One of the best ways to identify missed marketing opportunities is to study what your competitors are doing. If a competitor of yours is consistently running a Facebook ad campaign or has placed ads on an industry website, you can safely assume that those online marketing channels are working for them and that you should be experimenting with them in your business as well. Previously, there wasn’t a good way to figure out what marketing channels your competitors were using. In the last five years, a number of new tools have come out that mine large quantities user data and advertising data that provide very revealing information about your competitor’s marketing strategies.
My favorite competitive research tool is SimilarWeb (www.similarweb.com), which tracks data from advertising networks, Internet service providers and analytics services to identify useful information about your competitors’ websites. SimilarWeb can reveal what keywords users use to find your competitors’ websites. It also can show where competitors are spending their online ad dollars, what social networks they use and which other websites refer people to their website. SimilarWeb also provides demographic details on competitors’ customers.
If your competitors are active on Facebook, there are a number of ways to mine their Facebook presence for marketing ideas. You can search for a competitor’s Facebook page to see which updates get the most reactions, shares and comments. You can also see what products, services, offers and discounts your competitors are offering through Facebook. SumoRank.com provides a free tool that will show the optimal day of the week and time to post on Facebook based on a competitor’s engagement data.
If you are trying to outrank your competitors in Google, use tools such as Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO to identify why their website might rank better than yours. These tools will show how other websites are linking to your website and your competitor’s websites, which is an important factor in how websites get ranked in Google’s search results. You can use your competitors’ backlinks to identify other websites you might be able to get to link to and traffic to your website.
Look to Your Audience to Identify Marketing Channels
Another great way to find places to advertise and other marketing channels is talking to people that are part of your audience. Ask them what resources they use to learn more about your niche. Are there any relevant magazines that they read? What websites do they use to learn more about your niche? Are they part of any organizations that are relevant to your niche? What books have they read about your niche? Do they listen to any podcasts about your niche? By figuring out how your audience learns more about your niche, you might uncover highly-effective paid advertising channels or free marketing strategies that you can use to grow your audience.
For example, you might find that almost all of your audience uses the same social network to talk about your niche. You can then become part of that social network, join the conversation about your niche and tactfully promote your company’s content, products and services. You might also find that many members of your audience read the same magazine. If this is the case, you might consider buying an ad to promote your brand in that magazine. The key is to figure out what other media related to your niche your users are consuming and then use those other media channels to promote your brand.
There are two good ways to ask your audience about what other media channels they consume. You can send a survey using SurveyMonkey or another tool to your email list and ask them the information that you are looking for. Make sure to offer some kind of drawing or reward to incentivize your audience to actually complete your survey. If you have a smaller email list, you can just ask them to respond directly to the email that you send. The other good strategy is to talk to a few members of your audience on Skype or over the phone for a few minutes. You can often glean valuable information through a phone conversation that can get lost in translation over email or an online survey.