Your Marketing Plan’s Secret Weapon: The Competitive Analysis

An integral part of any marketing plan is the competitive analysis. It is used to research competing brands and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Companies who utilize a marketing plan with a detailed competitive analysis discover new ways to reach their primary audience, capitalize on the shortcomings of the competition and develop a major competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The first step in any well-researched analysis is to discover and record whom exactly your business is competing with. Think about the products your business is selling and then identify who else is selling a similar product within a close proximity to your business. Also take into consideration the price point at which these other businesses are selling their products.

After you have identified and recorded exactly who the competition is, you must analyze their marketing approach. Identify who the primary target market is, how they’re trying to reach them and how successful they are in doing so. Are they launching full-scale media buys to cast a wide net? Are they utilizing clever guerilla marketing tactics in order establish buzz and gain interest from a niche market? Or are they using the power of social media? All of these components ultimately hinge on the product that is being sold and the demographic the company is hoping to capture.

Facebook is a valuable research tool that shouldn’t be overlooked during the demographic research phase. It serves as a looking glass into the personal connection the brand has with its consumers. The competitor’s timeline showcases the brand’s personality and how responsive their audience is to it. If the brand has a loyal following of fans that actively engage with the brand’s content, you may want to note their communication style. However, if you notice the opposite, record that data in your competitive analysis and identify where the communication breakdown lies so as to not make the same errors.

Once you have truly immersed yourself within the competitor’s demographics and marketing strategy, it’s important to research the success of the company and their marketing efforts. Try to identify the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. Did they see year-over-year gains, or did a disconnect form between the company and their consumers? By learning from the competitor’s actions, it is then possible to emulate the successes and modify the failures to reduce the amount risk in your own planning.

Why should you include this research data in your marketing plan? A well-written plan has many purposes. In cases where it’s being used to pitch an idea or educate those who are new to the project, including a competitive analysis widens the landscape and provides a frame of reference for any conversation about your own brand.

Over a period of time the competitive analysis can be also be used to monitor your competitors. If during the first year your direct competitor reached half of the market, but is now currently reaching three quarters, your business has lost share of voice and must identify a solution to get it back.

Though externally focused, the competitive analysis can also be utilized to examine your company internally. If the competition is executing a specific marketing strategy and seeing successful results, it may be time to look inward and decide if that same tactic could work for your company.

Adding a competitive analysis will also assist in the justification of your marketing budget and allows you to make research driven decisions and find solutions to any shortcomings or needs for adjustment within the market.

By overlooking this section of the plan, you forfeit the advantage of knowing your competitor’s hand of cards, create tunnel vision that shortchanges your own business and miss out on new opportunities to reach out to your consumers. Research the competition, document your data and use this information to strategically draft a plan that will surpass the competition.