Question: What is your best-kept secret for performing a competitive analysis for your brand?
Question by: Susan
"Performing your own market research for a competitive analysis, especially when you are publicly known among your competition, just doesn't work. Identify people who can act as an undercover ambassador on your behalf and go into the market to get firsthand feedback on how your brand is perceived, and insight on your competition and how they are doing. Organic data points provide the most value."
Read Up on Product Reviews
"One thing that we commonly do is look to product review sites like Amazon.com or eBay and look for user reviews. What are they saying about the product? What do they want to see? What did they like/dislike? Do this for both your product and that of your competition and you will be really surprised with what you see. Plus, it gives you an action list of things to do to make your products better."
Conduct a Survey
"When I was building the coaching arm of my business, I released a survey to my already-existing audience in order to get a feel for where my readers were hanging out, who loomed large in the industry, and what affected their purchasing decisions. It helped me pinpoint my primary competition, and find ways to distinguish myself."
Social Media Mini-Analysis
"The best way to perform a competitive analysis for your brand is to do a little social media analysis to see how you compare to your competition in terms of followers, fans and type of content posted. You also want to measure level of engagement with their fans versus your own fan base to see how you compare to the competition!"
Can You Compete?
"Competitor analysis is imperative to any business in order to improve products/service in order to gain an edge over the competition. Utilize a service like Compete.com to understand how your competitors are driving traffic and acquiring customers online. This information will help you devise a more comprehensive marketing strategy."
Bare All With BoardReader
"I use BoardReader whenever I'm doing market research, be it for a current project or new idea. It's a nice way to assessment the world of forums specifically, which is often overlooked despite it being the original manifestation of niche communities online."
Test Your Customer Loyalty
"There are many companies that boast about massive mailing lists and thousands of users, but what makes a company valuable is the level of interest and loyalty your customers demonstrate towards your brand. This can be converted to monetary equity and rapid growth quite easily. Ask your customers for a favor and objectively track the number of customers who follow through. Then share your results."
Use an Objective Eye
"Coming from the bar and restaurant industry, I can't go to my venues to conduct an analysis about my brand because my staff acts differently when I'm there. So instead, I go to my competitors and simply become a customer, and send secret shoppers to my venues and compare my feedback of competitors versus the spotters' feedback at my venues."
Try Open Site Explorer
"SEOmoz's tool, Open Site Explorer, allows you to see links that lead to your competitors, so you get a better idea of how they've been able to market their brand, what media outlets are talking about them, and how much work you need to do to catch up and overtake them."
SizeUp Your Competition for Free
"SizeUp is a free business intelligence tool that instantly develops interactive charts to illustrate how your business compares to competitors, identifies best places to advertise, and maps competitors, customers, and suppliers. It's a great tool to utilize for investment pitches and business plan enhancements."
Buy From Your Competitors
"It always amazes me how few people don't go beyond looking at what's publicly available on a competitor's website. Going through the entire sales process (and yes, that includes submitting credit card information) will tell you much more useful information. We've even done usability studies, which include our top three competitors, to see how customers perceive our brand versus theirs."
What Are YC and 500 Startups Investing In?
"Y Combinator, 500 Startups and TechStars are investment groups/ incubators that are constantly carving out the tech landscape. If you are in the tech space and researching the competition in your space, you can almost be 100 percent sure that some of the most promising up-and-comers in your vertical are part of one of those groups."
Don't Stare Down the Competition
"While it's important to keep an eye on what other's in your field are up to, it's equally, if not more important, to ignore the competition. Don't let what everyone else is doing drive you to change your values and direction as a company. Focus not on being better than everyone else, but instead being your very best."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.