Conducting competitive analyses is important. There are frameworks like SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) that can guide such endeavors. While there are numerous factors that can stymie an effective analysis even when following such frameworks, an important factor to pay attention to is competitor selection.
Vendors both triumph and fumble as they pitch solutions to potential clients in the same sector as some of their existing clients and the same goes for organizations conducting competitive analyses.
Organizations need to monitor the closest competitors in their industry and sector but beyond it as well. A few years ago, one of my former bosses asked me to expand my vision of who a competitor was. At the time, our website had a few different types of lead forms. She not only wanted me to look at what other higher education institutions were doing form-wise but review what e-commerce giants (think Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.) were doing with their forms and shopping cart processes as well.
While our organizations may fall into a particular sector, much of our work is similar. Organizations in numerous industries have websites, use marketing automation, advertise on- and off-line, connect with their customers (current, former and prospective) via social media, and so on. That means that we can draw insights and inspiration from others who work for organizations doing vastly different things from our own.
It’s also important to consider differences when drawing inspiration from another sector. A clear example of this is social media strategy. For instance, a fashion retailer with a predominantly young customer base will need to have different tactics than AARP. Thus, while the social media teams can look to each other for inspiration and comparison, they have to account for the differences between their customer bases.
Focusing on a specific business sector is only part of the picture when selecting competitors to monitor. There’s also an opportunity to draw rich insights when breaking down the components (i.e., a website, lead forms and social media tactics to name a few) about how organizations in other industries use these same components. The key takeaway is to not limit an organization to a small box when conducting competitive analyses.
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