How to Learn from Your Competitor’s Advertising Success

To determine how to gain a competitive advantage in advertising, you need to go to poker night.

Good poker players can play their cards, but great poker players master how to play the cards of their opponents. They gather intel about the people they’re in a pot with by studying how they act and react to various outcomes. They use this information to determine the probabilities that their cards are better, or if they can bluff and make their opponent fold. The more you learn about your competitors, the better chance you have of discovering a competitive advantage.

Advertisers on Amazon and social media platforms can benefit from the same strategy. If you want to learn from your competitor’s marketing success, you have to figure out how, and why your competitor is successful in the first place. By cracking their code, you get the competitive edge and can capitalize on their own advertising success.

 Sizing Up the Competition

Start by writing a list of at least three businesses that are doing well in your niche. Two should be close to you in size, but the third can be larger and thriving. For example, if you are running a small publishing house that specializes in historical non-fiction, look for two like-minded publishing houses (maybe one locally and one in a different state, or one with a larger online presence, etc.) and a major house that specializes in the same thing.

Create a table while studying their websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, previous sales—anything and everything that you can find. The better you know these businesses, the more precise your read will be.

In short, you’re essentially conducting a variation of a SWOT analysis.

If you feel that it’s prudent, take the completed table above and break it up into SWOT’s four categories: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Between your table and your SWOT, you can determine what marketing opportunities are readily available and how threats influence your company and theirs in various ways.

Putting yourself in your competitor’s shoes allows you to get a firm idea of how they operate. You will learn how they are excelling, where they fall short, and what their future plans could hold. This glimpse into your competitor’s mindset will allow you to develop an advertising strategy that exposes the weaknesses in theirs. If one of your competitors recently ran an Instagram Stories campaign that went viral, determine which stories had the best results based on keywords, visuals, and impressions. Take avid notes on their success and contemplate how your version could be better.

Read Customer Reviews

When customers rave about your competitor’s product or service, you’re getting access to free inside information about the wants and needs of their customers. Features on their products that yours lacks could be the difference between a buyer selecting your competitor’s product over yours. Scroll through these reviews and create a list of common extras or features that customers enjoyed about a product or service and compare them to your product.

You may also learn how your competitor found these customers and what strategies encouraged them to pursue their buyer’s journey. This insight could help you develop a better approach in the future.

For example, if a customer found your competitor through a Twitter campaign, you can use similar hashtags and reveal that your product is more advantageous because it’s either:

  • More affordable
  • Has more features
  • Has newer technology
  • Has a new case study
  • Anything else that points it as being a superior product

Product reviews also point out customer complaints. Approach scrolling through these the same way you looked at rave reviews and conduct a list of reasons why a UX was imperfect.

Reading customer reviews grants you an insight into your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and can even form the blueprints of your next advertising campaign.

Run Analytics Tests

Web analytics can show you everything from how your competitor’s display ads are performing, which keywords your competitors are ranking for, and where their backlinks are coming from.

By typing your competitor’s domain name in a search bar, you can get access to how much traffic they are receiving from their website, various social media platforms, organic searches, paid searches, and more. Forbes recommends tools like SEMRush, SimilarWeb, and WhatRunsWhere, but those are just some of the few web analytics tools that are out there.

Understand Your Competitor’s Process

Almost every company has a step-by-step process or acronym that they use to find their customers and help them through their buyer’s journey.

For example, here is Level 3 Communications process (before it came part of Century Link):

Here’s another example from Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, or MXM:

Analyze their model for commonalities and fundamental differences, then determine if making your own version of this process would be beneficial for your business.

Talk to Former Employees

Company loyalty isn’t what it used to be. You hardly hear of anyone only working for one company for their entire lives anymore, and Statista shows that employees are facing increasing numbers of stress and burnout in 2018.

Social media—particularly LinkedIn—makes it easier to find people that used to work for other companies. As long as they don’t have a non-compete or an NDA, they might be interested in talking about their experiences. They may share with you their company’s culture including what worked well and what didn’t. Reach out to former employees of your competitor’s company and ask to sit down with them over coffee or a drink. To sweeten the deal, offer to pay them for their advice. The inside information you can get will definitely be worth it.

Like in poker, if you want to be good at advertising, know how to play your hand. If you want to be great, however, learn how to play your opponent’s hand. Understanding that is a surefire way for you to achieve a competitive advantage.

To learn more about how to size up your competition, reach out to us for a consultation.

Anthony Greer is a twice-published author and content marketer with a focus in marketing, brand, and product development.

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