Competitive Research for Chicago Businesses
Competitive research is a key aspect of business growth for thousands of companies around the world. The fact is, keeping a pulse on what industry peers are doing is important — and doubly so in a highly competitive market like Chicago.
Competitive research offers several benefits to organizations willing to invest the time and effort to reap the rewards. For instance:
- It provides insight into why top performers in the industry have achieved success.
- It enables companies to identify and avoid mistakes that competitors have made.
- It highlights missed opportunities from competitors that a business can potentially exploit.
Of course, there are many moving parts associated with effective competitive research. Let’s dive into some key questions that you can answer as you begin to implement competitive research as a business strategy.
Who are Your Competitors?
It goes without saying that the first logical step in competitive research is to clearly identify who your competitors actually are. The reason why this can sometimes be tricky is that any business actually has two distinct types of competition: direct and indirect competitors. So, what’s the difference?
Put simply, direct competitors make the same product and are after the same customers. Think about the Cubs versus the White Sox. Both are baseball teams, and both are primarily targeting fans in Chicago. Not to mention, at times they are literally competing with each other on the diamond.
On the other hand, indirect competitors make different products, yet still target the same basic demographic. Think about the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears. One is a baseball team, and the other is a football team. They offer different products, but both target sports fans in the Chicago area. Of course, there’s only so much value in researching your indirect competitors. That’s why it’s best to focus primarily on your direct competitors when engaging in your analysis.
What Products Do They Offer?
Once you’ve identified your direct competitors, it’s time to do a deep dive into their products. Many companies have a team member purchase a product from the competition in order to study the product’s quality and functionality, the pricing strategy used, and the level of customer service offered by the competitor. You need to ask yourself questions such as:
- How do our products stack up against this competitor’s offerings?
- What does the competitor do very well?
- What weaknesses does the competitor have?
- What are our strengths and weaknesses? How can we leverage our strengths and shore up our weaknesses?
As you perform this SWOT analysis based on product line, you’ll likely uncover deeper insights into your own company’s unique selling proposition (USP) — in other words, what sets you apart from your competitors. This can be true no matter the industry.
For instance, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, a home-grown Chicago-based pizza chain, markets its pizza as “special,” “legendary,” and “a taste of Chicago.” On the other hand, Giordano’s promotes its “Ultimate Meal Deal” as an affordable option for dining out. One restaurant’s focus is on local appeal and tradition, and the other’s is on affordable pricing, but both companies have managed to differentiate themselves from the competition.
How Do They Market Their Products?
You’ll also want to determine how your competitors are marketing their products and services. Don’t settle for merely finding out the “what” of their marketing strategy. Look for the why as well.
Start by visiting their website. Notice their site’s design, and look for strengths to emulate and weaknesses to avoid. Then, determine their content strategy. Do they have a blog? If so, what is its tone? How often do they post new articles? How effective is their blog, and how does your company’s blog differ in tone or content?
Moreover, determine if they are investing in thought leadership as part of their marketing strategy. Thought leaders in any industry are looked up to by consumers and peers alike. In order to position yourself as a thought leader, ask yourself: “What do we know that this competitor doesn’t?” As an example, Navistar’s Diamond Vision Executive Blog is full of penetrating insights around truck design, which position the company as a thought leader in their space.
You should also investigate your competitor’s FAQs page. After all, your customers may wonder about similar questions, and you’ll likely want to incorporate similar answers into your content strategy. Finally, determine what kind of campaign (or campaigns) the competitor is currently running, and try to track its effectiveness to the best of your ability.
What Does Their Social Media Presence Look Like?
As one final step, determine if your competition is using social media. If they are, is it effective? Is it something your company should explore further?
You’ll need to answer questions such as these:
- Which platforms are your competitors using? (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc?)
- How many followers do they have?
- What does their engagement look like? Do they frequently interact with followers or fans?
- How often do they post to their account?
A strong social media presence can generate brand awareness and ultimately drive business. For instance, Hilton Chicago regularly uploads new posts to its Facebook page, including cooking demonstrations and special promotions. As a result, thousands of customers have engaged with the brand, resulting in increased sales.
Competitive research is an excellent way to gauge your company’s real-world strengths and weaknesses by examining and comparing those of your competitors. It also allows you to one-up your competition by using a strategy they may not have considered. If you seriously invest in competitive research, you’re all but certain to see exceptional returns, including overall business growth and increased customer loyalty.
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