Very few believe that an effective marketing strategy may reduce marketing campaign costs by up to 70%. And it doesn’t necessarily need to involve specialists. In this article you will learn how to make a market research on your own, scrutinize your competitors and figure out what audience does really want.
A smart strategy may slash marketing costs from 5 million dollars down to 1–2 millions. This is not a fancy, this is our longstanding practice. Here are the steps you need in order to build a strong marketing plan: building a theoretical framework (analytical research studying, meeting experts), creating a marketing kit (market and audience analysis) and choosing efficient promotion channels.
Getting Ready: Feel the Market Volume and its Attractiveness
Market research is necessary to assess competitiveness, profits and capacity of a market. It may be done via open sources featuring media publications as well as companies’ financial statements and press releases published in the Internet. It usually takes more than two weeks to search through the theoretical framework. Thus, spare enough time to accomplish it.
For example, if you’ve decided to start a flower business, such as open a store and provide delivery services, you’d rather review the Flower Market in New York City report showing historic market statistics and outlook for the next few years. Besides, you should surf the Internet to learn the capacity of the niche concerned in your city or region. Pay special attention to the latest deals and market reshuffles (such as, take-over of a small company by a large one; going out of business on the part of more than one company overnight; fresh competitors, etc.) as well as to editorials and topic-related articles in business media such as, Flowers of the Nation: How Flower Business is Run in New York City.
Face-to-face interaction with experts, meeting specialists and developers are also very useful sources of getting business information.
Who are Your Competitors?
Answering this question requires a substantial go over. And the catch-as-catch-can approach is the best.
Suppose you want to open an e-store offering and delivering ultra-comfort pillows and mattresses (as time to stop suffering from that insomnia has finally come). For sure, you’ve already surveyed the topic, scrutinized every single type of a mattress and realized that hybrid models have the best orthopedic features combining springs and foam filling. In short, the product is there.
Now it’s time to thoroughly explore what your competitors offer and how you may stand out. If you are going to analyze your competitors, you’ll have to define solid analysis criteria that will structure the search, facilitate the surveying and help you to come to correct conclusions based upon the acquired results. For example, for your pillow and mattresses shop you have decided to record the following important facts:
- List of competitors. Market is not homogeneous. Thus, it requires special attention.
Make sure you know enough about leaders of the sleeping goods industry as well as orthopedic shop networks and local players. Don’t forget about your indirect competitors, such as retail, e-stores and places where sleeping goods are sold. You probably don’t have to look through all of them, choose the most relevant and include them in your short-list.
- List of products (pillows, mattresses, accessories, exclusive goods) and their quality.
- Price categories and, hence, niches that the competitors occupy.
- Positioning and USP (what are advantages stated by your competitors).
- Content marketing (posts in different blogs, mailing, social media publications, and video ads).
You may even create an Excel table to store and compare information you’ve gleaned. Depending on the market type and your objectives these criteria will certainly differ but they will always relate to the interconnection of three aspects — the product (USP, price, sales funnel), marketing (positioning, communication, blog content, SMM, PR, trigger strategy) and target audience. It is important to keep in mind that the first two are always linked to the target audience. Thus, always pay attention whom your competitor is marketing to. As far as sound sleep market is concerned, you will immediately notice how a discourse for selling a premium quality mattress to men and women aged from 20 to 35 differs from the one for offering pillows to pregnant women.
Secondly, any analysis should bring results. Otherwise, if you long swim in the ocean of information, you may ultimately drown due to an unexpected storm. Thus, we recommend you using some simple means of visualizing information stored in your Excel file.
Option 1: Creating a 1-page report on each competitor or 1-pager.
It was not for nothing that we mentioned analysis criteria, as it is now that we’ll bitterly need them. Create a 1-slide presentation on each competitor, summarizing information about the player as well as about the most important criteria in your opinion.
1-pager does not necessarily require sticking to a 1-page rule. The aim is to ultimately get a clear and simple representation of the information available.
Option 2: Creating players positioning map
There are several ways for you to take. For example, you may use a SWOT Competitor Analysis Excel Template where you will define core advantages of your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, potential growth possibilities and risks. Drawing a visual map or matrix with X and Y axes is the easiest and most graphic way to realize this. Place along one of the axes the audiences (such as, mass market and premium segment, beginners and professionals), and define along the other the prevailing means of communication (rational vs. emotional) or products peculiarities (such as, degree of the product complexity/simplicity, risk likelihood, result-focused or quality-focused, etc.).
Criteria may differ. But they should be exhaustive and do not overlap, thus your conclusions will be fundamentally correct. Besides, we advise following the classic approach of audiences and product characteristic segmenting.
What do you do if you lack information?
Don’t limit yourself to a mere analysis of websites, marketing approaches, turnover and average bills. Go further and study, for example loyalty programs. How do you do this? Regarding sleep entrepreneurs, you may search for sound sleep lovers clubs, join them and get an idea of how they are promoting the notion of a good sleep among their audience and offering them bargain purchases. If you are interested, let’s say, in delivering sushi, you may buy from other market players and learn what their offers are, such as Download the app and get a discount or Buy a large sushi set and get a drink for free, besides social media campaigns.
Congratulations! Now you know how to use the secret buyer approach to find out, at least, about two things:
- Your competitors’ user experience (including activities to gain clients’ loyalty) as well as
- Their price policy and up-to-date offers.
Here is an example (from our own experience) of the secret buyer approach in action:
- A Europe-oriented exchange for bloggers and advertisers hired us to do a thorough research of business models of its competitors in the USA, Great Britain and Australia. Common analysis of the websites, apps, media publications, feedbacks and comments didn’t yield the desired results in terms of the b2b product for brands. Hence, we designed a secret client scenario (what our product and audience is, what we expect from our interaction with bloggers, what the time period and budget is) and embarked on direct interaction with account managers of the foreign platforms concerned. The very first contacts managed to yield good results. For example, we learned some previously unknown details about the cooperation conditions set by bloggers and the working process itself as well as about the price policy and additional fees for international transaction expenses. We even were emailed presentations of their products and demo access to the platforms. Is it useful? Yes. Is it complicated? Not quite. It definitely demands some effort but no special skills at all.
Discover Competitor Promotion Channels
Defining the best promotion channel is easy via such platforms as SimilarWeb, Alexa Internet and others similar services that offer information on websites traffic volumes.
What are your moves? Visit SimilarWeb.com and look at the Traffic Share, then find thankyou/success page end and etc. Similarly, we may find, for example, /cart/, etc. There is always room for error, of course, but nevertheless benchmarks may single out.
Know Your Target Customer
Now that you’ve gained awareness of who your competitors are, it’s time to build familiarity with your target audience.
Besides learning about the competitors, open source analysis helps to become aware of the audience’s current mood and needs. Pay attention to user comments in social media, websites and YouTube. You may use Google Adwords to search for bloggers relevant to your audience. Don’t forget about regularly looking through the topic-related forums as well.
Let’s assume that luxury dental and beauty services are still widely debated in the Internet. The above mentioned analysis will also introduce you to the world unspoken demands and fears. Assumingly, you want to open a dental clinic. Peruse all the comments about your competitor. Based on customers’ complaints and negative comments you will gain awareness of motives influencing the choice of your potential audience.
Furthermore, gathering together all the customer fears breaking their desire to make a purchase you may develop a pretty solid positioning, come up with slogans and write native articles for advertising.
Segmenting and Target Defining
Who is your target audience? A careless answer to the question is a direct route to meeting marketing and sales problems. Market segmentation should be as precise as possible. Specialized surveys (carried out by technology-related business, such as Think with Google platform, or consulting firms, such as McKinsey, Accenture, Pwc, or research entities, such as Nielsen, Gfk), business media publications as well as forums, blogs and social media analysis will facilitate the discovery of clients’ preferences and their on-line behavior.
Thus, understanding your customer will help you to choose the right promotion channel and the exact type of advertising. If you’ve launched an e-store offering goods for newborn, go straight away to the Instagram. Mothers use to subscribe to popular bloggers and listen to their opinion. Besides, it is a productive channel to promote nature friendly goods, beauty, cleaning and food delivering services, etc. But if you have open pet shop, do not ignore outdoor advertising near parks, dog playgrounds and vet centers.
Don’t forget about the price policy. If you position yourself only as provider of economy class or VIP services you are limiting yourself in terms of the audience.
Product or Service Positioning
Coming up with a strong business communication strategy is the ultimate goal of any competitors and audiences research. In other words, at the end you need to ensure that your stand out, catch the eye of your customers and speak their language.
With the new knowledge in mind don’t hesitate to use a communication map reflecting the following:
- Your mission/strategic target and tasks (KPI business).
- Your core advantage and a brief summary about the value that your product or service offers the customers unlike the competitors.
- Articulate the exact need and pain points of your audience that you are dealing with (if you have several segments, do it for each of them).
- Finally, reveal the sense of your positioning through values, product peculiarities and meanings to each of your segments. Don’t forget to mention why customers should trust your product (for example, you have good feedback from your first clients or you collaborate with well-known partners).
Tools for Effective Promotion
When it comes to choosing marketing tools, you have to deal with a plethora of options both on-line and off-line. Let’s recall the most common and effective of them.
- Reviewing Feedback – First of all, you need to respond to the client’s feedback as quickly as possible. It should take you less than a day to answer on the website and about 10–15 minutes in social media. Boosting the number of feedbacks as well as their quality is also very important. When surfing the Internet for the product or service, user immediately gets links to websites with various customers’ feedbacks and considerations. Then, via search engines he can log a query to find relevant feedback. It is not a secret that nowadays feedbacks may be tracked and even bought. Special Internet platforms will find every mention of your company in the web, track down all negative feedback and generate a required number of mentions. Considering my expertise, I shall notice that negative and neutral feedback should constitute 15 and 10 percent of the scope, respectively.
- Promoting company’s accounts in social media – Before purchasing a product or service majority of the leads go to the company’s website or social media account. High-quality content and quick reaction to every questions and feedback including negative significantly raise your chances of converting leads into new customers. Alias, you don’t need to focus entirely on the product. Stories about employees and backstages are also very popular.
- Opinion Leadership – Bloggers do not always ask money for hidden advertising. You may offer them your product or service in exchange for a friendly recommendation. From practice, conversion from direct targeted advertising may experience a five-fold raise.
- Public Relations Campaigns – While many people haven’t appraised PR as a company promotion tool yet, PR has a direct influence on SEO as websites improve their search engine positions when they are referenced by authoritative sources. You begin gaining reputation of an expert; receive invitations to various conferences and profile events where you may also advertise your product. Besides, you shouldn’t disregard the fact that publications with your professional comments and opinion attract additional audiences as well as serve to improve interaction.
Summing Everything Up: Your Checklist for Building Marketing Strategy
- Market Research – Start surveying the market: have a look at the open sources (topic-related media, reports, businesses press releases) and interact with the experts concerned.
- Competitive Research – Study your competitors: define criteria for analysis and glean information by all possible means and via all sources available. Then, with simple frameworks illustrate your core conclusions.
- Audience Research – Become aware of your audience. Open source and social media monitoring helps making out your customer fears, pain points and demands. If possible, thoroughly interview your focus group, if not, poll your close friends.
- Segmentation – Niching down the exact audience segment is as important as building awareness. Prepared by technology-related and consulting companies profile researches may help building familiarity with your customers’ behavior. Think like a customer and search for information as regards his/her preferences (what he/she watches, what blogs he/she reads, what off-line events he/she visits, etc.).
- Positioning – Your positioning strategy should include all the collected pieces of information. Use a communication map allowing you to head in the right direction and keeping safe all the valuable conclusions you’ve drawn along the research.
- Promotion – When you are ready to move on use these four simple and effective promotion tools: feedback, social media activities, micro influencers and PR publications. Place them according to their priority at the exact moment of time, draw an action plan and fire on.