How To Perform A Competitor Analysis

An image of a computer screen that displays a series of KPIs that can be used to conduct a competitor analysis
An image of a computer screen that displays a series of KPIs that can be used to conduct a competitor analysis

Keeping a close watch on competitors is necessary in order to identify new trends and tactics in a timely manner, predict market shifts and ultimately continue to grow a competitive advantage and gain market share. A competitive analysis in marketing is one of the tools that can help achieve this. 

Conducting a competitor analysis can be a unique challenge. While the concept may be simplistic, the process may be more complicated. In this article, we provide a framework for how to conduct such an analysis in order to develop a competitive strategy, as well as a direct template that you can use to get started today. 

Looking for an easy way to put together your competitor strategy? Fill out this free competitor analysis template.

Table of Contents

What Is a Competitive Analysis?

With a competitive analysis report, you can establish what makes your company unique compared to the competition. You can evaluate competitors, by placing them into strategic categories and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your own. 

A competitive analysis is a process. It can cover a wide range of areas, key metrics and more. Dependent on your industry, some of these will be more crucial than others. Regardless, the more thorough the competitive analysis, the more effective it will be in determining both direct and indirect competitors. 

To get started:

  • Establish the purpose of constructing the competitive analysis framework
  • Define who your competitors are
  • Consider the buyer's journey
  • Understand your competitors hiring strategy
  • Browse your competitors’ websites
  • Analyze your competitor's media coverage
  • Analyze your competitor's social media channels
  • Encourage internal knowledge sharing (perhaps through an internal newsletter)
  • Implement your findings

Want help putting together a competitor mapping strategy? Get in touch to receive a .

Why is a Competitor Analysis Important?

Competitor analysis helps you better understand the space your business operates in. It’s a crucial step if you want to remain relevant in your industry. Watching what your competitors are doing gives you a more accurate starting point when considering your marketing strategy, social media strategy, and business strategy. 

Is a competitor planning a pivot? Why? Should you also look at this option? Perhaps it points to a wider consumer shift you need to pay attention to. Or perhaps your competitor is making a more specific internal decision. 

Doing regular competitor analysis exercises will help you answer these questions, and more, to move ahead with confidence and gain a larger share of consumer attention. 

What Are Competitive Analysis Methods? 

There are several ways you can undergo competitive analysis, each with their own benefits. Make sure you know what you want to figure out, and any hypotheses you have, before determining which method to use (most likely you will use more than one, but you want to make sure they’ll help you find out what you want to know). 

Here are a few top methods to get you started:

1. SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Use this framework to understand external and internal factors affecting your company, and can also be applied to analyzing your competitors. 

2. Strategic Group Analysis

Organize yourself and your competitors based on the differences or similarities between your marketing strategies. When you see who you’re most closely aligned with you can find an edge, and more accurately move forward in your business plan.

3. Porter's Five Forces

This framework is particularly useful for analyzing an industry's makeup. By understanding the structure that makes your industry (or a competing industry) thrive you can find opportunities to surge ahead. The “Five Forces” refers to five key elements you should base your analysis on: the threat of new entrants, buyer's bargaining power, supplier's bargaining power, the threat of substitutes, and intensity of competitive rivalry.

4. Perceptual Mapping

This is an analysis of how your product or service is received by the consumer, compared to your competitors. Especially useful for helping determine new marketing strategies and product development roadmaps as you’ll gain an understanding of what products consumers respond most favorably to.

5. BCG Matrix (also called Growth Share matrix)

Developed in 1970 by Boston Consulting Group, this framework helps businesses understand which products to invest in based on others in the industry. You separate products or opportunities into four categories: high growth, low growth, high market share, low market share.

When to Perform a Competitor Analysis

While you should be monitoring your competitors on a regular basis, there are a few key moments when performing an in-depth competitor analysis is recommended:

1. Starting a business

Whether you’re thinking of launching a new Etsy shop or a tech startup, analyzing the competition should be one of the very first steps before you press “Go”. It will give you a deep understanding of the industry you plan to enter or disrupt, and know who else is trying to edge into the space. Investors will want to know this too, so it’s important to be airtight and clear about who your direct competitors are, who the big players are, and any potential industry-adjacent competitors. 

2. Launching a new product or service

If you have plans to launch a new product or service, be sure to check if your competitors have done something similar. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go forward with your launch, by any means, but you'll want to track how successful their product has been so you can have a competitive advantage and do it better. It will also help you craft the messaging and marketing strategy around your product to differentiate them from others already on the market.

3. If you’re considering a pivot

Pivots are a natural part of the evolution for many businesses, and while they are nerve-wracking, they can be super successful if executed carefully. Part of that careful execution includes analyzing competitors who have either done the same thing, or any potential new competitors you’ll have after pivoting. Similarly to #1, depending on how dramatic your pivot is, you could consider conducting your competitive analysis as though you were starting a new business.

4. A stagnating business

Your business could be humming along nicely, but not growing. This is another good time to perform a competitive analysis, especially if you notice your competitors gaining traction and market share. Understand any new tactics they might be using, any wider industry trends that you may have missed and thus are losing customers.

5. Drop in organic traffic 

Over half (53%) of all website traffic comes from organic search, according to a study by BrightEdge. This means you need to be doing serious competitive keyword analysis all the time, but especially if you notice a drop in traffic from organic search. This likely means your competitors have done a few tweaks on their meta information, which is impacting the relevance of your search results, decreasing clicks, and pushing your relevant content further down the front page of google.

Competitor Analysis Framework

So now it's time to move forward with gathering competitive intelligence. Here is a framework to use to help you stay aligned with your goals and make sure you get the most out of your analysis.

1. Decide what the purpose of your competitive analysis is

Step 1 - identify why you are performing a competitive analysis? Is it to improve the customer experience? Benchmark your marketing efforts or review your business as a whole? Keep in mind the purpose of your competitive analysis as it may determine the activity you look at when researching competitors.

2. Define your competitors

Next, you need to select which competitors to analyze. Create a list of any company that targets the same market and audience as you and sells a product or service similar to yours.

Once this list is complete, divide it into 3 categories:

  1. Direct competitors:
    These are the companies that target the same audience and offer a product or service similar to yours.
  2. Indirect competitors:
    These companies offer a different product or service, but in general, their product or services meet the same needs that your company's solutions offer.
  3. Tertiary (or substitution) competitors:
    These companies sell products or services that are different from yours but target the same audience. Their usefulness is limited to the fact that they can potentially become either partners or threats.

Here you can see an example of how your may group your perceived competition into the different categories.

Defining your competitors as direct, indirect or tertiary, and example using the travel industry

Top Tip: Speak to your sales teams about who they’re frequently coming up against and losing to when trying to bring on a new client. 

3. Consider the buyer journey

How do your competitors sell their products? How do they shape their customer journeys? To find out, you will have to put yourself in the shoes of one of their clients!

One way to do this is by analyzing each stage of the marketing funnel.

A graphic that illustrates the five stages of the buyer funnel: Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase, Loyalty, and Advocacy

If you primarily operate online, visit your competitors’ websites to better understand their marketing strategy. Use competitor analysis tools like SEMRush and Moz to discover their traffic sources and the keywords on which they are positioned. These tools can also offer insights into their SEO strategy. Also analyze their content, their incentives, and their pricing policies. Analyzing the content types that they are pushing can give an idea of which funnel stage they are prioritizing. Are they pushing blog posts more frequently that are targeting long-tail keywords? This may be indicative that they are targeting more top-of-funnel searchers. Are they pushing more optimizations to their core product pages, and making updates to their contact pages? This may be a hint that they are prioritizing bottom-of-the-funnel searchers that they are looking to convert.

Check out our free competitive analysis template to begin putting together your strategy.

4. Understand your competitors' hiring strategy

It is difficult to obtain information on the personnel of a competing company, but finding it can be very useful. Knowing how many employees, their education level, and how many offices they have can be quite informative. Whilst, not an accurate art, LinkedIn can be a good indication of the number of employees a brand has, and their role and education level, and where their hiring priorities currently are.

We should also keep an eye on job ads. Using our reports we compared our hiring strategy with that of other players in our market. To do this, we analyzed job offers published on LinkedIn according to various criteria such as the type of job, location, and level of experience required.

A screenshot of two separate charts that display the type of jobs your competitors are hiring for and the years of work experience of employees.

This analysis helps to identify the players experiencing strong growth. We can also predict their next actions. For example, the recruitment of a large number of engineers suggests new products under development. Whereas, hiring salespeople in a new country means that the company is going to try and break into new markets.

5. Comparison of financial services

Monitoring the financial health of a competing company is an excellent method of competitive benchmarking. Examples include gross, operating, and net profit margins, wages, sales, and profitability of competing companies. Notate the key differences and try to assess why those discrepancies exist.

If a company is public, financial data is easier to find. This can also help provide more insight into a company's general business model and operations. A few resources to get you started: Companies House, CompanyCheck, and Endole

Know that you know more about how to do a competitor analysis? Download our free competitor analysis template.

6. Browse your competitors’ website

Viewing your competitors’ websites is an effective and quick way to find out what their offerings are and a great way to put together a competitor analysis model. Evaluate their website - is it well designed? Easy to navigate? Where is the main Call-to-Action placed? Are they running any significant promotions? Do they have new products or services that they are showcasing? Is it user-friendly on the whole?

You can also view the kind of content they’re publishing. Do they have a blog? How often do they post and what kind of content do they post?

Want help putting together a competitor mapping strategy? Get in touch to receive a .

7. Analyze the media coverage of your competitors

One of the most interesting sources for competitive analysis is media coverage. 

In our recent webinar with client Wildwood PR, they explained how they use media monitoring to create competitive intelligence reports. “One of the things we track and find to be important to clients is the number of mentions. How often do they appear in the media? How does that compare to their competitors?” Once they have a comparison chart of their competitor’s total number of mentions, they dig into the sentiment of those mentions. “We then look at the actual content of the coverage…it’s all very well looking at it from a quantity perspective, but it may be that the most mentioned brand has had lots of negative coverage” After this, Wildwood PR, look at the reach of their coverage.

Blending lots of different metrics within one tool can provide a better overall picture of how your competitors are performing.

A screenshot from the Meltwater platform that shows how Tesla compares in media exposure, sentiment and other metrics against key competitors

Another element of competitive intelligence that is really important is the themes being covered in the coverage. Word clouds can show you how the conversation has changed over two periods of times

Top tip: Tanya Houston from Wildwood PR says, "Take advantage of the free tools out there and your supplier’s talents. We’ve certainly found that working with Meltwater, we’ve learned from them, they’ve learned from us… it’s a collaborative approach.”

Media coverage can also reveal the latest actions of your competitors such as new products, partnerships, acquisitions, and even PR crises. This can offer a wealth of information for your internal competitive strategy.

Example: Competitive analysis of Tesla, Nissan and Toyota press mentions via Meltwater

We have been working with Meltwater for a number of years and have found the benchmarking reports we can generate extremely useful not only to understand how our clients are performing against their competition but also as a way to set objectives and meet KPIs. 

Tanya Houston, Managing Director, Wildwood PR

8. Analyze your competitors on social media

You can learn a lot about your competition in business and industry from conducting a competitor analysis as part of a social media audit. Rather than only looking at how many followers each brand has, you can also analyze engagement, sentiment, common complaints, and more!

The easiest way to do this is by using a social listening tool, which will allow you to analyze all the mentions of your competition in marketing and the opinions on forums and blogs. You will then have an overview of their reputation, engagement, and what their audience likes and dislike about their products.

An example of how two brands compare against one another on social media in a competitive analysis.

Top tip: You can also set up a boolean search with your competitor’s names, and specific positive or negative keywords. For example “Coca-Cola” AND “acquisition” or “scandal”. You can then set up instant alerts, to be alerted to big news or crises around a particular competitor. 

Understand your indirect and direct competitors by performing a competitor analysis with Meltwater? Get a .

9. Encourage knowledge sharing within your teams

Chances are your customers and prospects have knowledge and experience with your competitors. Depending on your business, perhaps they’ve been pitched to or bought their products in the past. It can be useful to speak to these people and learn everything you can about your competitors. Why did they choose you (or not choose you) over your competitors?

It is essential to encourage the sharing of information. The story of a customer who has had a bad experience with a competitor will undoubtedly interest your sales and customer experience managers.

To encourage the sharing of this knowledge, you can create either an internal discussion group, where testimonials and ‘battle cards’ are shared. Creating a specific forum for this information ensures that everyone receives the information (as opposed to ad hoc information sharing) 

How to share your competitive intelligence?

  • Email alerts
  • Internal newsletters
  • On your intranet

10. Implement findings

The most important part of our competitive intelligence is to learn and improve. Consider how each part of your competitive intelligence and competitor analysis can be used to improve your social media marketing strategy, events, webinars, ebooks, and other marketing activities. Almost every aspect of our strategy can be improved with competitive intelligence. Check out our competitor analysis template for a comprehensive view of a competitor analysis example, and to get started on developing a competitive website analysis today. Simply make a copy, and start evaluating how your business stacks up against the competitive forces in your industry.

Real-World Examples of Competitor Analysis

Curious how competitor analysis has been applied in the real world? Here’s how H&M Mexico used competitive intelligence:

1. H&M Mexico

H&M Mexico was seeking a way to gather comprehensive, valuable, and up to date competitor information, to make their campaign strategy more targeted and relevant to the fashion space. The easy to interpret visualization from competitor reports made it easy for them to distinguish important information from the noise. 

"I like to arrive in the morning, log into Meltwater, and get insight into everything that's happening instantly." Javier Ruiz, Digital Marketing Strategist, H&M Mexico

2. Google

Competitive analysis is essential for the wide-ranging tech world. Knowing the competitive landscape is important for early-stage startups, to keep up with other players trying to disrupt the market. But it’s also important for giants like Google, helping them remain competitive in an environment when there’s always a hot new idea right around the corner. 

First, it gives us the reach, engagement and sentiment data that we're looking for above and beyond our own channels. We're not just interested in understanding how our own posts perform, we want to know what the larger conversation looks like. Second, with the automation we are able to automatically pull data into our own internal dashboards, which is incredibly valuable from a time perspective.

— Katie Miller, Program Manager, The Cloud Developer Relations Team (Google)

Summary 

  1. Be clear about what you want to benchmark
  2. Remember that benchmarking should be an on-going process
  3. Use the right tools
  4. Have the right tracking and analytics in place
  5. Make it actionable

If you’d like to learn more about how Meltwater can help you perform a competitive website analysis, fill out the form below! The insights and analysis from the Meltwater platform can help you put together a competitive strategy for your marketing and social media strategy.

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