Wikipedia defines competitive analysis as “an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors”. This analysis provides both offensive and defensive strategic context through which to identify opportunities and threats.”

But actually competitor analysis is much more simple than that. Quite simply, if your competitors are getting it right all you need to do, if you want to get it right is exactly what they are doing. If you want to be a bit better than your competitors, and of course you do, all you need to do is exactly what they are doing plus a little bit more.

So how do you go about conducting competitor analysis for yourself? The good news is that in 2010 competitor analysis is incredibly easy. All you need to do is decide what is it that you want to know and how it is that you want to go about finding out.

The questions you should be asking of your competition are:

  • do they exist?
  • who are they?
  • where are they?
  • what do they provide?
  • how much do they provide?
  • what do they charge?
  • who are their customers?
  • why do their customers use them?
  • how happy are their customers?
  • how are they performing?
  • how do they get to market?
  • what are their plans for the future?

Some of these questions are more critical than others. For example, people get very excited if they enter a market without competitors, however, you really need to check, because if no one is making money in this market already, how easy is it going to be for you to make money?

So how do you do competitor analysis?
You can spend time on the Companies House website if you are interested to understand what your competitors are saying to the taxman. It would be a better use of your time if you look at your competitors websites, follow them on Twitter or see what people are saying about them using Monniter, TwitterFall or Google Alerts.

With tools like SpyFu and Keyword Spy you can see exactly what your competitors are doing with their pay per click campaigns. It makes sense to subscribe to their newsletters, although you might want to do it from an e-mail address other than your own, and to connect with them on LinkedIn and join groups that they are active in. I suppose, if you really want to push the point you could check out their Facebook profile where you might even see them in their swimmers on holiday.

In 2010 people are broadcasting more information about themselves than ever before and it really isn’t difficult to start collating that information and build up a picture of their activities. My personal favourite, is the age-old favourite, to pick up the phone and have a good natter with a mouthy salesperson who never fails to tell you whatever it is that you want to know.

So you can see, competitor analysis is incredibly valuable and actually doesn’t cost anything if you are brave and have some time on your hands. My advice, as always is to get on and do some.

So hopefully, that will give you a better blogging clue about competitor analysis. Next week I will be talking about performance, so come back then if you haven’t got a blogging clue about sales and marketing performance.