How can a marketing competitor audit be more ‘digital?’
In this lesson we’re going to look at digital marketing and a digital marketing competitor analysis.
One of the problems that you may encounter when learning about marketing is that the competitor analysis is often a traditional or transactional competitor analysis that would have been done before we had any digital technology. So we’re going to look at competitor analysis and answer the question, how can a marketing competitor audit be more digital?
Let’s start with some simple approaches to doing a digital competitor analysis and look at competitive research online using the computer or phone you have in front of you. You could just use search engines and look for general topics using Google, Yahoo and Bing – simply type in the name of your competitors and see what you find type in the name of your industry product or any term in relation to competitors.
Next you can look at your competitors website look for product information, press releases, or media releases or even job opportunities because that will tell you the direction in which the company is intending to move you can look for marketing mix information in relation to product, price, place, and promotion and you can look for details of the Five Ss or RACE models which are covered by Dave Chaffey in his books and on his website smartinsights.com.
You can look for personal pages or blogs or vlogs or video logs and this is often a really interesting source of material from people who are employed by a company. For example Google employees often have blogs or vlogs. and they may be fans or ex-employees of the business. It’ll give you a different perspective and you can also find those topics on Youtube or Linkedin or Facebook. Using social media you can review your target market.
Refer to secondary reports such as Datamonitor or Mintel which are commonly available on Business Source Complete. You can use Ibis which is often again on bibliographic resources and electronic libraries. You can use Kantarworldpanel which is free online (be careful with this because you want the free version of it. You don’t want to subscribe but there’s plenty of free material that students can use).
You can look at demographic reports (remember demographics is the study of populations) these vary from country to country so if you’re in the United Kingdom this might be statistics.gov.uk or census information and in the USA this would be census.gov and anything else in relation to u.s censuses. If you’re studying in another country such as India or China, governments often release demographic reports that you can use as the basis to make a more robust argument about competitors.
You can monitor special interest material and in the UK this is Marketing Week, Campaign Magazine or Marketing Magazine but again in different countries there are different marketing magazines that you can use to look for information about your competitors.
Social Media Audit
A really useful tool is the social media audit. This is a Harvard Business Review article called Conducting a social media audit (2015) and it’s written by Keith Quesenberry. It is an extremely useful tool if you want to audit social media. and you can find it on postcontrolmarketing.com, but it’s a great idea to download the original article and why not get hold of a copy of Keith Quesenberry’s book – Social Media strategy which is an excellent book in relation to social media in general and it contains competitor audits.
Five Forces Analysis
As well working from the more traditional, transactional approach you could conduct a Five Forces Analysis (1979) based upon Michael Porter’s work. This is ubiquitous. It is very popular. It’s taught on many modules and courses and you can find plenty of information using the internet and YouTube has a fabulous video of Michael Porter talking about Five Forces Analysis. Now the thing to remember here is that you need to get your perspective correct and the original versions of five forces looked at ‘industry analysis,’ for example the airline industry, car manufacturing, electronics or the oil industry – but often in marketing we tailor it to a specific market and that’s fine. Maybe check it with your tutor but it can be taken in two ways. Another tip with using Five Forces Analysis is remember to try and keep it digital; use robust and valid sources to complete the rivalry against existing competition, the threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, bargaining power of suppliers and the bargaining power of buyers.
Now we’re going to get more digital and a fabulous website is jeffbullis.com and on there Jeff reviews a series of tools and he has these four cool competitive analysis tools every digital marketer should use.
Great tools you can use include SimilarWeb. It will give you data on not only your own company’s website but also on that of competitors. Tje resources I described today it’s better if you can use the free version (for students of course!) and what tends to happen is that you get funneled, and the funneling will take you through to subscriptions, and that’s fine and similar web and other companies do a fantastic job. You probably only want it for a few graphics that you can use for examples in assignments. SimilarWeb’s tool allows you to analyze multiple areas of your competitor’s online marketing strategy and compare it to your own. For example you can look at visits levels of engagement, traffic sources, referring websites, organic keywords, paid keywords, and social.
It presents data in a useful way which you can screen-grab and include in assignments or slides or if you’re preparing a report for work you can include it and it gives you an interesting overview of websites and digital sources. Here’s an example based upon Asos.com and it allows you to see where the referrals are going to the Asos website and where the destinations are once customers leave the Asos website too and you can do this for a whole range of different competitors too.
Another approach is called Google Analytics. It is a fabulous free tool for most businesses. The thing to remember if you’re teaching this or if you’re a student is that the Google Analytics data which you see internally as a company is not viewable by anybody else; it’s encrypted and it’s password protected, and clearly it contains sensitive competitor information. There are some wonderful free tools that you can get. For example Google Merchandise Store which Google gives away and if you’d like to get to that more quickly I suggest you basically go onto Google and type in the words google analytics demo and go into Google Merchandise Store and then you’ll see a few a free version of Google Analytics. For the rest of us it is private and it is confidential so you’ll need a website and a Google Analytics Account to access analytics. You can analyze live data from your own website.
Google Advanced Search Operators
Google has Advanced Search Operators too so if you Google search, simply type in link colon or link: as in my example, then the name of the domain or website that you’d like to investigate (and this is a free tool) to see what relationships your competitors have built that you should also pursue. Perhaps there are some opportunities and challenges? It’ll give you all of the the content that is linked back to your website and hopefully this has high authority scores whereby your site will do better in the search engines. Backlinks act as votes.
SEMRush is just like SimilarWeb. The same proviso goes with this. As a student or a tutor, you only want the free versions. You need to make sure that you’re not being funneled. However it is a fantastic resource if you can afford to pay for it – buy it because it’s extremely useful for students and if you’re a company or a small business, seriously consider investing it. SEMRush is a software research suite designed to provide digital marketers and online businesses with competitive data to inform marketing and business decisions. It looks at organic search page search, backlinks, top organic keywords, the main organic keywords and also provides a fabulous competitor map which is extremely good for teaching and is a lovely communication piece if you’re writing an assignment.
A robust tool is for social media is mention.com which undertakes some real-time monitoring of social media. What it will do if you register with the free version, it will send you email updates about any sentiment or content that’s been published about your company or your competitors’ companies and you can get live updates about your brand from the web and social media. This is a really interesting tool and we recommend that you undertake the free version first, but if you are a company and you have the resources, mention.com and similar websites are certainly worth investing in because they undertake a lot of the hard work that you need to do when monitoring social media.