Evaluating the Competition – How We Pick Apart a Company from the Outside In

Do you wish you could see into the playbook of your competition? Well, you can – for the most part. This is how we do it.

Tearing into your competition is not an easy task. In order to really see ‘inside” the walls and understand what is going on, it helps to have a breadth of experience in understanding how businesses function, and in how their public marketing tactics reflect their internal workings. We’ll show you some of the lenses we look at to evaluate what is happening on the inside.

Reviewing All Channels

The best place to start is by evaluating the marketing channels of your competition to see what they are up to. It’s kind of like guessing the dish based on the smell coming from the kitchen; we can tell what they are cooking by what they are posting and how they are posting it. The trained eye of an experienced marketer can read into campaigns to see what the company is thinking – or if they are thinking at all. Here are some of the questions we ask as we do this:

  • Do the channels have a real strategy, or is it ad-hoc posting?
  • How good is the messaging? Does it seem well thought out?
  • Are they on the right channels, or are they forcing it on the wrong channels?
  • What technology are they using to help them manage the marketing?
  • Do they use PPC, or remarketing ads?

You can dig even deeper by signing up for their email newsletter, or filling out a contact form to see who responds, and how fast they respond. Even calling the office to see who picks up the phone could tell you a lot about the business.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The second most important thing to do is unpack the ‘who’ of the marketing and the sales departments. Understanding the positions and organizational chart can really tell you how much emphasis the organization puts on marketing and how they view it in terms of importance.

  • Start by finding out the list of players in the marketing department and in leadership. Getting a feel of the org chart will help you see what kind of budget they are putting towards marketing and sales in terms of salaries and % of costs.
  • Look at the age and tenure of the employees. If there is no CMO, who is doing the marketing direction? If no marketing department is present within the organization, they might not value deep marketing expertise. If the sales side is deep, they are pushing towards relationship marketing and sales by handshakes, as opposed to using other methods.

Don’t forget these words of advice; sales covers a multitudes of sins.  If you see a big sales department, it means they are a sales driven organization and are pushing hard. If they don’t have a sales department, either they are not in growth mode, or they find more leads in other ways. Sales start with leads, so they are getting them from somewhere.

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Follow The Money

Money always talks. To find out how the business is doing and what it values, look around for any new financing, or do a business directory look-up. Check to see if there are new hires or old hires. This will give you some idea of the growth and sales. Hiring means new business (unless there were walk-aways), so you can see how they are doing. Additionally, doing a salary calculation can help you see what kind of revenue they are bringing in, and if they are really solvent.

Level of Messaging

Unpacking the messaging of a marketing campaign can really tell you how far they’ve come in the process. One recent competitor we were looking at had very common, shallow content in the social and blog feeds. They were not being aggressive in the value push. It was obvious this was a low-paid employee told to “put out tweets”. They were not going to be adding followers fast. When you’re looking at the marketing, be sure to note:

  • How deep does the messaging go?
  • What markets are they playing towards?
  • Do they toe the line, or do they really grow and advance into the target markets?
  • Is the content boring or insightful?

So, Can You Take ’em?

Once you get all this information, it will be time to think about if you can really “take them” in the marketplace. Many times the advantage for that company is incumbency. In those cases, you’ll likely find that as soon as you enter the market, you’ll jump into the game and start taking ground. Make sure you have an arsenal of cash or resources to make your push. We recommend doing 110% of what they’ve done in terms of content to start showing up in the search.  You have to join them on the page before you can beat them at the game.

If you’d like to have a real look at your competitor’s status, fill out our 30-minute free marketing review. We can discuss your challenges in light of your competitors.

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