One of the lost arts in today's marketing world is competitive reserach and analysis. Many a marketing department and leader believe they know what their competitiors are doing since they read press releases and set up Google alerts. Few take the time to understand what their competitors are doing beyond the headlines and look at structural and operational items that help define who they are in the eyes of their customer and constituents.
Competitive analysis is a crtiical componet of corporate strategy and marketing is generally the best place for its command and control.. No other department owns the vision of a company more than marketing, and as such marketers must own competitive information and not be afraid to use it to call out the icebergs on the water ahead. That may mean creeping out of the comfort zone a bit, but the more comprehensive your competitive analysis is the more in tune you can be with the whole marketing - not just the one you see through your brand's lens..
When you look at your competitors, can you answer the following questions?
- How many locations do they have or what are their service areas and how they compare to yours?
- What is their ownership, corporate governance, and organizational structure and what advantages/disadvantages does it give them?
- What is their financial profile and relative strength - do they have the resources to keep up or overpower you?
- How balanced is their product/service portfolio? What gaps exist and what are they doing to close them?
- What is their product/service development strategy? Are they betting on the future or the past?
- How much money (as best you can tell) are they spending on marketing, what channels are they employing to get their message to the market and how does that compare to your marketing mix?
- What are the 3 straetgic advantages/areas of opportunity that your competitor has and what are you specifically doing to countermand them?
All this shows that a systemic approach to competitive analysis is imperative to your business. Not only will it help you see and avoid the icebergs, but it will also act like a blindspot detector and let you see who is coming up behind you.