Understand what your competitors are up to

It is easier than ever to sleuth out what your competitors are doing – marketing-wise.  There’s a whole list of not-so devious ways to better understand what they are up to and if they are smarter than you or dumber.  You can rifle through every trade magazine.  Poach direct mail pieces.  Surf the depths of their websites and landing pages.  Google them.  Follow them on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Pretend you are a prospect and visit their booth at a trade show. Illicitly obtain sales brochures. And on and on.

The big issue here is to do it and do it regularly.  It’s a matter of national security.  Well, not really.  But perhaps how about your company’s marketing security?

The purpose of all this undercover activity is to identify your competitors’ positions and message strategies.  You can then scope out where you overlap and where you differ.  If you’ve done Mindscan research you can tell which of those messages are hitting and which are still open.  Based on that, you can analyze where your competitors are most susceptible.  Where their messages don’t align with audience needs and interests or market perceptions.

And most importantly, where your brand’s opportunities are.

In b2b, it’s called a message audit

A true message audit is a comparison between verbatim competitive messages and what customers and buyers perceive they are buying.  This helps you identify specific message openings and opportunities and allows you to align your buying and brand stories with the things your audiences are most interested in.

Just one word of warning

Make sure you know who you’re really competing against, from your customers’ and prospects’ point of view.  Danger often lurks in your own definitions. Make sure your competitive frame is large enough to include other players who aren’t top-of-mind that might compete for your audience’s time, attention, or budget.

Don’t feel guilty about this undercover work.  After all, your competitors are likely doing something similar to you.

Image: www.flickr.com/photos/olliolarte

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