How to Complete a Competitive Audit

A competitive audit is the part of the competitive intelligence process that seeks to better understand the competition and compare a brand to its peers. In this post, we are mainly going to discuss how to use different tools to conduct one; but first…

How to Complete a Competitive Audit

Why Companies Must Have Competitive Audits

A study conducted by Crayon and SCIP shows that competition is becoming stiffer across most industries. In the study, 90% of companies said their sector had become more competitive over the previous three years. In response to this, many are investing in competitive intelligence, and have been increasing their budgets with no end in sight.

The following are some good reasons why companies conduct competitive audits – and why you should too:

To establish benchmarks

A competitive audit can help companies establish marketing benchmarks by discovering what others in their industry are doing and the results they get from it. Benchmarks help businesses set SMART marketing goals and predict their own performance.

brand-benchmarks-dashboard

To fill market gaps

Market gaps are problems waiting to be solved. For savvy businesses, they are opportunities. However, some opportunities are not easy to see until one does a deep dive in their industry. A competitive audit offers a chance to do just that.

To differentiate

Some companies conduct competitive audits to differentiate themselves in the market. By setting themselves apart, they can attract a customer base that they hope to keep for a long time rather than attract one-off sales. A competitive audit shows them what other brands are like and from the information, they can design a strategy on how to compete by differentiating themselves.

The Tools Businesses Need to Perform a Competitive Audit

When deciding to perform a competitive audit, you may have a specific competitor in mind that you want to analyze. But more often than not, you will want to gauge yourself alongside the whole market. This means looking into every business that has a chance of biting a piece off your market share. Thus, you need to identify them, collect specific data about them, and find actionable insights from the data.

1. Search engines

A search engine is a great starting point to find your competitors. If they have an internet presence at all, this is where you will find them; and if they are not digital, do they really have a chance against you?

To start, search your own business. All search engines, Google in particular, make it easy to find related brands. When you search your company, you will notice that the results include a “People also search for” section. This is a list of other companies that do the same or nearly the same thing as you. Remember, there are two types of competitors, direct and indirect, whom you have to distinguish. So, this list only serves as a pointer to potential competitors.

You can also find competitors on search engine ads which are displayed as part of the results. Instead of searching your brand name, look up products, services, and other keywords related to your business. The ad results are easily recognizable. Do the search a number of times to reveal more results as different companies may be targeting different terms.

Apart from finding your competitors, the search engine can also play another role in your competitive audit i.e. understanding their market strategy. For instance, it is telling if a competitor is using search engine ads. Also, the terms that they rank for can tell you what they are promoting, not to mention how well they are doing by that effort.

2. Website analysis

The website is a treasure trove of data on competitors. This is the headquarters of all their virtual premises. Once you have filtered your list of competitors gathered from search engines, local directories, industry publications, etc. the website is the next place to look for data.

However, all competitors are not equally proactive. Some have well-designed, functional websites while others may be slackened in this area. Website analysis tools can help you determine how much effort they have put into their sites. You can test the website speed using a tool like GTMetrix or Uptime. Website analysis will also help you determine your main competitors so you can focus on them going forward.

Another important purpose of website analysis is to get an outline of the company’s marketing strategy. This starts with the language used in the web copy. Businesses will portray themselves a certain way on the website because they are targeting a certain type of customer. Data gathered on this can help you improve your own marketing strategy.

The website is also a good place to discover what customers love about the brand through reviews and testimonials – since businesses will only post the positive comments on their website. To get a more complete picture of what their customers think, step outside the website and into review sites, forums, and social media. But you cannot do this manually. You need a tool like NetBase Quid to comb the internet for all conversations surrounding the brand.

Some competitors may also have their products listed on the website or direct users to an ecommerce store. This is a chance to find out the different commodities offered, the pricing, and other important details that need to go into the audit.

Finally, the website is a great jump-off point to other areas of interest: Content platforms, and social media.

3. Market research

A market research tool, like NetBase Quid, is often the first place industry leaders search. Whether starting from scratch or if the main competitors are known, market research reveals the most complete intel available, particularly when one is working in our Companies Dataset. It quickly generates an overview of the industry, surfacing key players and offers insight for each one, indexing intel from S&P Global Market Intelligence Capital IQ and Crunchbase.

Our database has 6M public and private company profiles, and we collect data on publicly reported investment or acquisition events for each company.  With an investment or acquisition event, we collect the total amount of the investment (if shared), the exit type, and which companies participated.  For investments, in particular, there are often multiple participants in a single event, and we surface the total amount of investment received by a company.

The Companies dataset helps you to:

  • Analyze business descriptions or funding events to find market links or areas for growth
  • Track M&A trends, and identify emerging companies
  • Filter results by metadata ranging from investment information to company-related information such as founded year, HQ location, investment information, and more.

4. Content analysis

Content analyses reveal the communication patterns of your competitors. A content analysis will show you the types of content that the business is using as well as how it is performing. This is a great way to find competitors by identifying other brands that are developing content similar to yours.

However, at a more advanced stage of your competitive audit, a content analysis is best used to assess specific brands. One great tool to use for this part is BuzzSumo which allows you to see how the blog content of a particular competitor performs by simply entering their domain name into the tool’s search function. It not only tells how the content is being shared across different social media platforms but also the amount of backlinking.

Content analysis also includes social content. This is the content shared by the company on various social platforms. How it performs can be a great clue as to the company’s marketing strategy and how it’s working. With Rival IQ, you can conduct ongoing social content analysis of your competitor.

rival-iq-instagram

The tool updates you on real-time developments around your target’s social media activity, including notifications on any changes made on existing content, trending topics, popular hashtags, and top-performing content.

5. Social listening

Social listening allows companies to use benchmarking and reputation management to beat their competition. It involves continuous monitoring and discovery of conversations being held by the target audience and identifying ways to gain competitive advantage.

One of the best ways to use social listening is to find out the share of voice (SOV) among competitors. This refers to the distribution of the consumer conversation among the brands operating within a given industry. SOV is important because it not only helps businesses gauge brand awareness but also determine customer engagement to marketing messages. SOV can help you understand your company’s standing in the market.

You can solve SOV manually by tracking the number of mentions for each of your competitors and your own brand and calculating the percentages one-by-one. There are free monitoring tools that can help you with tracking the mentions. However, this method is painfully limited as it leaves out so many other desirable analytics including reach and customer sentiment.

If you want a better understanding of your own and competitors’ SOV, use an enterprise-level social listening tool. NetBase Quid not only tracks existing data and gives you the current state of the market (mentions, reach, sentiment, etc.) but also lets you set alerts for new mentions. This allows you to keep an open tab on all the brands you are interested in and compare their SOV on an ongoing basis.

setting-alerts-starbucks

Taking Action, Informed by Real-Time Competitive Audit Insight

Once you have completed your competitive audit, you need to make it worth the effort by taking action on your findings. Let us offer a brief view of what you can do with your report.

Review marketing strategy

Your competitive audit reveals, above all else, what your competition is doing to attract and keep customers. Whether they are doing it entirely right or wrong or just partly, there may be a lot to learn from your competitors’ marketing activities. This also includes any inspiration you may have gleaned during the process. You can use the information to review and strengthen your own strategy.

Address market gaps

Beyond marketing, your competitive audit can help you identify opportunities that you may otherwise have missed. Emerging trends, easily uncovered through social listening, may give rise to new opportunities that are not obvious without careful analysis of conversations. Additionally, by probing into their businesses, you may discover ways to set yourself apart from your competitors through new or improved offerings, more efficient production, etc. Moreover, you may find opportunities to collaborate with other players in the market through partnerships and/or mergers & acquisitions.

Improve customer service

There is enough data to show that customer service has a direct influence on the relationship consumers have with brands. Industry experts speculate that it is the greatest differentiator in the modern business environment. One of the best outcomes for your competitive audit therefore would be information to help you improve this important aspect of your organization. Such information includes customer reviews of other businesses, other brands’ social media engagement with customers, and industry trends.

Imagine two platforms. One has formed strategic partnerships with companies like Twitter and Reddit and in addition integrates over 3,000 Zapier apps, has support for major global languages, and is able to scan the entire internet for information you can use to improve your brand.

The other tool is specialized for social media monitoring. It offers powerful social media analytics that you can interpret without the need for a data scientist and allows you to monitor other brands as well. A business using both tools couldn’t miss a thing when performing a competitive audit. And within the NetBase Quid platform, every capability listed is offered – so be sure to reach out for a demo and learn how to integrate them into your process to inform your next competitive audit.

How to Complete a Competitive Audit

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