Using Competitor Research to Improve Your Digital Marketing

social media listening

A lot of small businesses owners are pulled in so many directions they can’t find the time to work on all the marketing things on their list.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from others in your industry and niche by using competitor tools. They’re fast, free, easy ways to see what your competitors are doing and, more importantly, what’s working for them.

Getting started with digital marketing and competitor research doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Make just 10 minutes in your day to try one of these ideas and simple tools.

Social Media Listening

social listening competitors

Social media publishing tools like Hootsuite let you set up feeds with competitor posts, mentions, and stats.

Plug in a keyword you want to see posts about, like @competitorname or #bestfishinggear. You’ll see a feed related to your industry or competitor.

You can use that info to see what people are talking about and jump into conversations. You might find your ideal customer is ready to buy when they’re talking about planning a trip on Facebook or asking for recommendations for a repairman on Twitter. Your sales guy can jump in at just the right moment with a relevant reply.

Competitor Search Ads

competitor research

Use free sites like SpyFu to see which keywords your competitors are bidding on for search ads. You can even see how much their estimated SEO budget is.

Now that you know where your competitors are, you can get in the same ad space. Once your ads are in place, make sure you compare how many leads you get for the same keywords as your competitors.

Link Building

link building research

Your competitors are getting links to their sites on industry sites, blogs, and listings. These backlinks add value to their site for search engines and can also be sources for new leads to find out about them.

Find out which sites are giving them backlinks with a free search on Moz Site Explorer. You’ll see who’s linking to their sites so you can target the same ones for your own backlinks and comments.

Learning about Your Ideal Customer

social media listening

Besides using free tools like these to learn from competitor strategies, you can also use data from your competitors to create profiles of your ideal customer to market to them better.

For your ideal customer, consider type, size, industry, frequency of contact, services/products, responsiveness, payment schedule, and acquisition cost. Create customer personas or just get your notes on paper for easy reference.

Look at your current customers too. Who are the best clients you’ve had? What do they have in common that makes them great to work with?

And who are your worst customers, the ones you dread seeing messages from in your inbox or missed calls? How can you avoid getting more customers like that?

Ask for input from leadership, engineering, marketing, customer support, and sales teams. Make sure everyone’s on the same page about your target audience. You can always revisit your personas to make sure your company or customers haven’t changed.

Now that you have a picture of your perfect customers, all sales and marketing efforts should appeal to them. Do some research, check data and analytics, and send customer feedback surveys to learn more about what they like and what they’re looking for.

Go back to your competitor research. Thinking about moving to a new social platform? One of your competitors is probably already there. Use their stats to help you make decisions about platforms and posting.

Find out if your ideal customer likes shopping on Pinterest or sharing food photos on Instagram. Are they looking for in-depth articles, expert buying advice, cutesy infographics, or interesting videos?

Test different kinds of content, measure your results, and keep doing what works.

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