What if you could spy on your competitor's marketing and beat them in their own game of marketing chess?
While you may not necessarily be like the NSA, if you could hack their funnels and understand how they're getting their customers, you could adjust your strategy to gain a competitive advantage.
Well, there's a way to do that, and it doesn't require special access to a government spy agency. This article will show you how to use your competition's marketing plan to your benefit, without breaking any laws in the process.
Developing a Marketing Plan Through... Research
There's no reason to start at square one when others have already been down the path. Taking a proactive approach to understanding your competitor's marketing plan will give you better insight into your own and let you make better-educated decisions.
Use these seven questions to identify the best practices in your industry.
1. How Effective is Their Content?
With Inbound Marketing still being one of the best approaches to gaining qualified leads, it's difficult to find a company who doesn't maintain a blog.
Sites like ahrefs.com and Alexa can give you initial data to start your search. They offer information on traffic, backlinks, and overall site ranking. This data will provide you with an idea of how they're doing, so you know which of your competitors has a better digital presence.
Use the sites above to examine the content bringing in the most backlinks, and getting the most attention. This can reveal opportunities to create your own version, and take advantage of the interests in that area. It can also show you sites that are linking to your competitor, and if you create a better resource, you can possibly steal their links.
Understanding what works and what doesn't allows you to shape your content as necessary. It can give you insights into your target audience by seeing which platforms are the more engaged with distribution.
The most important thing to look at is how the competition uses customer-centric marketing. Are they setting the customer up to be the hero of their own story, or are they positioning themselves to steal all the glory? Take notes on their marketing behavior, but always aim for the former in your own strategy.
2. What Do Their Testimonials Look Like?
While your customer profiles may differ, getting actual feedback from people using your competitors' product can be a fantastic resource. Every company uses testimonials, and they can give you a better idea of what you can do to meet customer needs.
The tactic of "review mining" is often used by copywriters, and there's no reason it shouldn't be part of your marketing plan. Find positive and negative reviews to understand what the consumer truly wants so you can fill that hole with your products and content marketing efforts.
Pulling keywords from testimonials and reviews will also give you an idea of how to shape your copy in emails, posts, and with your CTAs by highlighting their pain points in terms they use.
3. What's Their Social Presence Like?
When you looked at their content, your competitor likely had the social accounts that matter to them listed at the bottom of the page so readers could share. Pull up those profiles and take a look at their engagement, so you have an idea of how they're interacting with their audience.
If your competitor focuses on a specific platform, it's likely because they're seeing positive ROI. Since you're sharing a target demographic, you can potentially see the same engagement, giving you more reason to step up your game on that channel.
If you see common threads that lead to engagement, replicate it with your own spin. Steal the concepts that are working for them. If something is not working, compare it to your own under-performing content. If there are commonalities, you've uncovered what to avoid.
4. What Do Their Emails Look Like?
Nothing is stopping you from subscribing to their email list and working through their sales funnel either. Understand, though, that depending on the level of their email marketing, you may receive different messages based on how you interact with the content.
Play around with it and find what actions triggered email sends. You can also look at what types of emails they're sending. They may have some that are overly-pitchy and others that contain a decent amount of value.
Though you may not be able to see their open and click-through-rates, you can get a decent idea of how the emails will perform based on your interactions, so long as you remain objective while reading.
5. What Are Their Lead Magnets?
A company can have an arsenal of lead magnets, and your competitors' will show what's relevant to their readers.
Create a list of every lead magnet they provide. Sign up for some so you can take a look at the quality of each. Study their blog to see which lead magnets are offered the most. Follow deeper into their funnel if you find specific lead magnets that engage you or fail to.
The free content they're sharing is important because if you're finding a lot of value in the material, odds are they're securing more leads. Use these lead magnets to set the bar for your content and test out various offers to engage your readers.
6. What Does Their Funnel Look Like?
If you're familiar with Russell Brunson, you've probably heard of Funnel Hacking. This is the process of studying your competitor's sales and marketing processes to model and test your own.
This approach allows you to reverse-engineer what they're doing with their funnels to build a better system for yourself. You'll need to look at everything from their page copy, to social proof, to sign up forms, and much more, but when you're complete, you'll a clearer picture about what should work.
You want to pay special attention to how they help a consumer find their way from one phase of the buyer's journey to the next, and at some point, purchase a product so you can see more of the interactions. This is where you can find more information on their emails, content, and customer interactions.
Once you've collected as much data as you can, recreate their funnels for your own brand and start A/B testing to learn what works for you.
7. Where Do They Advertise?
Unless they're testing the waters, your competitors are advertising in certain areas because they're finding a decent ROI. Finding what avenues they're using for advertisements can give you other ideas on where to promote your products.
Sites like WhatsRunWhere can help with identifying the position of display ads around the web. Tools like Ghostery blocks ads from hitting your page but also shows a list of what's active. This includes pixels from Facebook and Google.
Seeing where they advertise, and how the ads look on each channel, can shed light on how you can match, and hopefully beat, their performance.
Leveling Up Your Plan
There's no requirement for a disguise to find the answers to these questions. Use this information to your advantage and figure out what your competitors are doing that you can improve on.
If you want some more help with your Inbound Marketing plan, we've built a free guide that will teach you what's essential to your strategy, how to take a deeper dive into your customer avatars, show you the key components of your editorial calendar. Conquering the Inbound Marketing Mountain is designed to make your journey into Inbound Marketing easier.