The following excerpt is from franchise expert Mark Siebert’s book The Multiplier Model. Buy it now.
One of the greatest things about the internet — and one of its most underused aspects—is its value in conducting competitive research.
I remember the method we used to compare pricing across multiple retailers in a particular city when I was a young consultant. You would typically go into competing stores with a list of maybe 20 common branded items and buy them all, checking the prices at each store.
When no one was looking, you would try to take photos that would show the store’s signage and illustrate merchandising strengths, weaknesses and techniques. Sometimes you would count traffic or survey customers.
The process could take weeks. Today, you can access all that information from your living room on your cell phone.
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Determine who you compete with — and what you are competing on
The first step is identifying your competitors. This is generally as simple as conducting keyword searches on the products and services you provide in the markets you serve. Next, you need to decide which factors you want to track from the standpoint of competitive intelligence.
Some of the obvious choices would be pricing strategies, product or service offerings, guarantees, promotions, customer reviews, number of locations and any general news about the company or its owners. Whether you want to record this information in a spreadsheet or some other document, make sure it’s searchable so you can use it in your decision-making processes.
We live in an age of endless information
From there, the sources of this information are almost endless. Start with the competitor’s website and social media pages. And don’t just limit yourself to Facebook and Twitter—check Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn and Foursquare as well.
Learn the name of your competition’s principals and track them across all the social media platforms, too. Then go the review sites, like Google Reviews (a part of Google Maps these days), Yelp and any industry-specific review sites such as OpenTable, Tripadvisor or others, and check for reviews there.
Compile all the information you find — being as objective as possible in the process — and include photos wherever applicable.
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Use various tools to continuously track your competition
There are subscription services you can use to continue to track your competitors on an ongoing basis. Google will likely give you most of your competitors’ plans and activities if you dig deep enough. And setting up Google Alerts will keep you apprised of any news related to companies in your industry sector or any new companies that join the fray.
Just like endless information, there are endless tools you can use.
- Free tools for digital marketing. There are a number of free tools, such as Google Search Console, Keyword Tool and AnswerThePublic, that can be used for keyword research.
- Tools for keywords and search engine optimization (SEO). Paid tools like SpyFu, Semrush and Ahrefs can provide you with deeper insight into competitors’ SEO and keyword strategies.
- Pay-per-click (PPC). Tools like iSpionage can help you understand what those competitors are doing from a PPC perspective—from messaging to spending to Google Ads to advertising effectiveness. iSpionage will even provide you with data on when your competitors are doing A/B testing.
- Analytics. Kompyte and Similarweb provide a broad assortment of analytics in a single package, including analytics of social media metrics.
- Social media tools. Additional social media measurement tools include Hootsuite, Buffer and others.
Of course, the list doesn’t stop there. Find tools that suit your needs, and continue to use them on a regular basis to ensure your efforts and campaigns are optimized, especially as they compare to what your competitors are doing with their campaigns.
The three-step process sets you up for success
At its core, competitive intelligence is a three-step formula:
- Step one is to identify your competition and what metrics you are competing against.
- Step two is to break out your investigative hat and do your research.
- Step three is basically repeating steps one and two, but optimizing those steps with free and paid tools to make your competitive intelligence research, well, more intelligent.
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Get started with The Multiplier Model
Going from small business to successful startup to scalable growth takes more than just good luck. It takes a system. Over the last 34 years, franchising consultant and growth expert Mark Siebert has been sought out by more than 70,000 executives looking to expand their companies. Out of those 70,000, only 5,000 had the right systems in place to go from successful to scalable. In The Multiplier Model, Siebert discusses the factors that determine if an entrepreneur is ready to scale their venture — and the best ways to get started. Read more.