Your Ultimate Guide to Do Competitive Research

As an entrepreneur, you can’t simply say screw the competitor because such thinking could harm your company in the long term. You can’t simply say screw the customers because your business existence depends on that customer. You need a high level of competitive research to succeed as an entrepreneur.

To beat the competition and achieve a high level of competitive advantage, and be close to your customers, you need to be smarter than your competitors. You need to have enough knowledge about your competition but also of your buyers if you want to be able to make the right decisions for your business.

Many entrepreneurs talk about competitive research in very different ways. This is because competitive research is a broad term and might end up in many various directions, various knowledge, and multiple processes. However, we must clearly understand that it is only one bit of the bigger picture where your business operates.

As an entrepreneur, you will need to be aware that you don’t have to invest a large amount of money on fancy competitive research tools from the beginning. It is more important to know that this research needs to be done by you, and only you, in most cases, because competitive research is about performing the groundwork. It’s about going out of the building.

What is competitive research?

Competitive research means that you have recognized your top-rated competitors, your top-rated customers, and their needs and problems. You need to have more information about them compared with your own business. Such knowledge will show you the right direction where your business will need to go.

Competitive research involves understanding your competition, what makes them tick, what they’re doing right, and what their weaknesses are.

It can be anything from tracking competitors’ web traffic and social media posts to conducting market research through surveys and focus groups. The critical thing to remember about competitive research is that you can only gather information about your competition that you know about.

Once you have an idea of your competition, you can research their market position, strengths and weaknesses, customers, and target demographics to devise a strategy for how you can be better than them.

As with everything else you do for your business, you must set clear goals before conducting competitive research to help you focus your energy on the right side. It is crucial because you can quickly jump into research and become bombarded by a large amount of data from everywhere, making the process very hard for the correct conclusions.

Here I will try to systematize this process and help you to start conducting your competitive research.

Why You Will Need to Conduct Competitive Research?

Let’s start with the benefits that you and your business will gain from such research:

  • You will have a better understanding of your target market.
  • You will understand what your competition is doing in that market.
  • Also, you will have information for better forecasting the market’s potential.
  • You can make the best customer targeting.
  • You will better understand your current and potential customers.
  • Also, you will know and understand the offers of your competitors.
  • You can make a better strategy to acquire new customers.
  • You will learn about the different pricing strategies that your competitors use.
  • And you will make better business decisions.

How Can You Conduct Competitive Research?

I’ve found that unfolding the process into controllable portions might help every course of action to become more productive and efficient.

First, you will need information.

1. What types of information will you collect?

Here are some questions that you can consider when defining the information that you will need for your competitive research:

  • What products or services do you and your competitors offer on the market?
  • What are the comparative benefits of your and your competitor’s products and services?
  • Also, what problems or needs will your customers want to solve or satisfy?
  • How do they inform themselves to find products and services that will solve their problems or needs?
  • What habits do your customers have when they want to solve such problems or needs?
  • What options (competitors) do they have to solve such problems or needs?
  • Is there a possibility for other companies to launch products or services similar to yours?
  • Where do you and your competitors sell products, and to which target customers?
  • How do your sales perform for different customer segments?
  • What products do your competitors have in their sales funnel, and how do they acquire, maintain, and grow their customers?
  • What type of channels are they using and why?

✋ Warning

You can find more questions in the article: Answer 40 Questions to Analyse Your Industry.

2. Create an Excel File Where You Will Fill Data

You will need to create a framework for your competitive research. The best way is to create an Excel file where you will put the following columns:

  • Competitor;
  • Location;
  • Web URL;
  • Products/Services;
  • Comparative Benefits of their/yours products and or services;
  • Brand differentiators;
  • Offers;
  • Types of promotion;
  • Pricing strategies;
  • Key customers;
competitive research guide - collect data in excel file

Don’t limit yourself only to these elements as a part of competitive research. You can add more elements that you think are important for your business.

However, as you start to collect information about different competitors, the more important thing is that you will find something more you can simply add to your excel file.

3. Where will you find such information?

In general, there are three the most important sources of information that you can use for conducting competitive research.

Competitors.

What do competitors say about themselves? Find their websites, social media accounts, promotional materials, etc. There you can find any information about your competitors.

  1. Read the about page and products and services page on their website. Read carefully through the product’s features and try to see what the benefits they are delivering to their customers. If there is a pricing page, write the strategies they are using in your Excel file.
  2. Check if they have a blog and what type of content they publish.
  3. Check their social media account and check their content. If there are some threads, read carefully and write everything important you can find.

Customers.

What do customers say about themselves? You already know which customers are your ideal customers. Now, you will need to gather information about them connected with the problem that your business solves. You can start finding them on social media and follow their behavior. You can start building a relationship on social media with them. Also, you can do surveys and send them to get data you will use for competitive research.

  • Search for customer reviews on your competitor’s website and check what they say about the competitor’s products and services. Be careful with this because sometimes your competitors will put only good reviews.
  • Search reviews on other websites like Amazon. If your competitors sell their products through Amazon, you will find better results related to customer reviews. Focus on one to three-star reviews because you want to find unsatisfied customers who will explain their problems with the product. You will achieve a competitive advantage if you find a better way to solve those problems.
amazon bad reviews for competitive research
  • Search their blog, and if there are comments, locate some customers and read what they say and how they are satisfied with your competitors.
  • Use social media to find your competitor’s communication with their customers. You can also search the branding names of their products or services to check what other people say about them.
  • Search for forums and other blogs that cover topics from your industry. You can search for specific questions like: “how do I,” “why is it,” “when can I,” “what are the,” “what is the,” “how come I,” “need help,” “please help,” “I need,” “help with.” In such a way, you can find real problems your potential customers will have.
Searching Forums or Blogs on Google With Specific Questions

Go outside of your office and try it yourself.

And yes, you can’t conduct competitive research without leaving your building. You need to try a competitor’s products. You need to talk in person with your customers.

4. Start Collecting Information and Fill the Excel File

When you know where you can find the information and how to find it, you can start executing your plan for conducting competitive research.

You can simply fill the excel file you prepare in the second step. Again, I want to remind you that you are free to change your excel file because as you find critical data, you can see that the file is not optimized for reality.

5. Implement Monitoring System for Continuous Competitive Research

It’s not enough to conduct competitive research and to say that you have finished your job. As an entrepreneur, you will need a continuous process of research.

Here are some of the things that you will need to track:

  1. Track any changes that they made to their visual identity.
  2. Track their new products or services.
  3. Also, follow their pricing strategies.
  4. Track every promotion that they make.
  5. Track their new customers or big deals.

Tools That You Can Use for Competitive Research

At the end of this guide, I want to share some of the tools you can use to conduct your competitive research.

  • Ask Google;
  • Google Keyword Tool;
  • Google Alerts;
  • Monitor Twitter (Competitors’ name, competitors’ products/services);
  • Each social media where they are present;
  • Use RSS Reader;
  • Online or Offline surveys;
  • SWOT Analysis;
  • Five Forces Analysis.
What is competitive research?

Competitive research involves understanding your competition, what makes them tick, what they’re doing right, and what their weaknesses are.

What is the process of competitive research?

First, decide about the types of information you will collect, create a structured database where you will record all collected information, locate all possible information sources, start collecting the information, and implement a monitoring system for continuous competitive research.

Dragan Sutevski

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan