The 4-step process to meaningful competitor analysis

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Competitors: Their existence validates the need for your solution (and perhaps some of your concerns?).

They can also be a brilliant source of information that can grow your business, help you improve your experience and grow your conversions.

In this lightning round we breakdown the 4 step process Talia uses to analyze competitors and create an AB test.


Ross: Competitors. They’re one of those things that you love to hate. You love them because they validate the fact that there’s a market that exists and you can get a bit of insight from them, but you hate them because sometimes they’ll take your business. And I’ve gone up against a lot of competitors over the years in a wide range of different industries, and helped clients with it. And it’s always one of those things that it’s kind of bittersweet in many ways, right? You can’t lose sight of your competitors entirely because you might lose sight of a trend, an opportunity, something that you should do, a new positioning, et cetera. There is some value in watching your competitors. But at the same time, you don’t want to be so focused on them that you forget to take care of the business in front of you. In this episode, we’re going to talk about competitor analysis. And I think what we should start with is kind of just speaking to the value of it, and why it’s actually important, and why you shouldn’t make the mistake of ignoring your competitors completely.

Talia: Yeah. Whenever I do any type of client work, we always do a competitor analysis because there’s so many good reasons. I mean, number one, you’ve mentioned it. There’s a crowded market out there and you want to know how to differentiate yourself, especially in the B2B market. It is just the same sea of sameness everywhere. It drives me nuts. Everyone looks the same, talks the same, says the same. Sometimes I feel like it’s the same designer and copywriter doing everything.

Ross: It’s true.

Talia: But if you do want to stand out, you need to do competitor analysis in order to differentiate yourself and to find your value proposition. At the end of the day, you need to know what it is that you offer to your audience that your competitors don’t. And I’m not talking about a product or a feature. I am talking about real, core value.

Now, when I talk about competitor analysis, it’s not about looking at, again, features or pricing. I want to understand their strategy. I want to understand their messaging. Who are they appealing to? How are they trying to make them feel? What are they saying about themselves? What are they saying about their customers? And where do I stand in all of that? Because once you do this research, you can actually use it to create a better experience for your prospects, to optimize your product, and to optimize everything that you’re doing.

So when I talk about competitor analysis, again, I’m not asking you to go in and look at their features, or how much their product costs, or what their pricing page looks like, or what their funnel consists of. What I want us to do is really look into their strategy. And that’s something that I think that many companies don’t do. I don’t know. What do you think, Ross? Do many people do the competitor analysis that I’m talking about? Is that something that you’ve heard your clients are doing? Or is this something that is a little more scarce?

Ross: Yeah, I think it’s rare, but I think it’s valuable, right? We do it oftentimes with our clients as well, but I don’t think a lot of people do it just when they’re getting started, and to kind of use it to better understand the messaging and the strategy that they’re embracing. And it kind of was validated a few months back when I put out this piece about Canva and their entire content strategy. A lot of companies who create products similar to Canva started reaching out, like, “Whoa, we never actually knew this. We never thought about this. We didn’t think about this at all.” And to me, it was like, “Whoa. So y’all are just creating things without looking at the leaders in the space to see what they’re doing?” It does truly feel like a lot of people just get in their own little circle and their own bubble, and they don’t really come up for air.

Ross: But I think you need to be like a meerkat. A meerkat is my favorite animal. I’d say it’s my spirit animal in many ways because it digs ferociously towards its goal. And it goes very ferocious when it’s head down and it’s going in a certain direction, but it constantly pops its head up to see if there’s anything in its way. And I think businesses need to have that same mindset when you’re trying to get somewhere. Don’t be afraid to pop your head up and look around a little bit and see whether or not a competitor is about to take your lunch, or whether or not they’re going to kind of jump in and hurt you on your path. So I think it’s massively important, massively underrated, but it’s a key piece of the puzzle when you’re figuring out where you want to go.

Talia: I love that. I love meerkat Ross. So let’s talk about how to do competitor analysis, good competitor analysis. And what I like to do is actually break it into three, sometimes four parts. And let’s talk about part number one. So the first thing we do is actually analyze messaging. So I touched a little on this at the beginning. When I look at a website, what I want to actually understand is what are they saying. If we look at the different types of competitors that you have, and you may have five, you may have 10, you may have indirect competitors. There are many different competitors that are all competing for the same attention as you are, for the same piece of audience. And when we go and visit a website, we are spending maybe two, three, four seconds on a website before we navigate to the next one. I like to call this tab hopping, tab jumping.

It’s when you search for something on Google and you open like 10 different tabs at the same time. And then you kind of jump from tab to tab and close them down until you find something that you really like, something that stands out. And the idea here is to focus on what makes that specific page stand out, that makes someone say, “You know what? I want to read on and learn more about what this company has.” That is where value shows up. When you say that you are delivering a certain product, a certain software, when you spell out, “Here’s what I do,” you’re actually doing a disservice for your prospects. Because what people are looking for is the value, is the desired outcome, that final outcome that’s going to turn them into a better X. And that is what we’re looking for.

We are looking at our competitors to understand what is the promise that they’re making. Are they just talking about themselves, about their features? Are they talking about what their product looks like? Are they talking about how it works? Or are they painting a picture, an end result, a desired outcome? And what you want to do is actually write those down. You want to create a list, and write down to yourself what is that promise that they’re saying, what is their copy, what is the messaging. And is it consistent throughout the entire page, and not just on the homepage, or just as a header section. Is this a repeating strategy?

Ross: I love that. I think it’s often overestimated to kind of just say, “Oh yeah, we know what we’re saying and we don’t need to look at our competitors. Everybody’s going to resonate with this value prop and this message the exact same.” I think it’s so important that you look at the competitors as well and get a better sense of what they’re doing just the same. So what other items should we be looking at when we’re doing a competitor analysis?

Talia: Well, the second step is going to be design. And the first question is going to be, and I’m going to ask you this, Ross, because we’ve had a conversation about this before, about how you choose images for a product, for a landing page, for a homepage, for a product page. Oftentimes, it is an image of the product itself. It’s a screenshot of what the dashboard looks like on mobile, on a tablet, and on a desktop.

Ross: For sure.

Talia: However, this isn’t really a strategy that I believe in, or have seen work as well as a image that supports your message. So rather than using an image that is that screenshot of the product, what you want to find are those images that support whatever it is that you’re saying in your messaging. And that’s what you want to look at, at your competitors. Are they using an image that just features the product itself, or are they going deeper? Are they trying to make a promise? And I don’t know how your clients make decisions about the different images. I know you and I have had different discussions on these illustrations that the many B2B companies have now. Do you agree? I mean, maybe this is something that I’m seeing, but do you agree that most of the visuals out there are to do with the product itself rather than maybe something more emotional, maybe something more strategic?

Ross: Definitely in B2B. I think in the e-comm world, there’s definitely been a shift where they’re catching on. And I think, if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that B2B brands should oftentimes look to the more B2C brands for inspiration around what they should be doing, because they’re always innovating and doing new things. And I think there’s a lot to be said for going after the heart, rather than just going after the product and trying to align your message with that. So it’s definitely something that I think folks see often. And I think it’s something that ideally you can change. But looking at your competitors to see where they fit in that spectrum is valuable, insightful, and can provide you with a lot of insights. So I think, a hundred percent, you want to review the design of your competitors to make decisions around whether or not you’re using the visuals that are going to have the goal and the objective that you’re looking to accomplish.

Talia: Right. So what’s really interesting here is that if you create some sort of table in a Google Doc, as simple as that, and you have one column for messaging, the next column is for design. And what you want to put in there, as mentioned, okay, here are the things, here’s the visuals that they’re using. It supports or it doesn’t support their message. This is what they’re using.

Then what you’re going to move on to is step number three, which is their social proof. What we want to look at is what are people saying about them. Now, in this stage, we’re going to talk about what’s on their site itself. The reviews that they’re getting, the testimonials that they’re getting. What are people saying about them? What are they praising? What are they saying are the things they can’t live without? And are these things, and this is what you want to compare to with yourself, are these things that people can say about you? Are these things that you want to elevate and focus on and highlight on your website too? And where do you stand in comparison?

I’m going to actually add this to stage four, which is more of a pro tip, and that is to go off their sites, the competitors, and look at different platforms like Quora, Facebook groups, Amazon reviews, and find those different conversations, testimonials, feedbacks, reviews that people are giving your competitors. It could even be on G2 Crowd, where you’re looking at what other people are saying about your competitors. Now, these are people who should be buying from you and they’re buying from your competitor. So what are they saying? What are they complaining about? What are they missing? What are the things that they don’t have in their lives and they wish they did? Or what are the things that they can’t live without that they’re just so happy that this competitor has? And then, what are the questions that they’re asking, what are the things that are left unanswered so that you can then add it to your own website.

And what you end up with is a three-column table with your messaging, with your design, and your social proof. And what I like to do with it is to create two new variations. And this is very helpful. If you’re a marketer that’s working in a company and you’re having a hard time convincing your colleagues to test something that’s a little more adventurous, something that people would consider risky, or something that is more emotional, then this would be a wonderful test to run. You create one variation that is very similar to all of the competitors’ strategy. Very product-focused, very features-focused, pricing-focused, features the product as the main visual. And you create a variation which is on the more emotional side, on the more strategic side, which is against everything that your competitors are doing, very different than what your competitors are doing. And you can A/B test that and see what actually drives more conversions.

Ross: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why this is the Action Driven Podcast. I love it. That’s amazing. So good. So actionable. I have nothing else to add. I think that’s exactly how we need to wrap this one up, because I think folks are now itching to go and see their competitors, create that spreadsheet, and figure out what they can do to improve their website, their messaging, and their entire approach. So amazing. I love it. I’m excited to see what folks do with it.

I would also love to hear from folks after they do it, like how it went. So join our Facebook group, We’d love to keep the conversation going in there. And if you’re listening to this on Apple, or any of the other podcasting services, I know Spotify doesn’t allow you to leave reviews, but if you are listening to it on one of the others, please, by all means, leave us a five star review. It means the world to us. And we hope you have an amazing week. Thank you for listening.

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Ross & Talia
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