Learning From Your Competition
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – except that it’s not. Oscar Wilde’s actual quote reads, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Copying isn’t smart, it’s what lesser brands do when they want to play in the big leagues but don’t have the talent, resources, or creativity. So yes, mimicking success is a less-than-stellar plan, but – surprise! – spying on the other big names in your industry can actually make your brand better.
Check Out Their Reviews
Reputation management is one of the most underrated services a business can buy into and yet 22% brands have even bothered to look at their own Yelp pages and even some that do don’t respond to posts. Not very smart, especially since 90% of users factor in positive reviews when deciding what to buy. Scour your competition’s Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google listings to see what customers are saying. Consider both the raves and the complaints and see how you might be able to improve your own operations based on that feedback. It’s like addressing problems before they even happen, and it can make you infinitely better.
Scroll Their Social Media Feeds
Are your posts a bit lacking in the engagement department? Take a peek at your competition’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds to see what’s bringing in the likes. Maybe they’re incorporating more videos or image-based posts, or perhaps they’re curating articles instead of just resharing their own content. What’s their tone like? How often are they posting? You don’t have to duplicate what they’re doing but if you see results that make you a bit jealous, you should take inspiration and run with it.
Keep an Eye on Their Ads
Pay-per-click campaigns are an effective way to attract new leads but the whole PPC system is confusing for a layperson. In fact, staying on top of digital advertising in general is like trying to do the cha-cha in quicksand. Hiring experts to craft and execute your ads is the obvious move but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the conversation. When your competition’s promotions pop up in your web browser, take a minute to study them. Does their layout leave you breathless? Are you fawning over their tagline? How are they incorporating keywords? While they’re A/B testing, you’re using the power of observation to shape your campaign before it’s even crafted.
Walk in Their Customers’ Shoes
Visit their website, buy a product or two, sign up for their newsletter – heck, call up customer service if you have a question or two about how a product is made or what a service entails. The best way to see how a company works is to interact with it. If you discover that your competitors have slow load times or that you can’t find their order page with a team of bloodhounds and GPS, you know exactly how you can improve your own site.
Contemplate Their Content
There’s an art to content marketing. There’s also a bit of science involved. How you say things is important but when and how often you post that information determines whether anyone will ever see your masterpiece in the first place. Read through their blogs and make note of any titles that jump out at you, cast a critical eye on their homepage copy, and see what they’re doing (ebook, guide, whitepaper, etc.) to capture emails. Then figure out how to exceed what their customers have come to expect.
With practice, all that professional stealth will get you where you belong – setting the trends rather than just following them.