By Blair Williams, founder of the WordPress membership plugin MemberPress and affiliate program plugin Easy Affiliate.
There’s one piece of advice new entrepreneurs hear often: “Ignore the competition.” The idea is that you should focus on your own products and business growth and that worrying about your competition will only distract you and demotivate you.
I find that this stance is useful, but if you follow it, you’ll also miss out on several opportunities to grow your business. There’s a lot we can learn from our competition. There isn’t a need to view them as a threat but rather as an opportunity to get critical insights.
In this post, I’m going to share how your competition can be a great source of data. You can guide your product design, marketing approaches and so much more when you study your competitors.
1. Compare products.
Toward the end of the sales funnel, your audience will spend more time researching your business and your competition’s too. People do this to know the different solutions available to them and choose the right one for their needs.
Here are some of the specific types of content your leads will compare:
• Online reviews
• Feature and pricing differences
• Forum discussions
When people are at this stage of the buying process, it’s an opportunity for your business to drive more sales. You can do this by educating customers on what makes your brand different from others.
For example, in my business blog, we compare our membership platform with other learning management system tools. It allows us to highlight our best features in a fair way. And we’re proactive when it comes to having our say in why customers should choose us over our competition.
You can do something similar. Create blog posts educating customers on the products available and compare your offering to other products. By doing this, you help customers get the information they need. And when you make a fair review, you only bolster your reputation.
2. Study social media posts.
It often seems hard enough to manage your own social media. What with posting to multiple social networks several times a day and having to track comments and engagement from your followers. Looking at what your competition is doing is more work—but work that’s worthwhile because it’s a powerful way to get more information.
My business partner’s first blog took off simply because he and his team listened to Twitter users’ complaints about WordPress. Then, they’d create a helpful blog post about the issue and share it in the original tweet. You can pick up a lot of helpful information by listening to what your competition’s audience is saying on their social media. You’ll figure out their pain points and whether there’s a content gap you can fill.
I suggest using a social media management tool to help. Such tools will gather feeds from several sources in one place. And some tools are advanced enough to make a sentiment analysis. Make it a regular practice to include your competition when analyzing social media trends and news to get data that could help you grow.
3. Use SEO tools.
One of the most powerful ways to leverage your competition is through SEO competitor analysis. Virtually all professional SEO tools allow you to enter your competition’s website and get data. You can learn what keywords and terms they rank for. And you’ll be able to figure out if you can compete for those exact keywords or if you should work on others.
If you want to build your own backlinks, one clever thing you can do is to look at which websites link to your competition. You can try to reach out to those same publications to link to your own since they already show an interest in brands like yours.
4. Work with your competition.
I’ve always believed that it’s essential to avoid reinventing the wheel as much as possible. Instead of making a product from scratch, it makes sense to work with companies that already do something well.
It’s worthwhile exploring whether there are opportunities for your business and your competitors to work together. Prospects of a buyout or a merger can lead to rapid growth.
This tactic has helped me grow my business rapidly. My company became part of an accelerator program established by a significant player in the market that was a potential competitor. However, we turned out to be a great fit and now enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership while helping each other grow.
These are a few ways to leverage your competition and to grow your business appropriately. If you aren’t tracking your competition, then the chances are that you’re missing out on a lot of important information and opportunities for growth.
Try out these strategies for yourself to see what works for you. You’ll learn about areas where you can improve and offer even better experiences to your customer.