Many of my business clients ask me, “How do I start the process of writing a marketing plan?”
Writing a marketing plan may seem like a daunting task, when you don’t know how to get started.
I often recommend conducting a competitive marketing analysis as a great way to start the process. Companies that prepare a competitive marketing analysis up front have realized a way to differentiate their company with that of the competition.
A retail company that I worked with found a clear path to differentiate themselves with their approach to superior customer service. None of their competitors were fully attentive to customer needs. This client found this information from many social media platforms, while preparing her competitive analysis. Voila! This business owner found a service gap to fill that she was excellent in achieving. She made a plan that outlined specific procedures that prioritized attending to every customer that made contact with her organization, whether that was through email, phone, or in person.
Another business owner who operated in an industry with low barriers to entry, found that his competition lacked a quality end product. Armed with a mission to provide the best quality products to the market, this company surpassed its competition. Two of its main competitors ceased operations within one year. He now has a strong foothold in his industry. This business owner is a proponent of conducting a competitive marketing analysis now, saying he wished he’d done it years ago as he would’ve been much further along in building his business.
So how does one go about creating a competitive analysis?
Know who your competitors are.
Competitors are companies whose products or services compete with yours.
Ask questions to determine a competitor:
- Will these companies compete with you across the board, or just for certain products/services, customers, or locations?
- Will you have important indirect competitors? (businesses different from your business)
- How will your products or services compare with the competition?
Now that you have determined your competitors. A great way to make a comparison of them is to make a chart of the key competitive factors related to your industry, and compare how your company stacks up to a few of your major competitors.
Examples of competitive factors may be:
- Company Reputation
- Credit Policies
- Sales Method
Select whether you consider each factor to be a strength or a weakness for your business.
It may be difficult to analyze your own weaknesses. You may want to get feedback from people outside your business to assist you with this assessment. You will want an honest assessment of your firm’s strong and weak points.
Now analyze each major competitor. In a few words, state how you think they compare on each factor. Estimate the importance of each competitive factor to the customer/client. Then write a short paragraph stating your competitive advantages and disadvantages.
Once you have completed these 4 steps to create a competitive marketing analysis, you should have clarity on how you can gain a competitive advantage over your competitors. This exercise can be a fun and an insightful way to start your marketing plan.