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Part 1: Competitive Research Strategies For Disruptors

Published: August 1, 2018

Author: Ardith Alexander

For today’s Disruptor Week post, we’re looking at how companies get ahead in their marketing strategy. For this installment, we’re going to look at ways to stand out in your crowded marketplace through competitive research. Spoiler Alert: This post is jam-packed with tactics you can use right away, so we’ve split it into two parts. Look out for part two tomorrow! 

Do you ever feel like you are falling behind your competition? Are you a new company that has no idea how to talk to your customers or (most importantly) get them to buy your product? Whether you have reached a creative stalemate or perhaps are building your marketing strategy for the first time, competitive research is an effective tool for developing powerful messaging to win over your target customers.
In this two-part blog post, you’ll learn how to build a comprehensive picture of your competitive strengths and weaknesses with an integrated approach to competitor research.
This approach covers:

  1. Product differentiation: What advantages and disadvantages exist at the product or service level between you and your competitors?
  2. Customer sentiment: How do customers feel about your product/service and your competitors? How can you leverage both positive and negative sentiment to your advantage?
  3. Competitive messaging: What are your competitors communicating about the value of their products, and how does it compare to the values your business communicates?

It may seem like a simple formula, but a deep understanding of the competitive landscape can lead to powerful results.  Take this recent Google Ads experiment run for a high-ticket medical product. Accurately speaking to the product strengths we discovered through competitive research led to these metrics:

  • 38% increase in clicks
  • 788% increase in impressions
  • 55% lower CPCs
  • 19% decrease in CPA

Part 1: Product Differentiation

The best way to vet your product against your competition is also one of the simplest: building a comparison matrix. Laying out the features of your product/service against those of your closest competitors is an invaluable tool for understanding the distinct benefits customers get from choosing you.
To get started in product research, collect all of the objective features relevant to your customer. For example, 24/7 customer service is an objective product offering, while great and attentive customer service is a subjective offering that is examined later in sentiment analysis.
Examples of attributes to collect for product research are:

  • Security features: For tech, B2B, and family products, security features are often top of mind for consumers (think data protection, parental controls, or anything else that may fall into the umbrella of making your customer feel safe).
  • Product certifications: Do you have a certification or award that your competition is lacking?
  • Price: Do you have a tiered model, freemium, subscription, or flat purchase fee? Are any unique features unlocked at different levels?
  • Product specs: This is where to put any physical product attributes such as battery life, materials, and durability features.
  • Integrations: Does your product integrate with other products? If so, which ones?

Now that the comparison matrix is built, the next step is highlighting the features relevant to the customer. For example, a candy bar company may offer a customer service call-in line, but customers really care about the percentage of dark chocolate offered in their bars. While the call-in line may still be important, prioritizing criteria relevant to the decision-making process (such as the chocolate percentage) will bring focus to the analysis.

Once your features are built and your criteria prioritized, conduct a gap analysis to see:

  • Does your product offer features that no one else does, or are you “all the same” on the surface?
  • How well are you communicating your product strengths against your competition?

That completes the product differentiation section, which is a big step to start with. We’ll give this some time to sink in and be back tomorrow with the next two tactics of this approach.

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