In our efforts to study our competitors we run the risk of marketing just like they do. This is bad news if our competitors are terrible marketers; which is the case in most cases. The emulation of competitors is more common than you may think. Most business owners don’t even realize they are doing it. It’s a phenomenon, where inbreeding of similar marketing strategies produces equally boring and stale results.
As an example, take your local Yellow Pages Directory and turn to any section populated with advertisers within the same industry. It can be automobile dealerships, attorneys, or doctors.
Now, study a few pages. You will immediately start to see a common theme, a similar pattern – a pattern of boring uniformity. The great majority suffers from the “me too” syndrome. The prospect looking for services can’t tell why she should but from advertiser A or B. It seems like the only one that benefits here is mostly the sales rep that sold the ad and the editors of the book.
This can also be seen in the way different industries market their products and services. Have you noticed that each industry has a very particular way to market? Look at your industry. Do you and your competitors market in just about the same way? Have you also noticed that when some brave soul wants to innovate and market in a way “different” from the industry’s norm, he is considered a heretic. . . condemned to burn at the stake of the boss’ editing pen?
I call this phenomenon “marketing paralysis. ” It’s the inability to make the necessary changes in order to improve marketing results; the inability to break loose from the “business as usual” and the “it’s always been done that way” mindset.
There is a hidden danger when you analyze your competitors in your industry. The hidden danger is overanalyzing and in the process, becoming just like them – accentuating the marketing paralysis.
So, why should you study your competitors? There are six key element to consider when analyzing your competition; and none has anything to do with the emulation of your competitors’ marketing methods. Au contraire! Read on, mi amigo. . .
1. The Reference Point
Establish which is your position within the “brand ladder” in comparison to your competitors. According to Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, the law of the ladder is at play. For each rung of the ladder, there is a brand name. Although you want to be first in the prospect’s mind, the battle is not lost if you fail here. This is why you need to know what is your reference point; that is, your position on the ladder. This will help you select the correct marketing strategies.
2. The Price point.
Do not get hung-up on pricing. Know your product and what you want to achieve. If you are positioning yourself as the best, with the top-of-the-line product or service, then your price must reflect it. Knowing price levels from your competitor’s simply helps reinforce your position. If your competitor is offering just as much value as you do, but for less; then, it’s time to reanalyze your offer.
3. The Message
Is your message clear and distinct from your competitors? Remember our little yellow pages exercise? Did you see how the advertisers’ messages blended? Uniqueness was hard to find, wasn’t it?
When you compare your message to that of your competitors, you are not doing it to put yourself at your competitor’s level. Your task is to identify the boring monotone of your competitors, and stay as far away from it as you can. Your job is to always have the most powerful and unique message – one that is transmitted to your target market in a consistent basis.
4. The Technology
Are you keeping up with the latest technology, research, customer service applications, marketing techniques, and everything else that keeps your business ahead of your competition?
Once again, your goal is to stay a step ahead of the competition, not to emulate it. Knowing the capabilities of your competition helps you keep your feet on the ground, and running the good race.
5. The Good And The Bad
Here is information that will help you propel your business forward in huge leaps; but only if you are honest with yourself.
What’s your competition doing well? How does it compare to what you are doing?
Put your ego aside and strive to truly learn from your competitors. By the same token, take a close look at their errors. It will give you a clear picture of their weaknesses; and therefore, a powerful tool to help you fill those gaps with your enhanced services.
6. The Perceptions
The short definition of marketing is “managing perceptions. ” As you know, perception is often more powerful and real than reality itself. It’s my belief that to a great extent, the winners are those that manage perceptions better.
How are your competitors perceived in the marketplace? How are you perceived? This type of analysis helps you differentiate your business from your competitors. Managing perceptions must be your goal as you develop and apply your marketing efforts.
As you study your competitors, remember the reason for doing it – It’s to establish your “differentiation” over them. Obviously, you need to use common sense as to the degree of differentiation you want to achieve in the marketplace. However, as a rule of thumb, the more distinct you are from your competitors, the better. Do not forget to look at other industries, and how they market. You will be surprised how much you can apply to your own industry.
Your distinction must show in the way you market your business, the way you conduct your business, and the way you service your customers. Remember, it’s not enough to have a “Unique Selling Proposition;” your whole approach must be unique. Strive for true, creative, practical uniqueness, and your competitors will be guessing what’s the secret of your success.
Gustavo Partal is an independent copywriter and marketing consultant specializing in business-to-business, direct response, and Hispanic marketing.
For marketing mentoring and to grow your business, contact Gustavo at 936-273-0554, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his web site at http://www.partalcg.com