In order to promote your brand effectively, you need to know what makes you stand out from the competition, and how you can improve on this position to generate growth.
Below we look at examples of how this has been done effectively, examining how you can leverage competitive intelligence to increase your market share.
Part 1: How to gather competitor intelligence
Through the process of competitive analysis, you should be able to build a detailed picture of consumers that have chosen a competitor’s product or service, understanding not just their demographic profile, but also their mindset and motivations.
This is difficult to do using many of today's existing tools, from social media monitoring or annual brand health reports. Often they only scrape the surface, track an unrepresentative sample, or don't happen frequently enough to be useful day-to-day.
Today's senior marketing leaders need a tool that can track core brand metrics over time, go deeper to understand what drives those metrics, and monitor the same vital information amongst your competitors.
This led us to develop Attest’s Brand Intelligence tools.
Below we have outlined the key questions to be considered when gathering competitor intelligence.
What competitor product features are most popular with your audience?
Quantifying the popularity of competitor’s features effectively allows you to harness your competitor’s products as an R&D resource. It's easy to panic when a close competitor releases a new product or service, extension or upgrade...should you respond? Will it help them win market share? Are you falling behind?
These are all questions that you need solid data on, otherwise you end up trying to respond to everything (or nothing), which can lead to knee-jerk reactions, off-the-cuff strategy decisions and an inconsistent product roadmap.
So rather than trying to answer those questions to a panicky CEO without data, we'd suggest you keep close tabs on key competitors, so you can monitor how consumers are responding to their updates and releases over time. This way you'll be alerted when something does resonate and stick, allowing you to respond quickly to it, while helping you ignore everything else so you can focus on your own core strategy.
By gathering marketing intelligence you can start a dialogue with your competitor’s customers, and thus decide what features of competitor’s products should be incorporated into your own.
A good example of using feature-based competitive intelligence to gain market share would be Instagram’s approach to Snapchat. Instagram incorporated the more popular SnapChat features into their 'Instagram stories' product in Q3 2016. By doing this, Instagram was able to gain significant market share. After just one month, the feature had user numbers two thirds the size of Snapchat’s total membership!
Figures released earlier this year highlight how much this affected Snapchat. A sudden slowing in growth, down to only 7%, demonstrates a clear swing in the market towards Instagram, which then reduced to just 3.2%.
Identify areas in which competitor’s brands and services are perceived positively in comparison to yours.
Nobody wants to compete on price alone (the dreaded 'race to the bottom' where your product becomes an easily switched commodity). Yet prized consumer sentiments such as quality, trust, innovation and coolness are much more difficult associations for a brand to build, particularly as a challenger against well entrenched market leaders.
For example, Aldi noticed that shoppers perceived branded products to be of a higher quality than the value products on their shelves.
Aldi then gathered additional competitive intelligence suggesting a large portion of supermarket shoppers would be opposed to changing their buying habits to lower value brands.
Of course, Aldi already had a great business model. By reducing choice, Aldi was able to offer products of similar quality to the 'Big 4' supermarkets at a reduced price. Good Housekeeping even voted Aldi’s Christmas Pudding as better than that of Harrods and Heston’s in a blind taste test!
However, Aldi also recognised they needed to tackle this reluctance to switch from recognised brands in order to gain market share in the UK,
So based on the competitive intelligence they had gathered, the game-changer for Aldi arrived when they changed the packaging of their own-brand products to echo that of the more established brands - closer than anyone had ever dared to before.
This meant a smaller behavioural change for shoppers, as they were buying products that looked and performed the same as in other supermarkets, shifting their focus on to cost-savings rather than any perceived quality change. And Aldi's market share has continued to climb.
Part 2: How to communicate with competitors' customers
Once you've run your analysis, and you know you can solve consumers' pain points better than your competitors, how can you reach their customers to let them know? Large-scale above the line advertising campaigns are the nuclear option, but there are other lower cost options likely to yield a greater ROI….
Target Facebook users whose interests include your competitors
Facebook allows you to target users that either follow or have shown an interest in a particular brand. Building a campaign around those that follow your competitors will allow you to place adverts and sponsored content extolling the virtues of your brand in front of them.
Disrupt your competitors' videos with YouTube Ads
On YouTube an advert is shown to a user every 4 minutes. Where a competitor has purchased an advert but has not bought the surrounding banner ad spacing, you have an opportunity to steal their thunder.
Target your competitors' Twitter followers
Twitter allows you to target your competitors' followers, so you can reach all those consumers who are currently fans of these brands in order to get your message across. In our experience, sponsored content is likely to work better than straight-up adverts on Twitter.
Use Google custom affinity audience to reach people interested in competitors via display
According to Google, their custom affinity audience allows advertisers to reach people interested in products and services similar to those that your business offers. This makes it perfect for conveying messages to key competitors when combined with a display campaign on the Google Display Network.
There are very few markets where brand loyalty has been created to such an extent that customers will use one particular brand exclusively, without considering alternatives.
With this in mind, where you have identified that you have an edge over competitors - based on what consumers' value most - and your brand intelligence shows that potential customers are not aware of this, it is crucial to build channels of communication where you can engage with consumers and inform them.
It's also important to remember that brand perceptions and consumer tastes can experience small shifts on an almost daily basis, so if these are not monitored closely, larger shifts can sneak up on us.
Alternatively, if you're using Brand Intelligence to monitor the relationship between consumers, your brand and key competitors, you can be the one to spot a shift that opens up a new opportunity for you to win over competitors' customers, grow market share and increase revenues.