Competitive Analysis: Stepping outside the industry and ahead of the competition
Far too often, marketers become so ingrained within their own industry they fail to look elsewhere for valuable insights. My goal for this post is to challenge you to broaden your horizons and escape the confines of your industry.
I’m willing to bet you’ll find something worthwhile.
First, a definition …
Cross-industry competitive analysis is a study of company behavior and performance, outside of one specific industry, comparing several significant competitors. Using appropriate tools and tactics, researchers use analytic data to determine paradigm shifts within similar industries, and make predictions about possible cross-industry trends.
(MECLABS has a series of free competitive analysis templates for you to download, in case you need a little help getting started.)
Where to begin?
Now, one of the most difficult aspects of cross-industry competitive analysis is trying to figure out where to begin. Are you supposed to arbitrarily select a different industry from which to begin pulling valuable insights? The answer is found in one key aspect of every company – from the brand-new startup, to corporate giants like Apple, every company has one thing in common that they cannot survive without …
It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest product in the world – without an interested customer, it really has no more value than the old shoe on the side of the road. I cannot stress this enough: the key to finding valuable insights in other industries is putting yourself in the shoes of your customer.
To begin putting yourself in the mindset of your customer, you must first ask yourself what they must do to convert on your site. What are the necessary obstacles they must overcome? Is there a lengthy reservation process that requires them to submit valuable personal information? Are there multiple product offerings they must sort through? Or, is there a very high price they must justify to themselves prior to making a purchase?
You must think about this to determine the customer thought process when making a purchase. Only then can you start to decipher what is truly going to be most helpful as they research a product.
For example, I recently worked with a company that had a site solely designed to bring in reservations. This particular project was centered on optimizing a mobile site that was quickly thrown together four years ago and had become an afterthought ever since. Needless to say, it needed some work.
Our team began looking into some close competitors to see how they were using comparable mobile sites, yet the competitors all seemed to be in similar positions, with outdated, friction-heavy mobile experiences.
Struggling to find any competitive insights within the industry, we then asked ourselves, “What is the customer ultimately trying to accomplish?” In this case, the goal was to have the customer secure a reservation.
The next question was, “Well, where else are people required to make a reservation? I often make reservations when I travel … ”
[Cue team-wide epiphany]
From a short series of simple questions, we were able to identify what customer needed to accomplish, as well as a logical industry that may present valuable insights both for this analysis, and down the line.
In the end, when we began reviewing these more well-established mobile sites, the ideas started pouring in. We were able to construct multiple tests solely by looking at sites from a completely different industry, and then determining what they were doing effectively.
Now, be aware – not every single idea will always turn into a winning treatment. But, the next time you struggle to devise a test idea, I challenge you to look outside the industry … you may be surprised at where you end up finding inspiration.