Your competitors are likely at different stages in their development than you are. Maybe you launched a year ago and they are a legacy brand that you are chasing that has been in business for 60 years. Or perhaps you had a competitor enter the market at the same time you did. Whatever the case, you should definitely keep an eye on what they are doing in terms of branding, marketing, PR, and just general business decisions.

We often hear “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” but many people still get upset if a great idea is stolen. While I would never advocate for stealing a great idea and taking credit, it is a good strategic move to see what is working for your competitors and adapting some ideas to match your unique brand and style. It’s not about stealing ideas, it’s about figuring out their strategy and why it is working for them. If you know something is working really well for a competitor, it’s kind of hard to ignore it when you have a similar (if not the same) audience you are trying to reach.

Here are 6 things you can learn from watching your competitors.

#1: Create a better customer experience

If you take the time to listen to what your competitor’s audience is saying about them and to them, then you can use that info to make your customer experience better. For example, if they aren’t happy about something, fix the issue in your own business. By creating a solution for their discontent with your competitor, you are making your business more attractive.

#2: How to interact with your audience

Audience interaction is key when it comes to customer service and building long-term loyalty among your audience. Does your competitor have a better relationship with their audience than you do with yours? Figure out why. Do they respond faster and solve customer problems better? Are their policies more customer-friendly?

It can also come down to what channels they use to interact with their audience that maybe you are missing out on. Do they use social media (what channels)? Email? Direct marketing? Experiential? Media and influencers? If they are using specific channels to successfully reach their audience, then you should seriously consider those channels.

#3: How to build trust

If your competitors are trusted and respected in the industry, it is a status you should also strive for. What tactics are they using to build that trust? Sometimes it’s as simple as making themselves more available for public-facing opportunities.

#4: How to use social media

If you aren’t on social media and your competitors are, then you are at a disadvantage from the start. Look through your competitors’ social media profiles to get a sense of what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Do they have branding continuity across platforms? Do they offer exclusive specials for social media followers? What content has gotten the most engagement when they post? When do they post and how often? When do their followers respond on social media?

#5: How to create content

Content should be a major focus for your marketing strategy. If you take a look at your competitors, you should be able to tell a few things such as blog layout, readability, the types of calls-to-action, they type of content they share (video, blogs, listicles, etc.). You can also look at the timing of content in terms of how much they post of each content type. Once you identify these things, look deeper to see whether their content strategy is effective in terms of audience engagement. This should form a solid foundation for your content planning strategy.

#6: What not to do

Mistakes are always easier to identify than successes when it comes to competitor research. Finding out what a competitor is doing wrong is just as important as identifying what they are doing right. There is no point in repeating mistakes others have already made if you can avoid doing so.

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