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Competitive Analysis (2)

Following on from my initial coverage on conducting competitive analysis, let’s now concentrate on how to use the intelligence you have gathered.

Competitive Intelligence Part 2

Hit The Ground Running
Analysing how your rivals have “set out their stall” not only enables you to assess how high the risk of entry is for you, but also how best to respond.  Many suppliers are currently chasing the same sweet spot, whether in respect to products or geography.  Your entry needs to pack a punch.  It’s all about tactics.
Most Market Landscapes Are Changing
Competitors’ share rankings will confirm how concentrated or fragmented the market is, thereby identifying the challenges you face in terms of branding and positioning.  If very concentrated, have barriers to entry been created? If very fragmented, is the market price driven?  This specific scenario is not necessarily bleak:  The top two players may be there purely because they were first to market, and their share could be softening. The raft of “others” beneath them may reflect the market’s evolution, therefore an opportunity for you to seize.  However, you need to be clear on your timeline to break even and start generating profit, as this shift will not occur overnight.

Standing out from the crowd
If you are an SME, do not be overwhelmed. This can be a key strength in relation to QoS. Larger operations often mean hierarchies, which can translate into apathy, arrogance, or delay. You will have to work harder, but can build up credentials via lead times, willingness to listen, and response to customer feedback. Your channel partners are crucial here: there is no substitute for “feet on the ground”.

In terms of portfolio, if you are a relatively new player even in your domestic sector, this can be an advantage.  Your offering could enable customers to leap-frog legacy technology and/or vendor lock-in, and in turn help them gain competitively. In emerging regions this is a highly prized asset. Consider some of the current industry’s major themes (e.g. SaaS, Cloud Computing, Open Source software, Security) and highlight any correlations with your portfolio, including design.  Could your profile be further raised via a collaborative venture? Can you sign up VARs to with such experience?

Quality of service can win you market share over your competitors

Quality of service can win you market share over your competitors

Spread The Word
Your intelligence can help you to align your core strengths to local market opportunity (SWOT analysis).  Consider all of your operations, including customer services and channel partners, as a natural extension of the branded qualities you are pushing. Your marketing effort should consolidate this position.

The Internet should become your new best friend, especially in terms of lead generation.  Get help in designing interactive content, most simply white papers and brochures, which can be distributed on by your prospects.  View viral marketing as a largely positive force, but remember, authenticity is key.  Consider Twitter as a way to engage in thought forums with like-minded peers.

The Internet should become your new best friend, especially in terms of lead generation

The Internet should become your new best friend, especially in terms of lead generation

Finally, competitive analysis must remain an ongoing process. Technology attracts new entrants regularly, and customers’ needs will change. Your ability to respond to this matters.

I am an International Strategy and Marketing Consultant with over 20 years experience in marketing and strategy and international operations both in the US and Europe. Broad functional experience in: Marketing and Communications Strategic and Financial analytics including Business Case Development Consulting and Operational management Client Relationship Management Deep financial services sector knowledge. Worked in organisations ranging from technology start-ups, fast-paced direct marketing agency to large corporates. Member of Enterprise Ireland Mentor Panel Member of IIA (Irish Internet Association) International Strategy Working Group Committee member of the MBA Association of Ireland:

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  • Depending on your product/ service, generating a “viral” whitepaper can prove being quite a challenge. I would encourage people to do so though. Even for an SME who has no time for anything, investing time in that content may be the only way to leverage the crowd and get the message distributed (for free generally). Good post Una

  • Una, as always top class! This has been a great series from you “If you are an SME, do not be overwhelmed. This can be a key strength in relation to QoS. Larger operations often mean hierarchies, which can translate into apathy, arrogance, or delay” this is a wonderful point and SMEs often need to be reminded to play to their strengths rather than take a larger player head on. An SMEs reaction time is a key strength, the business should have an ability to move fast when opportunity presents itself.

  • Detailed and informative post Una – thanks. Your last point in relation to the fact that competitive analysis is an on-going process is so true. I suspect this falls by the way side, particularly in smaller businesses who often are focusing on revenue generation. I must remind myself to make sure I’m keeping an eye on my competitors. It’s vital for survival

  • Using social networking platforms and building social media marketing into your marketing activities is a great opportunity to cost-effectively extend your reach in international markets. But, as you caution, be authentic as you build connections and online communities. And, do not underestimate the effort required. Relationships are not once and done!

  • Una,

    Brilliant follow up to your first post on competitive analysis, which give manageable methods to understand your competitor in the correct context, as this enables you to manage what is often quite a daunting task.

    It is true to say that most SME’s are overwhelmed and frustrated by bigger competitors, especially as they seem to be everywhere you are, and often, they are there before you.
    Your practical advice on standing out from the crowd, is very valid and possible to attain and as it focuses “what you can do”, thus creating a competitive advantage.

    The section on spread the word via the you new best friend “the internet” is very relevant, and I have found in my line of work that bigger companies are slow to use social media marketing.
    The main reason for this is due mainly to the companies culture. Their culture does not want to lose control, it is also stuck with “this is how it’s always been done here”, therefore they are not very open to change. It normally has bigger marketing budgets, and spends this on traditional media as this requires less effort (again this effort is linked to the resistance to change within the company culture) and it scoffs at social media. Please bear in mind that a company’s culture is very hard to change, and this can be used as advantage if you are smaller, agile and more open to change.

    Very often it is very difficult to link Strategic thinking to Tactical action, but you are a natural in this department !
    Looking forward to reading more of your material.

  • Deven

    good article indeed.could u suggest good book on coaching [what are different types of coaching techniques & how to make it effective]. i am a teacher at a spiritual organisation.

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