We frequently work with clients to refresh or realign their legacy brands to ensure they are accurately expressing what the brand currently represents. Prior to making recommendations to change visuals or messaging, an important initial step in the process is conducting competitor research. By evaluating the public-facing, online presence of the competition we can level-set industry norms as well as create a snapshot of what a potential customer experiences online>
It takes using a practiced filter to tease out the nuance (or lack thereof) that truly differentiates one company from another. It’s critical to get past “just the facts” (products, features, price, etc.) and common language to examine what a company is really saying about itself. And more importantly, what it is saying about and how it shapes the customer experience. After all, a brand at its essence is the promise of an experience. If a brand promises a better experience than the competition it needs to truly show how and why in terms that are relevant to the customer.
For this reason, when looking at competitors to determine the essence of their brands, the focus is on the “what” factors. These are the important qualities and attributes that will be considered by prospects in the research and consideration phases of the buyers’ journey (at the top of the sales funnel):
What is the experience the brand is promising?
We look for key messages of differentiation, specialization, tone, content and visuals.
What will it be like working with the brand?
Do they project a friendly and conversational approach or are they more formal and conservative in their language?
What will they do to help the prospect solve their problem/succeed?
Do they focus on the audience by addressing industry issues or business problems they have solved?
What benefits (near and long term) will the prospect derive from the relationship?
Does the site provide helpful content, guides or relevant case studies to peruse?
What does the company, its people and leadership stand for?
Look for a Culture or About Us page that has their beliefs and philosophies laid out.
What is unique about how they operate?
This can be in what they offer, how they offer it or how they deliver it.
What does the company aspire to?
Are they a leader in their space (industry, business, products or services)?
Finding the answers to these questions can be difficult, as many (especially B2B) sites we research include relatively little of this in their messaging, focusing instead on the “facts” around their products and services. Conducting competitor research is an important exercise however, if you really want to understand how you compare to your competition. Do it with an open mind and discover where you have the best opportunity to elevate your messaging and separate your company from the pack.