Guide to competitor analysis [with template]

Marta
June 1, 2021 ・ 20 min read

Competitor analysis will help you assess the weaknesses and strengths of your competitors and identify threats and opportunities to your business. Based on that knowledge, you can establish a plan of action for your brand that will help you stay one step ahead of your competition and reach your target market.

guide to competitor analysis

You will learn:

  • how to perform SWOT analysis for your company
  • how to conduct market research and improve your business
  • how to discover your competition
  • how to become an industry leader.

Competitive analysis is a time-consuming, complicated process, but the rewards are worth the effort.  

Competitive analysis shows industry trends, helps you improve your sales process, and identify strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats that awaits your company. Once you conduct a competitive analysis you will be able to reach your target market, successfully promote your product, and increase your customer base.

The process of competitive analysis will help you on every stage of your business journey. Whether you are a startup looking for a market niche or an established company trying to introduce new products or services to the market, competitive analysis will bring you useful insights.

Thanks to a robust set of data from competitor analysis, you will be able to:

  • position your products in the most optimal way
  • meet your customers’ needs
  • exploit your competitors’ weaknesses
  • learn from their strengths
  • discover new opportunities for your business

Since competitor analysis is a long and complicated process, we do our best to make it as simple as possible.

That’s why we prepared a competitor analysis template.

You’ll find our Google-docs based competitor analysis template further down. You can adjust the competitive analysis framework to your needs, so you don’t worry if you don’t fill in all the data.

But before you start filling in any document, you need to know what information about your competition you’re looking for. Competitive analysis is a an all-encompassing project and you need to apply certain strategy. Otherwise, you might miss some insights and your research will be incomplete.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to competitive analysis!

  1. Find and classify your competition — you have to know who you’re competing against
  2. Take a note of the basic information — company overview, revenue, number of customers
  3. Analyse the product your competition offers — take a deeper look at the features, perks, and technology
  4. Analyse their customers base — the type of customer will tell you who the desired audience is, what is the level of brand awareness, which social media platforms they use, and much more.
  5. Take a look at the SEO efforts — SEO competitive analysis will tell you how your competitors use search engines to their benefit
  6. Analyse their social media presence — a lot of activities will take place on social media. Take a look at the channels your competitors are using and what message they send.
  7. Understand your competition positioning — who is the ideal customer of your competitors? What’s the most important part of their messaging? How are they reaching their target customers?
  8. Compare their prices — maybe you’re missing a low hanging fruit by pricing your product too low or too high.

Analysing all the above mentioned categories will give you an excellent overview of your competitive landscape and will help you improve your marketing strategies and spot industry trends.

Discover your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with the help of our competitor analysis template! Check it out and conduct your competitive analysis!

Here’s our detailed itinerary for today:

  • What is competitor analysis?
  • How to conduct a competitive analysis?
  • What are the benefits of competitor analysis?
  • What should you include in a competitor analysis?
  • How to write a competitor analysis
  • Competitive analysis made easy
  • What is competitor analysis?

    Competitive analysis is the process of analyzing your competition products, services, marketing strategy, or business ideas.

    Based on the competitive analysis you can discover strengths and weaknesses of your competition. You will be able to reach customers that are not 100% happy with the solution they get now. You can offer your product and increase your market share effectively growing your company.

    Competitive analysis consists of stages we described in detail in this article. To make the process easier for you, we prepared a competitor analysis template. Once you fill in the template you will not only get a competitor profile, but an actionable plan of action on how to fit effectively in your product category.

    Download the competitive analysis template!

    How to conduct a competitive analysis?

    As I mentioned before, competitor analysis is a huge task – both in terms of the amount of information you will have to process and the resources it takes. 

    To have a comprehensive view of your competition activities and strategies, you should analyse many different aspects of companies’ presence. A thorough market research is the cornerstone of competitor data.

    We prepared a list of areas you should take into account:

    1. Company overview
    2. Products or services
    3. Customers
    4. Marketing

    That doesn’t seem like a lot, but once you start digging you’ll discover a lot of useful information!

    Competitor analysis will take up your time. You have to spend some amount of time searching and analysing the information, preparing the document, and implementing necessary changes.

    It’s important to spread the insights you gathered through competitive analysis among different departments of your company.

    Competitive analysis is not about copying competition solutions. It’s more about positioning your company at the right place on the market, knowing what industry trends are worth following, and improving your products and services. The process is about defining your strengths and weaknesses and increasing your market share.

    What are the benefits of competitor analysis?

    The benefits of competitor analysis are hard to miss. 

    Competitor analysis will help you:

    • identify market opportunities that will increase your market share and brand awareness
    • exploit your competitors’ weaknesses and convert their customers to your product or service
    • improve your position with given product category
    • better market your strengths to your potential clients
    • provide information needed to plan future marketing strategies
    • allow you to make well-informed decisions on how to develop your product

    What should you include in a competitor analysis?

    While performing a competitor analysis you will gather a ton of data. Which should a competitor analysis framework include?

    There are parts of competitor analysis that are common for all business types.

    No matter your business niche, your competitive analysis template should include:

    • the business side of your main competitors
    • the marketing activities of your competitors
    • the customer service they provide
    • SWOT analysis

    That’s a lot of information to uncover and analyse.

    That’s why we prepared a step-by-step guide to competitor analysis! You can use this posts as an analysis template to make sure you have all the information you need. Conducting a competitor analysis research is the first step towards success.

    Hopefully, with our competitor analysis framework, the process will be less daunting and better organised. 

    Find your competitors

    Competitor analysis should start with identifying and classifying all your competitors. 

    You can divide the competitors into three groups:

    1. Primary competitors – businesses which target the same audience or have similar products. 
    2. Secondary competitors – businesses which sell products in the same category. For example, a secondary competitor to a brewery is a vineyard.
    3. Tertiary competitors – business who are not your direct competitors but might become one in the future, if you expand your product line or service.

    The difference between direct and indirect competitors is important to correctly assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of SWOT analysis later on.

    There are numerous ways to conduct market research and identify your competitors; I’d like to recommend five that proved the most effective for us. 

    Google search

    That one is a no-brainer. When you want to know something, you google it (or bing it or duckduckgo it).

    When it comes to competitive analysis, it’s a great starting point. 

    Of course, Google will only spit out uncategorised results. Your job will be to divide the businesses into categories and check all other available information, for instance, when was it established, the number of clients, etc.

    print screen of Google search results showing the companies that are your potential competitors you should analyse further

    Try to put yourself in the position of a potential customer looking for your products or services and search for terms related to your business niche. It’s best to do it in an incognito mode, so the search engine won’t take your previous searches into account. 

    Prepare a list of keywords related to you industry and start googling. You should get a list of your competitors ready in no time.  

    Google ads

    While we’re at search engines – take a look at paid ads. Some of your indirect and direct competitors might not be interested in SEO positioning (which takes some time and resources to develop). Instead, they will pay for promotion.  

    print screen of google search results showing paid results for your competitors analysis

    Follow the same process as in the previous point, just take a look at ads, not organic results. 

    Internet monitoring

    Media monitoring will help you with a few steps in competitor analysis process. Let’s start with identifying your competitors.

    Conduct competitive analysis! Give it a spin during 14-day free trial (no credit card required).

    You can compile a more thorough competitor list by creating an Internet monitoring project.

    You start by creating a project.

    In the project creation wizard, enter the keywords related to your industry. 

    Perform competitor analysis

    The tool will start gathering all the mentions from the Internet containing your keyword and organize them in one neat dashboard. 

    You will not only get a list of your competitors, but will also see which companies people recommend and why. That’s a beginning of the more in-depth analysis, mainly assessing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, which I’ll discuss in more detail later on. 

    Customers

    Your customers are a goldmine of knowledge. Most of them, before they came to you, have done a ton of research to choose the best solution for their problem. You should tap into that knowledge!

    Ask what other options they considered and which feature made them sway into your direction. 

    Moreover, new companies will most likely try to tempt your customers to switch to their product. Keeping your finger on the pulse will help you detect early signs of a new rival on the market. 

    You can ask your new clients to answer a few question, fill in a survey, or schedule a short phone call. Try to build an email list, so you can reach your clients easily.

    Trade publications

    Trade magazines, both digital and printed, are great sources for your competitor analysis.

    New entrants to the market will try to put their names on the map, so check the publications regularly. 

    Moreover, you’ll be able to examine your competitors’ offer.

    While examining the offering, try to answer these questions:

    • What are the most striking differences between your bid and your rivals?
    • What messages do they send out?
    • What features is your product missing?

    That’s all publicly available information you could use to perform competitor analysis. 

    Once you know who are your direct, indirect, and tertiary competitors, you can start analysing various aspects of their brand. 

    Gather the data about your competitors

    Once you identified the most relevant competitors it’s time to dive deeper into the available data.

    Take a note of the name of their CEO and other prominent employees, the total number of employees, and how long they’ve been on the market.

    An important piece of market research for competitor analysis will be the data about their funding. Most of the VC don’t invest in two companies from the same group, so if you see someone already invested into one company there is probably no point in approaching them.

    You can look up the number of employees on LinkedIn. Of course, that will be just an estimate, but the number will give you an idea where your company is headed.

    Examine the products your competitors offer

    Now it’s time to take a closer look at the products or services your rivals offer. Take a closer look at these aspects:

    • technology — what technology was used to build the product?
    • perks —do they give anything for free, for example, ebooks or webinars? Do they offer discounts?
    • core selling point — who exactly are they targeting?

    A thorough analysis of the product will help you identify the gaps in your competitors offering. Once you identify the gap on the market, you ca try to fill it with your products. Are there any opportunities on the market for your products?

    Look for any affiliate programs they might run. Affiliate programs help spread brand awareness and boost sales.

    Another aspect of competitive analysis, especially for tech companies, is to assess what technology they use. You can check it in two ways.

    First, there are websites, for example BuiltWith, that will help you discover the technology behind the product.

    Secondly, take a look at job listings. Companies will list the stack needed for new hires, including programming language, email marketing services, analytics systems, and much more.

    Analyse your competitors’ SEO efforts

    SEO stands for search engines optimization. An SEO analysis can be divided into at least two subgroups. 

    Firstly, you should analyse the structure of your competitors’ content.

    How do their articles look like? Are they using any interactive components, for example, table of contents? Is the text on a colourful background? How do they use headings? These factors may all sound a bit trivial but they all could have an impact on website positioning. 

    a print screen of Brand24 blog posts showing formatted text on a red background which you should analyse while performing a competitors analysis

    Another aspect of an SEO competitive analysis is a keyword gap analysis.

    A keyword gap is a list of keywords other rank for and you don’t. You could try to tackle certain keywords and outperform your competitors. 

    While we’re discussing SEO, take a look at the competitors’ backlinks analysis. To rank well in any search engine, a domain ought to have strong authority. One of the aspects that Google and other search engines take into account is the number and quality of links to the domain.

    print screen from Semrush, a SEO tool where you can analyse your competitors' backlinks

    Analyse which domains are linking to your competitors’ content. It will give you three pieces of information:

    1. It’s a checklist of sites which you can ask to replace links to your competitors with content linking to your site;
    2. It gives you a general idea on what type of content is suitable for link building;
    3. It’s an indicator of what you have to do to beat your competitors. 

    Of course, the details of your content strategy will depend on your industry. These three points are universal and will help you assess and give direction to your content strategy. 

    Analyse your competitors social media presence

    No matter the business niche, at least some of your competitors are present on different social media channels. Considering the fact that more and more campaigns and conversions take place on social media, that’s a part of competitors analysis you can’t omit.

    You have to know which social media platforms your rivals are using. You can manually check channel after channel, or you can set up a social media monitoring project for your competitors. 

    Follow the same steps as when you were creating a social media monitoring project for yourself, but instead of entering keywords related to your industry, think of terms your competitors would use. It can be:

    • the name of your competitor;
    • their @handle;
    • their branded hashtag
    • their campaign specific hashtag

    Brand24 will provide a ton of useful data! Let’s see what’s in there for you. 

    Analyse how often your competitors’ post on social media

    The volume of mentions is a first metric you should assess while analysing your competitors’ social media presence. The total number of your competitors’ posts and posts mentioning them is a backbone of your analysis. Combining it with other metrics will give you a more holistic view of your competitive landscape. 

    A high volume of mentions might indicate a couple of things:

    • the content is resonating well with their target audience which sparks interactions and builds brand awareness;
    • seasonal changes in your competitors’ content distribution. There might be a time in a year where your opponents are extra active, for example on Black Friday or during Christmas season;

    a print screen showing volume of mention – a metric you could use to perform competitors analysis

    Conduct a competitive analysis

    A media monitoring tool will collect mentions from different social media platforms and analyse them. There are filters you can use to examine specific platforms or get a bigger picture and analyse the aggregated data. 

    Let’s start with the volume of mentions. That’s a total number of all mentions containing keywords related to your competitors.

    Brand24 automatically categorizes the mentions according to the social media platform they originated. 

    This competitor analysis metric will help you establish two things:

    1. Which social media platforms your competitors are using. If they are active and receive a positive response from their audience, it means that your potential customers are actively using a particular social media platform. You can also peek on the type of content that sparks interactions.
    2. You don’t have to do the research and invest your energy into establishing your presence on different social media channels by yourself. Learn from your competitors’ mistakes. If they weren’t able to build a loyal following, it’s unlikely you could do that. Or, at least, establish a different strategy for a particular channel. 

    Combine volume of mentions with sentiment analysis

    A high volume of mentions isn’t an indicator of success. To have a whole picture, you should combine the volume of mentions metric with sentiment analysis. 

    Sentiment analysis will tell you whether the response to a particular message was positive, negative, or neutral. In other words, it means whether people are enjoying brands’ products and services or not.

    a print screen from Brand24 showing the volume of mentions combined with sentiment analysis which you can use to perform competitors analysis

    Sentiment analysis can give you valuable information about:

    • a reaction to a specific marketing campaign. A high volume of mentions and an increase in negative sentiment is usually a sign of a social media crisis. 
    • an understanding of how your messaging and marketing activities affect the perception of your brand. It will tell you whether you are sending the right message to the right people via the right channel. There’s no point in broadcasting into the void where no one is interested in what you have to say. 

    Take a look at the share of voice

    The share of voice point out what part of the whole discussion was generated by a specific author. 

    The share of voice is associated with brand awareness. Again, as with the volume of mentions, a high share of voice can be caused by a crisis situation, so you should always combine it with sentiment analysis. 

    a print screen from Brand24 showing the share of voice for particular social media accounts, a metric you could use to perform competitors analysis

    Conduct competitor analysis

    If your competitors generate a high percentage of the share of voice and the sentiment is positive or neutral, it means that the brand is recognisable among their target audience and the messaging is resonating well. 

    Measure social media reach of hashtag campaigns

    That’s one of the most important aspects of competitor analysis.

    Measuring the social media reach of a campaign allows you to see how many people could have seen your competitors’ content and are possibly aware of their brand or product.

    Why is social media reach important for competitor analysis? 

    First of all, the more people see their message the highest brand awareness and possible conversions. 

    a print screen from Brand24 showing the social media reach of a keyword a metric you could use to perform a competitors analysis

    Conduct competitive analysis

    For all your metrics, you need a benchmark. You’ll never know whether your campaign performed well, if you don’t compare it to other results. Comparison to your competitors is a good start. 

    Second benefit of measuring social media reach is the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing campaigns. Which social media platform should you choose? What type of content will spark interactions? You can gain all that knowledge by analysing your competitors’ online presence. 

    Monitor influencers talking about your competitors

    Influencer marketing has been a hot topic for quite some time now and we’re all well aware of that. Influencers are the people who amplify the brand message and get the word out to the masses.

    A study conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub showed an increase of 325% in Google searches for “influencer marketing” between 2016 and 2017. This only emphasises the rise in popularity of this marketing strategy.

    Instagram seems to be the go-to platform these days, but the focus of your influencer marketing efforts is heavily dependant on where your target audience is and who are the leading influencers in your niche on that platform.

    That’s an aspect of competitive analysis that can also be supported by media monitoring. Once again, you’ll need to use one of the filters available in the dashboard that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Using this filter, you are going to find who are the influential users talking about your competition and what exactly do they say about them. Obviously, you’re not going to try to approach those who are in love in with your rivals, but chances are there are some of them who had a bad experience and who you’d have a chance to convert to your brand ambassadors.

    I am sure a person of nearly 2 million Twitter followers is somewhat influential and some brands might want to co-operate with them.

    It might be a little risky considering we’re talking about the Geordie Shore star here, but anyway, if I was doing a social media competitive analysis or simply running social media customer service for one of Ryanair’s competition, I’d surely try to somehow engage him so that the next time he chooses to fly with someone, he flies with the airline I work for and recommends it to his followers.

    An excellent example of proactive social media monitoring

    Explore the context of discussion

    The context of a discussion is a very informative addition to the social media competitive analysis.

    Discussions about your rivals are related to a wide variety of topics. Word cloud a.k.a. The context of discussion gives you a comprehensive overview of the words that are used the most frequently in relation to your competitors. We’ll use the example of Ryanair once again:

    An example of a word cloud you could use for social media competitor analysis

    Strike seems to be the standout word and it indicates that many people are probably disappointed with the cancellations of different flights caused by employees’ strikes. It’s another example of a situation where a competitor might chime in the conversations with an alternative offer.

    An example of a word cloud used for social media competitor analysis

    It seems like there’s nothing here that the competitors might take advantage of, which is bad for them, but great for the Hungarian airline. Nevertheless, it’s well-worth reading those conversations in search of some ideas you could implement yourself, especially considering the fact that you can click on any of the keywords visible, and the tool will display all mentions containing this particular keyword.

    A comparison of social media results between Ryanair and WizzAir

    Put the social media competitive analysis insights into action

    Since we’re talking about comparisons, Brand24 allows comparing projects to one another, so when you conduct a social media competitor analysis, you can either compare yourself to various brands or compare them against each other. Once again, I am going to stick with the airline example:

    Social media competitor analysis results for Ryanair

    It’s obvious at the first glance there’s a huge difference in the volume of conversations for those two brands. This might be caused by spelling WizzAir correctly, as it’s sometimes written with, and sometimes without the spacing. I only used one of those spellings for the purpose of this blog post, but it still looks like Ryanair gets a lot more mentions both on social and outside social media.

    When you scroll down the Comparison tab, you’ll find a detailed diagram representing the percentage of conversations taking place on each of the sources:

    Social media competitor analysis results for WizzAir

    It’s instantly visible that the sentiment for both brands is significantly different. It’s almost fifty-fifty when it comes to Ryanair, and it looks much better for WizzAir. However, we have to take a huge difference in the number of mentions into consideration again.

    What’s also interesting is the difference in percentage for the sources in questions. Twitter is where almost 75 per cent of conversation about Ryanair happen, whereas it’s at only 36 per cent for Wizzair.

    In contrast, Instagram is the most prominent platform when it comes to the talks about the Hungarian airline, whereas it only constitutes 13,6 per cent of the whole in the case of Irish airline.

    Such differences are a perfect representation of how conversations about different brands are spread across the platforms, and what are the social networks that some of the brands should invest more time in by engaging their customers and potential customers.

    Understand how your competitors market their product

    Messaging is a vital part of competitive analytics. Messaging will tell you how a company sees itself, who their ideal customer is, and what are they trying to achieve. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor marketing strategies? Are there any opportunities and threats that could benefit your company?

    You have to analyse a range of different mediums, including:

    • their website;
    • social media;
    • interviews;
    • ebooks or reports;
    • newsletters;
    • podcasts
    • leaflets, flyers, brochures, and other physical materials;
    • product or service descriptions.
    a print screen from Sprout Social showing who they are marketing their tool to, a feature you could use while performing a competitor analysis

    An extensive analysis of their copy will help you determine what your competitors’ see as an important feature, what is their buyers’ persona, and what they are hoping to achieve. 

    This will give you a general idea of how your competitors plan to expand their business. Will they penetrate new markets? Are they developing a new feature or product? You can look for some subtle hints in their copy. 

    Take a look at your competitors’ pricing

    One of the most important aspects for your competitors when it comes down to making purchasing decisions – the costs. 

    Analysing the pricing can be a daunting task, as there are many variables involved. The offerings might differ slightly, depending on the features offered by each company. Find as much common ground as you can and compare the plans. 

    This will show you whether you’re charging an adequate amount of money for your product.

    Maybe there are some features you could add to your offering to make it more attractive?

    Or, on the contrary, you might have a competitive advantage over your rivals you’re not aware of. That’s a perfect way to promote your business!

    Compare the customer experience

    A crucial part of your competitor analysis should be focused on customer service. Many established companies that already gained a significant number of clients don’t have time or resources to provide exquisite customer service. That’s a gap you can fill in to distinguish yourself from your competitors.

    Another thing you should keep an eye on is any technological innovation your competitors are using. Do they use chatbots to help their clients? Is there a live chat box on their website?

    You can use all of these insights to improve your own customer service and gain competitive advantage.

    How to write a competitor analysis?

    Once you gather the data, it’s time to put it all together. 

    First of all, set your priorities. Depending on the aim of your competitor analysis, you should focus on different parts of your data. 

    If you want to analyse main competitors, take a closer look at their strong and weak features. This will help you determine the areas you need to improve and spots where you have an advantage and can exploit to build competitive advantage. You can distribute SWOT analysis among different departments, including marketing and product development.

    Do you offer free shipping? Is your product manufactured locally? Do you offer unique customer service? Those are all features you could market to your potential customers that differentiate you from your competitors. 

    Once you perform a competitors analysis make sure the content is distributed across different departments at your company. Sometimes the most innovative ideas come from people you least expect it. 

    Competitive analysis, if done right, should help you:

    • perform insightful SWOT analysis
    • determine the market share of your competitors
    • improve your products and services, in terms of product development, marketing, and customer experience
    • help you make more informed decisions involving your marketing strategy
    • determine the expected growth rate of your startup based on companies with established position on the market

    Competitive analysis made easy

    Competitor analysis is an ongoing, time-consuming, and crucial process. It’s much more than just a list of your competitors. 

    Competitors analysis will give you all the information you need to get ahead of your rivals, excel in your industry, and become a thought leader in your niche. 

    From startup to market leader — competitive analysis in a nutshell

    Competitive analysis helps you assess your position on the market — no matter whether you are just starting out or already have an established position within your industry landscape.

    The analysis is one of the best things you can do for your business. Every part of competitive analysis template can bring the benefits for your business. SWOT analysis can indicate the direction for product development, increase your customer loyalty, and improve your overall business positioning.

    To make the process a bit easier we prepared a downloadable competitive analysis template!

    If you want to be one step ahead of your competitors, you have to assess the status quo first. Knowing which areas you need to improve and where exactly can you gain competitive advantage easily, will help you shape your business decisions.