If you’re looking to build your business and create a stronger marketing platform, don’t underestimate the power of market research. You’ll gain clarity on your competitors, determine your value and theirs, and differentiate what sets you apart – all important factors in increasing market share for a small business.
How Can Market Research Grow Your Business?
Competitive research for small business – or a business of any size – gives you insight on where and how your brand fits in a particular niche or industry. The data helps you set goals, measure progress, and the opportunity to change direction to meet market demands, new trends, and challenges that may not be addressed in your current marketing and PR plan.
You might want to downplay market research if you’re testing your new venture, but my advice is simple. Don’t go blindfolded. A little preparation can go a long way, even if you’re a seasoned entrepreneur. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first two years, and only 25 percent of businesses stay open for 15 or more years.
5 Marketing Tips to Research Your Competition
1. Discover underserved audiences
Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you that finding the perfect audience for your product or service is key. Next, they’ll tell you to identify that target market to make it easy to buy from you. But sometimes, an advantage may be to find groups ignored by your industry. It could be about where they live or how they use social media. Or maybe there’s a language or culture barrier.
Once you pinpoint which audiences are underserved in your niche (not just in your own business), look at the “why’’ and create marketing and PR tactics to address the challenge. This may be a tweak in your marketing efforts or a major shift, hopefully not. How to attract customers to a small business is always a matter of concern and a big one – which is why paying attention to industry trends and competitive research matter.
2. Keep an eye on keywords
If you’re a savvy marketer and your competitors are too, there’s always a possibility that you’re competing for the same keywords. Say you own a doggie daycare or pet sitting service, “pet sitting in [your city/town]” might be a keyword phrase that you both want to use. Avoid conflict or missing out by learning simple SEO tactics to discover keywords that your competitors aren’t vying for.
The easiest way to do this is to look at blog titles, headlines or email subject lines from your competitors’ materials, online and offline. Start a list of keyword phrases or particular buzzwords and note how they’re used in their content marketing.
Take it a step further and test-drive Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool. Enter your domain name and a handful of your competitors’ domain names, and see what pops up. The Semrush Keyword Gap tool lets you analyze which keywords you’re both competing for, as well as a list of keywords your competitors are using to boost their SEO that you haven’t tried.
3. Monitor social media
Is competitive analysis part of your weekly marketing routine? For most small businesses, spending 15 minutes twice a week to check out your top competitors’ social media platforms and content should be fine. If you feel creeped out, search incognito. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn.
What tone do your competitors’ use? How do you feel about their messaging? What’s the buzz all about? Do you get a rise (positive or negative) when you scroll through their photos or graphics? How many followers do they have and is the trend upward or downward? If your competitors “appear to be” more successful than you, there’s probably a reason why.
Market research from your social media channels helps you differentiate your brand from your competitors so you can create your own tone, personality, and messaging that highlights your unique selling proposition. Beyond social media, look at paid, owned, and earned media for comparison, too.
4. Review competitor products
Your competitors may be outperforming you because their product is cheaper or more convenient to buy. They may have a bigger marketing budget or have worked years to develop a loyal audience and have established brand equity. And then again, they just may be better marketers!
Where do you need to be more competitive? Buy one or more of your competitors’ products or sample their service. Get your team involved. What do you like about their products? What do they do differently that may improve your brand? What aspects of their business, from creating awareness to converting customers, can you borrow and make your own?
5. Know where you can improve
Every business can improve their marketing and PR efforts. Whether your competitors are in the next town, across the street, or making a splash in your digital space, you’ll only know how to improve your strategy after you review your market research and data.
As Tom Rath said, “If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.” Spend your time wisely, where you’re making the most dollars and biggest impact. Delegate or outsource the rest, market research included.