Knowledge is the key to successful sales – Market & Competitor Research

keysImage Source: Jacqui Brown – (CC License)

As many business owners and economists have noted over the years, if you want to be consistently successful you need to understand your competition.

Marketing is an inherently competitive activity,– aimed to take market share from direct or indirect competitors. Yet competitor analysis is frequently overlooked by many organisations and their marketing teams.

Indeed, it is remarkable how much time and effort some marketers put into understanding their customers – profiling them, anticipating their needs, desires, and motivations – but will do nothing to analyse the competition.“ It’s still surprising in this age how often prospective clients tell us they don’t know much about their competitors.

Undertaking a market and competitor research exercise is a sensitive area for organisations to undertake themselves and are governed by strict code of practices. This is why an increasing number of organisations are turning B2B telemarketing companies to carry out these projects. All  professional researchers work under strict codes of conduct and ethical means to obtain information about the marketplace in which you operate. The requirements that you may have and that which an agency may be able to undertake may include the following:

1. Identifying your competitors
This includes taking a broad approach to defining your competition. “All too often clients only look at the sectors they operate in. This runs the risk of ‘copycatting’ just like for like. It’s far better to look further afield in related sectors or other countries. Consider not only existing competitors, but also new entrants to your market, and those who indirectly compete with you.”

2. Profiling the competition
Once the list of your competitors has been drawn up, we can begin writing down what we already know about them or can find out e.g. location, turnover, age, products, services, resources and pricing. Also we encourage clients to  start accessing information within their own organisation. They may employ former staff of a competitor.

3. Assessing your competitors’ marketing communications
Without doubt,  companies face difficulties when it comes to competitor analysis. “Much of the B2B marketing is through direct channels and this can make it challenging to get sight of everything the competition is doing. For example, it can be hard to know if a competitor has sent a direct mail pack to the top 100 IT service companies or directors.

Essentially, there needs to be a marketing audit on each of your competitors. This will cover the key messages a competitor is transmitting, and also give us ideas about the brand image it is trying to create through its visual and verbal presentations.This will also include online marketing. “Online activity will tell us a lot about their overall business plan, and can tell us how much traffic a competitor’s website is getting, where visitors are coming from and what search phrases they are advertising against.”

Finally where appropriate auditing your competitors’ media coverage. “Talking to trade press and other industry experts can be revealing. They often have a birdseye view of an industry and of how things are developing that will help us to understand the overall landscape and help locate you the client within it.”

4. Undertaking a SWOT analysis
The final task once as much information has been gathered as possible is assessing the main competitor’s strengths & weaknesses and identifying any unique selling points they may have.

A simple truth why companies like VSL are successful in conducting market and competitor research is that  people will speak more freely to someone they consider to be objective.

Using the information
One last golden rule: Once the research, data and the analyses has been completed by the agency, you then need to ensure you use it. Some clients we have seen in the past just collect intelligence purely for the sake of it. The real results from this exercise with sometimes difficult changes, will be to adjust your marketing and sales strategy accordingly. However, be careful of not allowing your strategy to be dictated by your competitors. It should be an important factor, but it is not the only one – profitability, sustainability, innovation, relationships, and job satisfaction are all equally important.

Finally, competitor and market analysis should not be a one-off exercise, for as we all know the market place never sleeps!

For more information on how we can provide you with the key to success with competitor and market research services from Virtual Sales Ltd, please contact us via our contact page or pick up the phone and give us a call on +44 (0)1403 788480.


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Andy Dickens

Andy Dickens is a veteran of IT Sales, used to leading by example. He is the CEO of Virtual Sales Limited (VSL) who offer telesales, telemarketing, lead generation and appointment setting services to B2b businesses. He previously was Sales Director EMEA for Red Hat and before that ran sales at Visio before it was acquired by Microsoft.