Competitive Analysis – Driving Sustainable Sales and Effective Marketing
Building a Business is really tough these days – and there are tons of “experts” out there.
We often hear things like…
- I know we need marketing, but we’ve tried and it doesn’t work… we don’t want to spend any more money trying!
- We’ve spent lots of money on different types of marketing, but nothing seems to work!
- We can’t seem to get a steady flow of sales and need a marketing system
What is a Competitive Analysis?
You can count yourself amongst the most intelligent people in the world, deeming data analytics and strategic planning to be some of the most foundational components to success in our modern business world!
I don’t need to tell you how vital analysing your business data is. Data from the market and your competitors is just as important.
While being tasked with helping businesses grow (our main gig), a competitive advantage is what we look for. The competition is fierce, but is not usually perfect!
So… the competitive analysis brings everything together so that we can find the holes in what the competition does and highlights how competitive you are.
This will show you clearly where to begin the growth process and how to start developing a competitive advantage, marketing and selling like you’ve never been able to before!
Is your business ‘just not performing’ as you want it to?
By this I mean are you sick of not selling as much as you want, when you want to and for how much profit you want to make?
You’re probably sick of hearing “excuses” from your sales people and also senior management.
Poor performance is a disease and can very often be down to a very simple problem… with many and varied symptoms.
You may hear:
1. It’s too noisy in the digital world and we just can’t compete with such a small budget
2. We just can’t find the right type of customers
3. We need to figure out where our potential customers are “hiding”
4. Our sales people just don’t know how to sell!
5. Our customers just aren’t faithful any more…
6. We had to cut the margin to get the deal!
7. and a really terrible outcome, “I’ve found a different job which I think will suit me better”
While all these things can be stand alone and dead true – they can also just be symptoms of a bigger problem… which will be poisoning your business inside and out!
Profitability is crucial and not having a Competitive Advantage is one of the main reasons many companies are NOT able to break through their growth barrier.
To identify the direction to head in developing a competitive advantage (before the strategic business plan can be written), we conduct three types of research and analysis:
When analysing the business we mainly look at sales data but also look at overall business numbers so that we get a good idea of how the business is positioned. Competitive positioning is what we are after here and we need to understand the differentiator that gives you that business advantage in the market place; be that from a cost or differential advantage point of view.
Sales data is pretty broad as well, so to break it down quickly we look at your best customers in order to identify the reasons they buy what they buy and how to best research the market and analyse your competitors. This particular piece of analysis helps all of us to clearly identify and begin to understand how to exploit the gaps in the market and your competitors weaknesses. It also serves the purpose of benchmarking what your value is and the specific things you offer in your industry – when we are looking at the types of competition that are out there.
Businesses often waste too much time with products and services that are either not worth selling (too much competition where they are out classed) or they don’t market it well enough to make the ROI worth it ie. spend too much time proving the point (wrong people or wrong time of buying journey).
That’s why we look at the sales process and marketing systems to establish what a company needs to do – initially, as a part of boosting their marketing and sales efforts. Integrating marketing into the different stages of a sales process is incredibly important for the success of sales.
Most companies today, have never done a customer buying journey mapping exercise. What’s that!?
Well there are stages that every potential customer goes through on their journey toward buying. If you understand what they are thinking along the way and the questions that they would typically be asking – you can provide the answers to these questions without “selling”. The “selling” here is called social selling or inbound marketing, with the premise that you actively give information in order to attract potential customers to engage with your brand.
Market research is critical for any business, especially those that are wanting to grow sustainably. Market research and analysis are all about finding out what the potential customers want, what’s on offer from your potential competitors and how big the market is.
There is often a good and bad side of most things… the internet is one of those things. For research purposes it is great – as there is a huge amount of data to be gleaned. The flip side of the easy access of information is that companies from overseas, interstate and all over your city are also able to promote their business to your customers who are local and also further a field.
So market analysis… we commonly look at a number of different areas and segment the market into verticals or niches depending on the industry and products/ services offered.
There are sometimes obvious gaps in the market for things people want, but are not necessarily readily available. Companies that can offer a faster service or lower priced product are often the winners – with a comparative advantage or differential advantage. This is often the case in the online FMCG market.
There are other not so obvious things that pop out, once the benchmarking steps are complete ie. market segments and competitors. Most companies have some sort of USP (unique selling point) published on their website or at least a list of products or services that we can differentiate them from you (with some work).
Message boards and forums are very useful places to see what people are looking for and what is not yet available. However all things need to be strategically weighed up… which is why we have the three pronged approach to then be able to write a strategic business plan.
Barriers to entry should also be evaluated and understood as a part of the strategic planning process before moving to develop a competitive advantage.
All three of these components of a competitive analysis should be revisited throughout the process once a number of things are established to cross check the results and information previously gathered. Your target market should be one of the things that is carefully looked at and continuously monitored and scrutinised – because it is a key factor of your profitability.
Competition to your business is vital. You may think they are painful, however when harnessed well, deep knowledge of a competitor’s USP’s, strengths, weaknesses and also how the market to your target market and also other markets that you don’t necessarily engage with are all useful for building your own strengths and up-skilling to cover the gaps in your operations… as well as finding that gap in the market to position your brand and create a useful business development strategy.
Analysing the types of competition and the way they do business development and marketing will shed much light on how to go forward.
Firstly we find all companies that say they do something similar to you and then refine from there. Generally we have a predetermined localisation before we start ie. where you currently do business and where you want to be doing more business.
As mentioned above, these pieces of research and analysis help us (and you) understand the current state of affairs, the gaps in the market and also the rough diamonds for further development of a differentiator or two – which will allow your company to have a commercial advantage.
A competitive analysis should be a fundamental part of any company’s strategic business planning process.
When your business has a differentiator (that is significant enough to make your product or service seem superior in the eyes of your target market) the potential customers will see the value in buying from you instead of the competition (your competitive advantage).
As we wrap up the three pronged approach to the competitive analysis, we are primed to help you with a competitive strategy; which is simply formulating an action plan from the research and analysis we’ve documented for you. We also have the strategic planning tools needed to make it easier for us to help you lay this out for you and your team to easily take to market.
Getting the right perspective to be able to forge a successful path is actually sometimes the most difficult part – when you’re under so much pressure just to get better results.
What is a Competitive Advantage?
Competitive Advantage Definition
In simple form, a competitive advantage is, “the difference that affords you more leads, sales or better margins than your competitors – attributed to a specific reason”.
Everyone wants to be competitive in their market – and beat the competition more often!
How does it work?
The way a competitive advantage works is that when used correctly (marketed and sold to), it creates greater value for the product / services which you sell. Hence generating more value in revenue and profit for its shareholders because of the certain strengths and conditions which are leveraged for increased sales at higher margins.
The more distinct, sophisticated and therefore sustainable the competitive advantage, the more difficult it is for competitors to copy and therefore overcome your advantage. The two main types of competitive advantages are comparative advantage and differential advantage.
Think about this:
If a prospective customer approached you and asked, “Why should I choose you over your competitor(s)?”
Would you be able to give them a good answer, or would you struggle?
These are good questions to ask your customers and customer facing staff:
- Why do customers pay for your product or service?
- What makes your product/service unique and better than that of your competitors?
- Would a simple change from a competitor make it easy for a customer to leave you for them
Competitive Advantage Strategy Examples
Lowest Cost Strategy:
Companies may place themselves ahead of the pack by offering attractive pricing. K-Mart and Amazon are two companies that have risen to the forefront by using this strategy. While this is sometimes very effective for companies, it is seldom a desirable method for small businesses.
Branding is one of the most widely used methods to differentiate a company from it’s competitors. With this method, a name like Nike or Rolex automatically assumes a status distinct and apart from all other shoes or watches. Leveraging this unique position in the market, companies can increase their value by using the power of the visibility they have gained. This is most commonly done by increasing market share by adding more products that are not necessarily high quality, but are low cost and have a high profit margin… once the brand is established.
The Focus Strategy:
Company’s leaders understand and service their target market better than anyone else. They either use cost leadership or differentiation to do that.
The key to a successful focus strategy is to choose a very specific target market. Often it’s a tiny niche that larger companies don’t serve.
For example, community banks use a focus strategy to gain sustainable competitive advantage. They target local small businesses or high net worth individuals. Their target audience enjoys the personal touch that big banks may not be able to give.
Customers are willing to pay a little more in fees for this service. These banks are using a differentiation form of the focus strategy.
Operational Effectiveness Strategy:
Some companies just do what they do better than anyone else. For example, FedEx started out with an innovative strategy. But it continued its innovative leadership of the market, even after dozens of other companies jumped into the overnight shipping business – by doing it very well. When you do what you do very well, you gain a competitive advantage over those doing it the longer and slower way.
Technology Based Competitive Strategy:
Since the time Henry Ford revolutionised the auto manufacturing industry with the assembly line, companies have sought for a competitive edge using new technology or technology in a new way. Computers and applications continue to… offer companies an advantage over their competition. In the same way, workers who embrace new technology and learn to master it nearly always redefine or increase their competitive advantage over those who resist new methods.
Companies may move ahead of the competition by doing things in new and different ways. For example, medical facilities that offer alternatives to intrusive procedures gain a competitive edge over traditional surgeries by reducing pain, risk, and long recovery times.
Adaptability Competitive Advantage:
As markets, economies, and other factors change in this increasingly unstable and unpredictable environment, companies that can adapt have a distinct advantage. Typically this includes smaller or trendy companies, however even Apple has successfully negotiated the waves of change.
The Information Advantage:
Almost all the other strategies benefit from excellent information. The definition of competitive advantage is the skills needed to outpace your rivals. Most of those come through knowledge and information. Successful companies seek the latest in technology, strategies, and data. This strategy also delivers efficiencies, agility and deep insights into other strategic moves and advantages for the future.
There has been much research undertaken to determine the strategies which are key to sustainability advantage in business. The winners are… “cost leadership”, “differentiation” and “focus”.
Increase profit and market share by
finding your COMPETITIVE Advantage.
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Create A Hype in the market
Dominate your competition…
because you have a distinct competitive
advantage over them.
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