How to do your first competitive research?

Every company can benefit from thorough Competitive Research. Ideally, you collect enough information to be able to position your products and services in a way that gives you an edge with your ideal client persona. If you get enough details, you could even try to complete the following:

List your competitors

To find a list of your competitors the best place to start is to ask the sales team. You can also type your company name into Google and see who else is showing up (like this “Mycompany vs. X”).

If you are in an established category, chances are that companies like capterra.com, g2crowd.com, softwareadvice.com, Gartner, Forrester, and IDC can provide lists of your main competition as well.

Company Information

Start with collecting the basic information about your competitors:

  • Research the company. What is their #1 product they sell? Provide a short description, and what the benefits are. Do the same for their #2 and #3 product/service (if applicable).

  • How do they describe their company and the solution (What’s it for?)

    • What’s the “headline” in the browser title or when you find them in Google?

    • What’s the description on the homepage?

  • How do they describe their audience? (Who’s it for?)

  • What’s the estimated revenue? And the growth rate the past few years?

  • How many employees do they have?

  • How many customers?

  • How many business partners?

  • Does the company boast any specific alliance, endorsement or certification?

  • Have they won any (product) awards?

  • What’s the address, how many locations do they have?

Mystery shopping

Research the pricing for their products and services. Try to buy the products/services of each competitor. Get detailed information that goes beyond what’s published on the website. Use email and online chat (or call them) to get the scoop.

To allow an apples/apples comparison of the various players, create a typical customer profile that you use to get pricing information. For example:

  • A midsize Software company with 150 employees, and 10 potential users of the solution.

  • 3 locations in the US, and about 5 years old.

  • $18M+ in Annual Revenue. Fast growing, about 25% YOY (so the vendor has the potential to sell you more in the future).

  • You prefer to pay-as-you-go and are ok paying for a year in advance.

Test their "reach ability" through chat/phone/email. Send them a note and record how long it takes them to get back to you. It’s also interesting to capture the actual text of the response when they follow up. Do you see any best practices? Rate the customer experience 1 to 10, 10 being the best.

Important: In each conversation, ask what the salesperson thinks of the competition (ideally of the company you work for, and a few others). This is key in uncovering important challenges that your prospects can bring up that you need to be prepared for.

Online Presence

How do you rate the customer experience of the website? Is it easy to find and buy what you need? Try to rank all the companies you research based on your opinion.

How many customer testimonials are listed on the website?

What are the top 5 features that are presented at the website? What are they giving the most attention?

Consider running a semrush.com report for the company to evaluate the technical SEO quality of your competitors' websites.

Record things like the Organic traffic they get vs. Paid Traffic, and what the top 5 keyword combinations are that drive their organic traffic. What keywords are they bidding on with their paid search efforts?

Go to "domain Analytics"/Overview and run the domain overview report for the domain.

Consider capturing the following data points into your spreadsheet: Organic Search, Paid Search, Back links, Display Advertising, # of top organic keywords and the top 5 organic competitors.

Product Positioning

What does each competitor claim as their unique differentiation? Is there any mention of something they are “Best” at, or that “Only” they can do?

Collect the features for the products and services that your competitor offers. You can put them in a simple sheet like this, and potentially even do this advanced product planning exercise.

After you have collected all the features of your competitors, you know what is more unique vs. generic (everyone has it), and you have a sense of price information. Try to complete a matrix like this one: https://web.stanford.edu/class/ee353/pfmatrix.htm

The above work is, by the way, a great example of a delegation that you can outsource to an AI-powered Virtual Assistant, like the team at https://delegate.inv.tech/marketing/