How and Why Should a Small Business Conduct a Competitor Analysis?

How and Why Should a Small Business Conduct a Competitor Analysis?

Starting a Competitor Analysis – Do I Have Any Competitors?

Do you know how to conduct a competitor analysis? As a small business, you are likely to be in competition with other businesses to attract customers. You may think that the product or service you offer is so unique that no other business offers the same – but is that what your potential customers think?

If your product/service is that unique, you may have a problem finding customers who don’t know the product/service exists – but that is a whole different blog post.

Why Should I Conduct a Competitor Analysis?

I wouldn’t suggest getting too hung up on what your competitors are doing on a (say) weekly basis, but I would suggest undertaking a competitor analysis every 6 – 12 months and certainly when starting out in business. If you can understand your main competitors – from the point of view of your audience – and how they are promoting their products/services, you will be able to identify:

  1. The ways you can make your offering different – price point, customer service, added value, etc.
  2. Different content you can produce to attract your ideal audience. (Identifying your ideal audience is covered in a separate blog post).
  3. What marketing content seems to have worked for your competitors (and not worked) so you can put your own spin on it. Don’t copy ideas directly as that doesn’t do anything for your reputation, but take a concept and add your own branding/ideas and viewpoint.
  4. What social media channels they are using and which are resulting in engagement. Make sure comments/likes or not just from the same people/staff.
  5. Successful engagement will come from the audience of the business.
  6. The keyword phrases they are using on their website, hashtags, and social profiles. You might find new phrases you haven’t thought of or see they are not making use of optimisation across websites and social.
  7. The customer journey on the competitor’s websites. What ideas can you use to improve the customer journey on your own site?
  8. The language used on all their marketing content. Do you need to change the language you use?
  9. Any reviews the competitor has received – both positive and negative

Who Are Your Competitors?

From the point of view of your audience, you need to consider both direct and obvious competitors and indirect competitors.

For Example:

An independent coffee shop (Cathy’s Coffee) has just opened in my nearest town. There are direct competitors – other independent coffee shops and tea rooms as well as a global brand.

There is also indirect competition such as a book shop, delicatessen, a bakery and pubs that offer coffee and an antique shop. Even the curry house sells takeaway coffee during the day.

In addition, there is competition from substitute products. Particularly post Covid, drinking high-quality coffee at home is an alternative to getting your coffee from a coffee shop.

The owner of Cathy’s Coffee needs to consider each of the competitors and note down:

  • How the experience offered by Cathy’s Coffee is different.
  • What products and services are offered by Cathy’s Coffee compared to the competitors.
  • Opportunities for promotion include channels, keywords/hashtags/competitions based on what the competitors are doing/are not doing.
  • The strengths/weaknesses of the competitors compared to Cathy’s Coffee.
  • The changes that need to be implemented by Cathy’s Coffee to compete with the competition.

How Many Competitors Should Be Reviewed?

You need to be realistic about who your competitors are. If you are a local business, you can easily identify the competitors within your location. As a business offering products or services nationally you may find it harder. In my opinion, you need to identify the main competitors who will be found by the audience who will realistically also find you.

For example, Concise Digital offers web design services (amongst other things) – as do many businesses in the UK. We can look at our competitors locally – in the Faringdon / Oxfordshire area. However, since much of our business comes from personal referrals based on business networks I belong to, it would make sense to also consider website designers who also attend the same business networks.

This may still give me a long list so I would tend to select 4 – 6 competitors to identify how we can position ourselves to look different.

This Seems Like a Lot of Work

Competitor analysis can be very informative and give you lots of ideas for content and how you can position yourself for the next year. It can make a real difference to your business’s success. However, it is only worth doing if you are going to make an action list, prioritise actions based on quick wins/ most impact, and set a timeline to implement each action.

HubSpot has a competitor analysis template that you can download for free if you subscribe to their mailing list. It contains all the information for you to look for in your competitors and your own business.

Let us know if you have any questions or would like any help conducting your competitor analysis.

4 Things To Remember When Planning A Website.

4 Things To Remember When Planning A Website.

We have compiled some website planning top tips.Perhaps you have recently started a new business (congratulations) and need a website or perhaps it is time for a refresh of your current website. In either case, it is important to carry out some basic planning before you get going. Even if you have a trusted website designer, you know your business best and we would recommend you get involved in the planning.

How do you choose the right domain name when planning a website? (if a new website).

When choosing a domain name for your website – and if appropriate, the name for your business – we would recommend you:

  1. Keep the name as short as possible and ensure it is easy to pronounce/spell.
  2. Avoid hyphens – It can be difficult for customers to remember to add hyphens to your domain name and they can be associated with spam.
  3. Check whether the .co.uk version is available? Unless you are an international business, .co.uk is going to be the easiest for people to remember. You might also want to buy any associated domains (.com, .net, .uk) to protect your brand.
  4. Use keywords in your domain name if possible.
  5. Search for the name to see what else is out there. You don’t want to end up competing against an established business.
  • Do a trademark search to make sure you won’t get into trouble with other brands.
  • Check on Companies’ House to see if the name has already been registered.
  • Check on social media channels to see if the name is available. It can confuse your audience to use a different social media username than your     domain name.

How do you know which keywords/keyword phrases to use?

We cover this whole subject in much more detail in our Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation course but here are some starting points:

  1. As you know, a keyword is a word that is entered into search engines to find your product or service. Ideally, you want your product/service to appear on page 1 of the results.
  2. We would recommend creating a list of keyword/keyword phrases and then design your website pages around the most important keyword phrases rather than designing the website first.
  3. Your keyword research should:
  • Include words your audience will use to find you – this might not be the same words your team use internally.
  • Look at what keywords your competitors are using. We use the Mozbar Chrome extension to make this easier.
  • Use tools like Uber Suggest, Google Keyword planner, or Keywords Everywhere to help you research keywords to include on your website.
  • Identify the main phrases that will form the structure of your website and make a list of phrases to use in future blog posts.
  1. Each page on your website should focus on a different keyword phrase and the phrase should be added to the places on your site search engines would expect to find them. You may find you need more pages than you first thought.
  2. Decide whether to include a location in your keyword phrase to make it easier to find the website in your local area.

What functionality should I include on my website?

  1. Be clear about what functionality you require on your website. Do you need a simple brochure site or do you need to have an e-commerce element?
  2. Are you wanting to create links to newsletter sign-up forms, landing pages with downloads, membership functionality? What can be included in a ‘phase 1’ and what can be included later?
  3. Experience has shown, it is often better to get the basic elements working and live and then add to it rather than trying to get all the functionality working immediately.
  4. The beauty of content management systems, like WordPress, is that you can bolt on additional functionality using plugins relatively simply so you don’t need to develop all aspects of the site at once. However, I would plan the full functionality required to ensure the customer journey remains correct.

What is the customer journey?

A customer journey describes each of the types of audience you want to attract (personas) and identifies all the touchpoints they have with your business. You can plot the journey and make sure the journey they are taking is achieving the overall objectives for the business.

When you are planning a website, you need to consider how people will enter the individual website pages and what you want them to do next. You only have a few seconds to tell people what the next step is so you need to make it clear.

Don’t forget about the journey on a mobile device. When looking at a website on a mobile device, most people won’t use the menu. You need to have clear buttons or a call to action to tell people what to do next.

If you want to create a website yourself, Concise would suggest our WordPress for Websites bundle. This bundle includes our SEO, images, and WordPress courses together with a free development area to create your website before you need to purchase hosting to make it live.

Alternatively, you might want to take advantage of our full website development services. We work with you to plan your site around relevant keyword phrases and your customer journey and will create a beautiful website that works.

Are you planning a website? Do let us know how you get on in the comments section below.

Are You Making The Best Use Of Your Social Media Profiles?

Are You Making The Best Use Of Your Social Media Profiles?

Are your companies social media profiles relevant and up to date?

How many of you have social media profiles for your business? Have you spent any time reviewing them recently? How do they reflect on the brand of your business?

Do you know that there are still many businesses out there who set up social media profiles a long time ago but haven’t really looked at them since?

Ever since we started Concise way back in 2008, we have always had the same mantra – use a few channels well rather than loads of channels badly.

In our qualification City & Guilds Diploma in Digital Marketing, we have a scenario in which a business does a search for a potential supplier. This supplier has empty or very old content in their social media profiles. The question we pose is “What does this say about the supplier – how trustworthy are they?” Our suggested answer is that more research would be needed before starting work with the supplier – they might not be in business anymore – or they may just not have the time and skills to keep their profiles up to date. It isn’t helpful to make your potential customers have to do more work before contacting you though – it probably isn’t the best first introduction.

How do you ensure your business profiles appear trustworthy? I would suggest at a minimum:

  • The social media profile picture should be a logo or professional photo of an individual (depending on the business/profile under discussion).
  • The bio should be complete and explain the products and services offered.
  • Accurate contact information or link to website included where possible.
  • Ideally, the cover photo (that big image behind the profile picture) if one exists should be a branded image. This is a marketing space and you can change it regularly depending on the time of the year, products/services you are promoting, or offers you want to shout about.
  • The social media profile should be active – not only post regularly but also reply to any comments. If you just post without replying, you can look like you are just a robot 😊
  • Connections – you should be building up your follower numbers. A profile not followed by anybody is unlikely to appear trustworthy!

Want to take your social media profile one step further? I would encourage you to:

  • Add branding elements to the images you post. This might be as simple as adding a logo or could take the form of creating posts around elements of your branding.
  • Focus on sharing information that is useful or added value rather than information about you and your business.
  • Use hashtags – where appropriate for the channel. This may involve posting separately to different channels. Instagram for example, can take up to 30 hashtags, this does not look right on Facebook posts.
  • Identify and develop your brand voice to ensure consistency across posts and channels to ensure you identify with your target audience and correctly represent your brand.
  • Your social media profile is how you appear to somebody when you are not in the room – don’t ignore the impression you can make.

If you need help with your online profiles, do get in touch or call on 07799 634835 or explore our social media content management packages.