Competitive advantage in business: why you must watch what your competition is doing online

Knowing your online competition is essential to achieving competitive advantage in business, whichever sector you operate in. Competitor research and analysis should form an integral part of your business activities and inform your brand strategy. How can you meet or exceed what your competitors are offering in terms of products and services if you don’t know what they are offering?

Competitive advantage in bu - Competitive advantage in business: why you must watch what your competition is doing online

What is your competition doing online? Not all competitors are that obvious. Let’s say you’re a so-called ‘traditional’ estate agent with a strong high street presence. So far so promising. But as approximately 98% of property searches begin online, you also need to have a strong online presence. It therefore follows that you need to monitor your online competitors to bolster your own position within the marketplace.


What you can learn from your online competitors

When you look at your competitors to see what they are doing, you will learn how not to do things, which is a learning curve in itself. Discern where your competitors misfire or flounder, and why. Read any negative reviews they may have received, as you can generally learn more from these than laudatory ones.

What are your competitors offering in terms of service, product, price and value? How can you differentiate yourself? Seek inspiration from your competitors, but don’t attempt to emulate them. Always aim to innovate and outshine.

How to determine who your online competitors are

Marketing research tools like SEMrush (by far our favourite) now make it easier to get data on who your online competitors are and what they are up to. You can see who ranks, what organic and AdWords keywords are working well for their website, where they generate backlinks, and where and how they are getting traffic. You’ll even be able to scrutinise their display advertising activities.

SEMrush allows you to define who your competitors are, gather data on them, and ascertain which keywords are bringing them enviable rankings in Google. Once armed with knowledge of the competitor landscape you can consolidate your own strategy, take steps to strengthen your position in the search results, stand out from your competitors, and be best-placed to dominate the digital sphere.

How to use competitor research to gain a competitive advantage

The aim of competitor research and analysis is to understand who your competitors are and what they are doing online – what they are doing well and what they are not doing so well. You can use the insights you’ve gleaned from your research to inform how you position your business in the online marketplace and search results.

Competitive positioning can be determined through the research and analysis you’ve carried out. You’ll need to develop a clear competitive positioning strategy to successfully build your brand online and communicate your worth to prospective customers. If you can’t quantify or demonstrate your value how can you expect to win over customers, let alone retain their loyalty?

A business that has gained an advantage over its competitors will have answers to such questions as: what sets you apart from your competitors? What value do your offer? Why should a customer choose your business over another?


What’s your point of difference?

Differentiation sits alongside competitive positioning. How do you position your business online so that it stands out from the competition? You will need to establish what your point of difference is and communicate it consistently across all online channels if you want to gain a competitive advantage. You alone should engineer where you are positioned in the online marketplace.

To define your point of difference, you should start by focusing on the outcome you deliver to your clients. As an estate agent, for example, why should a vendor, landlord, buyer or a tenant engage with your services? A great point of difference is to look at how your agency can genuinely move a customer to a desired ‘after’ state. Following that, your marketing can simply articulate the move from the ‘before’ state to the desired ‘after’ state.

Point of difference aside. Think of it like a game of chess, where analysis and strategy form the fundamentals, and your prime objective is to outmanoeuvre your opponent. By watching what your competitors are doing online, you’ll have the wherewithal to outrank and outplay every one of them (within reason).


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