Nowadays, with so many competitors and new businesses appearing every day, it’s hard to ‘reinvent the wheel’ and come up with the next big idea that will outshine everyone else’s. What you can do, however, is analyze your competitors and learn from their mistakes and examples of good practice.
According to an NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) poll, 53% of small-business owners describe their competitive climate as highly competitive. In such a climate, a competitive analysis is a powerful tool that can give you leverage over other businesses in your industry.
In order to make this process as easy for you as possible, we’ve prepared more than 50 research questions to make sure you do your competitor analysis the right way, as well as 50 competitive analysis template ideas to make sure you document your findings properly.
So, let’s start.
What is a Competitive Analysis?
A competitive analysis is a vital part of your company’s marketing plan. It is an analysis of your competitors and comparison of how their strategies relate to your own. A competitive analysis involves identifying your competition and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses in relation to your own business.
The main purpose of a competitive analysis is to help business owners determine potential opportunities or barriers within a market and monitor the way competitors are managing their marketing, sales, and distribution.
Why You Need to Do Competitive Analysis (and How to Gain Competitor Insights)
To gain valuable competitor insights, you can use a tool like SEMrush. It’s like having your own informant in your competitors’ marketing sector, providing you with all the necessary data straight from their office. It will allow you a behind-the-scenes look at some of your best-performing competitors.
Once you obtain such information, you can use it to plan and launch profitable campaigns. This way you can learn what’s working for your competitors and try to outperform that. Such an approach will enable you to spot gaps in your own marketing strategy and fix them. By doing so, you eliminate the guesswork from your strategy and base your campaigns on data with a proven track record.
But first, let’s go one step backward. In order to research your competitors, you need to identify them first.
Identify Your Competitors
The first step in writing a proper competitive analysis is identifying your competitors. All of your competitors can be divided into two basic categories – direct and indirect.
- Direct competitors are those businesses or brands that offer a product or service similar to yours. If you’re not sure if a business is your direct competitor, ask yourself if their product or service could pass as a substitute for yours. If the answer is ‘yes’, you’ve got yourself a direct competitor. Depending on your business, direct competitors are often those companies that operate in the same geographical region as you (but not necessarily so).
- Indirect competitors are those businesses or brands that offer a product or service that’s different from yours but that could satisfy some of the same customers’ needs that your product or service does.
5 Main Parts of a Competitive Analysis Template
1. Company Information
This section contains the overview and profile of your company as well as your competitors. It includes background information on your direct (or even indirect) competitors, such as headquarters, the number of employees, names of key staff members, recent acquisitions, and so on. Also, this part often contains the company’s mission statement, tagline or slogan, and main value proposition.
2. Product or Service Information
This section describes the products and services offered. In many cases, it includes pricing details for key products and services, as well as distribution channel details (such as information on wholesalers, retailers, and affiliates).
3. Market Information
This section usually contains the competitors’ target audience information, which can be used to create customer personas and which can prepare you for when those customers abandon your competitors for you.
Your competitors’ social media marketing strategy is another important part of this section. Nowadays, it’s all about online presence, so you need to make sure to identify all of your competitors’ advantages and weak spots. Check out all of their social media profiles and websites. You can also include any web pages that reference your competition. Consider your competitors’ brand image on social media and compare how it relates to your company’s own voice.
4. SWOT Analysis
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis can show you what your competitors are doing right, and what could do with some improvement. You can also assess how well they are performing in terms of achieving their business goals. Once you learn what your competitor’s greatest weaknesses are, you can try to find a way how to use it against them and ‘steal’ some of their customers.
5. Competitive Advantage
In the simplest of terms, competitive advantage comes down to why certain customers like your competitors better than you. It can help you find out what’s unique your competitor’s product or service so that you can use this information to further improve your own product or service.
50+ Sample Questions to Ask in Your Competitive Analysis
A competitive analysis is all about asking the right questions and obtaining quality answers on your competitors, with the aim of advancing your own business. That’s why we present you with 50+ sample questions that will enable you to better analyze your competition. Plus, these questions should make it easier for you to create your own custom competitive analysis template that will serve your specific needs.
We’ve divided these questions into several sections, depending on the issue they try to explore:
Business or products
- Are they a low-cost or high-cost provider?
- Are they working mainly volume sales or one-o purchases?
- What is their market share?
- What are the characteristics and needs of their ideal customers?
- Are they using different pricing strategies for online purchases versus brick and mortar?
- How does the company differentiate itself from its competitors?
- How do they distribute their products/services?
- What does the sales process look like?
- What channels are they selling through?
- Do they have multiple locations and how does this give them an advantage?
- Are they expanding? Scaling down?
- Do they have partner reselling programs?
- What are their customers reasons for not buying? For ending their relationship with the company?
- What are their revenues each year? What about total sales volume?
- Do they regularly discount their products or services?
- How involved is a salesperson in the process?
- Do they have a blog?
- Are they creating white papers or ebooks?
- Do they post videos or webinars?
- Do they have a podcast?
- Are they using static visual content such as infographics and cartoons?
- What about slide decks?
- Do they have a FAQs section?
- Are there featured articles?
- Do you see press releases?
- Do they have a media kit?
- What about case studies?
- Do they publish buying guides and data sheets?
- What online and offline advertising campaigns are they running?
- Then, take a look at the quantity of these items. Do they have several hundred blog posts or a small handful? Are there five white papers and just one ebook?
- Next, determine the frequency of these content assets. Are they publishing something new each week or once a month? How often does a new ebook or case study come out?
- How accurate is their content?
- Are spelling or grammar errors present?
- How in-depth does their content go? (Is it introductory level that just scratches the surface or more advanced topics with high-level ideas?)
- What tone do they use?
- Is the content structured for readability? (Are they using bullet points, bold headings, and numbered lists?)
- Is their content free and available to anyone or do their readers need to opt-in?
- Who is writing their content? (In-house team? One person? Multiple contributors?)
- Is there a visible byline or bio attached to their articles?
- Which keywords are your competitors focusing on that you still haven’t tapped into?
- What content of theirs is highly shared and linked to? How does your content compare?
- Which social media platforms is your target audience using and the most active on?
- What other sites are linking back to your competitor’s site, but not yours?
- Who else is sharing what your competitors are publishing?
- Who is referring traffic to your competitor’s site?
- For the keywords you want to focus on, what is the difficulty level? There are several free (and paid) tools that will give you a comprehensive evaluation of your competitor’s search engine optimization.
- First, visit the following sites to see if your competition has an account on these platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.)
- Number of fans/followers
- Posting frequency and consistency
- Content engagement (Are users leaving comments or sharing their posts?)
- Content virality (How many shares, repins, and retweets do their posts get?)
- What kind of content are they posting?
- Are they more focused on driving people to landing pages, resulting in new leads? Or are they posting visual content to promote engagement and brand awareness?
- How much of this content is original?
- Do they share curated content from other sources? Are these sources regular contributors?
- What is the overall tone of the content?
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats)
- What is your competitor doing really well with? (Products, content marketing, social
- Where does your competitor have the advantage over your brand?
- What is the weakest area for your competitor?
- Where does your brand have the advantage over your competitor?
- What could they do better with?
- In what areas would you consider this competitor as a threat?
- Are there opportunities in the market that your competitor has identified?
Most of these sample questions have been borrowed from this awesome guide on how to start a competitive analysis, so make sure to check it out for some additional information.
Competitive Analysis Template Ideas
As promised at the beginning of the article, here you’ll find 50 free competitive analysis templates and samples to use for your own analysis:
- 5+ Competitor Analysis Templates from Template.net
- Online Strategy Competitive Analysis Template
- Small Business Competitive Analysis Template
- Competitive Analysis Landscape Template
- Tuts+ Competitive Analysis Template
- Hootsuite’s Competitive Analysis Template for Social Media
- Pizza Restaurants Competitive Analysis Sample
- Ride-sharing Mobile Apps Competitive Analysis Sample
- Website Builders Competitive Analysis Sample
- Business Online Learning Competitor Analysis Template
- – 50. 40 Great Competitive Analysis Templates in Excel, Word, PDF or PPT