This post was originally featured on hellospark.com on November 19th, 2014.
When it comes to online marketing, everyone’s an expert. One simple way to find your footing in the vast expanse that is online marketing, is to take a cue from what your competitors are doing – for better or for worse.
Here are the 5 lessons you can gain by keeping your friends close, and your competitors closer
1. Know Where You Stand
In order to best address your audience, you have to know what else they are being offered. I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing not only who your competitors are, but what they are doing differently from you. Consistent competitive analysis will take you leaps and bounds above what your competitors are doing, because you will always be in the know.
Lesson: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Search the keywords related to your business, or that you want to be recognized for, and see who else is popping up. Embrace your social media skills, and do some good old fashioned creeping.
2. Know Their Mistakes
Now that you’ve done some research and have figured out WHO your competitors are, it’s time to analyze the bejesus out of their business – the good, the bad, and the ugly. For example, let’s pretend your competitor just launched a shiny new website that isn’t mobile optimized, (or some other silly mistake). Take a minute to laugh at their expense (obviously), but then make sure you know why this was an epic fail, so you can avoid making the exact same mistake.
Lesson: It is estimated that by 2015, the number of U.S. mobile shoppers is expected to hit 111 million. This means a huge chunk of your audience will likely be viewing your website on a mobile device. Always check your online marketing insights and growing trends to make informed strategic decisions: if 50% of your online leads come from a mobile device, you sure as heck better make sure your website is responsive for desktops, tablets, & whatever version of the iPhone is set to come out next
3. Monitor Their Successes
On the flip side, you also want to pay attention when a competitor does something really well. If you see in your ongoing research (good for you!) that your competitor is consistently coming up higher in search results for your preferred keywords than you are, it’s time to figure out why.
Lesson: Time to dig deeper, my little Sherlocks. If they have a high Google ranking, it means their SEO game is strong. As much as it will pain you, look into what they are doing that you may not be. Take a look at tools to make your SEO campaign more successful or, better yet, get someone qualified to do it for you.
4. Be Relevant
If you are the only one of your competitors with, for example, social media channels, there are 2 possible reasons for that:
If you happen to be leading the pack in your industry when it comes to expanding onto other online marketing platforms, there’s a huge opportunity to set the standard & have another channel for your audience to find and engage with you. However, there may be a reason your competitors aren’t, or rather, have chosen not to be present on certain platforms. For example, if you have a purely B2B business model, the effort involved in creating content for a Facebook page to promote your very specific services may not have a large return on investment (depending on your industry), as your target audience (other businesses) may not be trolling Facebook to find you.
Lesson: Evaluate your online marketing budget and figure out the most effective way to apply those funds. A strong PPC campaign could very well be a better fit for your company – not to mention your time and energy! – and will show you the kinds of results a social campaign just can’t. Having a strong grasp of where you stand in the industry will also help you to carve out your online marketing plan.
5. Don’t Stop, Never Give Up
It can be common to see online marketing campaigns do well, plateau, and then stay stagnant orstuck in the past – something to avoid at all costs.
Lesson: A little web development can go a long way. By making constant improvements to your website, strategy and content based on your insights, your online marketing practices will remain both up to date and optimized for your audience. – a win-win for everyone involved.
(if you caught that timeless S Club 7 reference, you’re welcome)
The online marketing landscape is vast and ever-changing. Knowing what else is out there is a great way to get your campaigns off to a strong start.