Marketers have great visibility into what's happening within their company and what's happening throughout their marketing team. With so much to keep tabs on—from ads to blogs to positioning—marketers sometimes lack a thorough understanding of what's happening outside the four walls of their business, however.

Yet it's critical to be aware of external factors; their impact can be just as, if not more important than, determining internal successes. If you can gain a strong understanding of your competitive landscape and market environment, you can use the gathered intel to benefit your strategy across every area of marketing.

Let's look at some examples of how you can use such intelligence to stand out against your competition and win.

How to Fill in Your Content Marketing Gaps

Tracking your competitors' content marketing can assist you with your own content marketing strategy.

To analyze your competitors' content strategy, look at the channels and topics they rely on for their marketing. Try asking yourself these three questions about each of your competitors:

  1. Which outlets are they using to publish content?
  2. What type of media are they publishing? (Articles? SlideShare presentations? Infographics?)
  3. What topics are they covering?

For each competitor active in your market, answer those questions; while doing so, identify key trends, such as topics and media type. Dig deeper into their content and identify which topics or articles get news coverage, which media types are most frequently shared, and which outlets publish articles for your market.

Once you've collected and analyzed data about your competitors' content strategy, identify the "white space" within your market. The white space is untapped opportunities, such as topics not yet covered or channels not utilized, that you can leverage to stand out from your competition.

In addition to looking at the creative side of a competitor's content marketing, consider the technical aspects of their strategy—how they are structuring and optimizing their content for search engines. Especially if you have a competitor with a larger marketing team or budget, you can observe the strategies they implement to learn best-practices and get inspiration for tests to try yourself.

Competitive intelligence on your rivals' content marketing allows you to...

  • Create content that stands out from the rest of the market
  • Learn which content topics, formats, and channels are most popular
  • Piggyback on your competitors' learnings around technical optimization

How to Position Your Product to Be Unique

Positioning your company or product can be challenging if you're in a market with similar solutions or common values. For example, if your solution is "easy to use," but the competition says theirs is as well, how do you prove that your statement is more valid?

The key to establishing unique positioning is to understand your competitors' messaging and the benefits—both real and promoted—of their solutions. Find the answers to these questions:

  • How do our competitors position their companies and products? How is that positioning changing over time?
  • What is unique about our messaging and solutions?
  • What are the true strengths and weaknesses of each competitor's solution, as revealed by their customers?

To get a thorough understanding of your competitors' products, you need to analyze what and how they communicate the details of their solution on their website and help documentation. Also review what customers are saying on review sites and support threads, both of which are valuable sources for getting an inside scoop on a company's strengths and weaknesses.

Seeing what your competitors' customers are saying about the company and the product can give you intel that can be used to your advantage. Take your competitors' strengths and weaknesses and use them to leverage your own strengths.

For example, you can use the information to create a campaign that highlights the strengths of your products by focusing on what your product offers that your competitors are missing. You can take it one step further and create comparison pages on your website that position your product as the better solution compared to a major competitor.

After analyzing your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, it's essential to educate your team on how to address your findings. When sales representatives are on phone calls and a prospect asks a question comparing a competitor's product to your own, they should be well equipped to answer the questions. Using competitive intelligence to create competitor profiles and live training sessions can help ensure that your sales team provides factual information to prospects that also positions your solution favorably.

A key differentiator between you and your competition is your messaging. Reviewing their messaging and changes to that messaging on their website, or even press releases and any other content that the company creates, can give you a lot of insight into their focus areas. Analyze how they position their product; then, craft your messaging to be different. Your new and unique messaging can be incorporated into your website messaging, collateral, blogs, and your sales scripts.

Competitive intelligence on your rivals' products and positioning allows you to...

  • Create unique messaging that positions you as the superior solution
  • Educate internal teams on competitors' strengths, weaknesses, and strategies
  • Win more competitive deals by consistently positioning yourself as the best solution

How to Generate More Leads in a Competitive Market

Every company, including your competitors, competes for the attention of its audience. If you want to create standout lead generation campaigns, you need to understand the marketing efforts engaged in by competitors.

Tracking the competition's lead gen efforts across their landing pages, advertising, emails, website tests, and CTAs, will help you uncover their lead generation strategy.

Answer these questions:

  • What are the primary channels and promotions used by our competitors to generate leads?
  • What tests and changes are they making, and what can we learn from their optimization efforts?
  • What promotions are currently in play so that we can offer something better or unique to the market?

When analyzing your competition's campaigns, analyze the topics and types of promotions and look for common themes. Have a similar offer? Promote your alternatives to try to drown theirs out. Alternatively, if you have offers that contrast with their current promotion, boost them to offer your prospects a different opinion with unique content.

An effective way to go head-to-head with your competition is to take note of which events they are attending or sponsoring in your market. Take the opportunity to sponsor or at least attend the same events. You can then leverage that event to promote your own content, offers, and products to get in front of the same audience as your competitors so that they don't get exclusive access to that audience.

If you're looking for campaign inspiration, deconstruct what your competitors are doing and use those ideas to inspire your own. You can also gain a shortcut to best-practices by analyzing your competitors' SEO best-practices and A/B-tests to see what's proving successful. Those shortcuts will not only help you with lead generation campaigns but also give you a better understanding of what resonates with consumers in your industry.

Competitive intelligence on your rivals' lead generation and marketing campaigns allows you to...

  • Create unique campaigns that stand out from the competitions'
  • Ride the wave of a competitor's promotion to get additional visibility on their efforts
  • Learn best-practices based on marketing tests run by competitors and go head-to-head across content marketing, events, social media, and more.

* * *

Staying in the know about your competitors' marketing activities is critical to crafting winning marketing campaigns across content, landing pages, product positioning, and beyond.

No business operates in a vacuum, and every marketing team must have a solid understanding of the marketing environment in order to win.

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image of Ellie Mirman

Ellie Mirman is CMO at Crayon, a market and competitive intelligence company that provides strategic insights and inspiration for marketers.

LinkedIn: Ellie Mirman

Twitter: @ellieeille