantity of each content type?
- What is the frequency of publishing of each content type? Twice a week? Twice a day?
- Which topics are discussed in their content? Which topics the competitor is trying to establish a strong thought leadership position for?
- How well is the content optimized for search engines? What keywords bring traffic for them, and which backlink strategies are successful?
- How are your competitors using social media? Which channels work the best for them?
Let’s see some powerful tips and techniques to find out the answer to the above questions.
1. Evaluate the content on the competitor website
Begin by auditing the website of your competitors to determine what type of content is housed.
See what types of content creation do your competitors focus on and how often they are publishing.
Different types of content can include: blog posts, white papers, eBooks, videos, podcasts, Press releases, case studies, etc.
It gives you a good idea of where you should spend more effort and resources.
Pay special attention to their blog. Blogging is still a key component of any digital marketing strategy. Check if your competitor’s blog is an uninspiring place full of keywords, or if it discusses hot industry topics that aim to resolve consumer problems and needs.
Subscribe to the competitor blog’s RRS feed.
Blogs serve much more purposes than just improving SEO performance. Good blog content nurtures and converts customers, creates brand awareness, and engages with prospects.
Once you’ve researched their content, you can determine the frequency of publications and the quality of the text, and most importantly you can see how it compares to yours.
You may find your competitor has 300 blog posts (publishing once every business day), 35 case studies, 50 podcasts, and 10 videos. You also note that this competitor focuses on three topics in their content: data mining applications, business intelligence, and data visualization. But they have pretty low content related to artificial intelligence and its rising importance in our age! This is a weak place where you could easily overtake their market share.
In the competitive market research on content, it is critical to check also how engaging your competitor’s publications are to their readers. In other words, how their target audience responds to the content.
Check the number of shares, comments, and likes on your competitor’s content. Determine what topics gain the most of the shares and comments and find out if the comments are negative or positive.
2. Don’t stop at the competitor’s website
Content takes on various forms, and it won’t always be only on your competitors’ websites.
While a lot of content may be shared on their website, you should analyze other very powerful resources such as press releases, off-site blogs created by important industry influencers, events, sponsorships, announcements, news in magazines, etc.
Monitoring press releases is one of the easiest ways to find out how your competitors want to be perceived. A great tip here is to set up Google Alerts on their brand names to follow announcements and important updates.
Tracking news mentions is a critical element of competitive market research as the strategic press is an efficient way to create a brand and gain popularity within your industry.
Monitoring industry press will tell you what people are saying about your competitors and how they’re positioning themselves against you. Again, use Google Alerts to be informed of these mentions.
3. Research social media posts
Presence on social media is increasingly important as social media networks are a wonderful way for companies to interact with users and customers.
Evaluate how your competitors are utilizing social media to catch valuable social signals and determine how competitors promote their brand identity and voice.
Visit these social media sites to see if your competitors have a profile: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+
Consider using social mentioning tools – they are doing a great job.
For example, Hootsuite is a social mentioning tool that allows you to see how often competitors post, how they engage with customers as well as allows you to manage greatly your own social media presence.
Note especially what is the type of articles that people like, and don’t like. Spot the times of day when people engage the most with your competitor posts, and when people are less active.
4. Perform SEO competitive analysis
Tracking SEO campaigns is a key aspect in the overall competitive market research.
A comprehensive SEO analysis can show you how your competitor is winning organic visibility, what keywords bring traffic for them, and which backlink strategies are successful.
Finally, you can use this information to grow your own site’s organic traffic.
At the heart of that competitor’s SEO analysis process is keyword research.
You need to identify how well are your competitors using keywords. Are keywords included in the page title, H1 tags, content, internal links, etc. This will show you how serious is your competitor about the keyword strategies.
Not only should you check the keyword density of the content but it is vital to discover which exactly keywords your competitors are utilizing.
For the purpose, specialized SEO tools like SEMrush and Moz work the best. They can help you a lot in your competitive market research as show you which keywords your competition rank for and their percentage of organic and paid traffic.
SEO tools like these also help you analyze how well your website is performing against your competition and which keywords are generating quality leads to your site.
Besides keyword research, you will want to check competitor backlink portfolio. Backlinks are of great importance as the healthy backlinks lead to a huge improvement of the site’s domain authority.
It is worth the efforts to target the same domains for quality backlinks. You can offer them guest posts or other values in exchange for the links.
Competitive market research and intelligence lead to big win opportunities. It will give you insight into improving multiple aspects of your overall business results and digital marketing strategy.
With the tremendous growth of the new software solutions and technology, marketers, and business owners have the great power to understand their competitors’ strategies easily and comprehensively enough.
Now that you’ve collected all this competitive information, you must decide how to use it successfully and strategically.
It is a must to look at all of your findings (about competitor’s products, employees, customers, content marketing, social media, and SEO) as a whole, not just one aspect — because they all impact one another.
You also have to realize that competitors are not your enemy. Even if you are operating in the most competitive industry, don’t look at the negative side.
See other products, customers, and websites as huge sources and arms to help you get better at your business.
What is your strategy and technique for competitive market research and analysis in your industry? Share your thoughts with us.
Silvia Vylcheva has more than 10 years of experience in the digital marketing world – which gave her a wide business acumen and the ability to identify and understand different customer needs.
Silvia has a passion and knowledge in different business and marketing areas such as inbound methodology, data intelligence, competition research and more.