Daniel Burstein

How to Write a Competitive Analysis (with 3 free templates)

May 18th, 2012

“It’s not enough that we win; all others must lose.” – Larry Ellison

Personally, I disagree with Larry, and I think that the focus should be on the customer winning. Hopefully that’s often through your product or service offering, but sometimes your competitors can serve customers looking for a solution better than you can. In those cases, I think all parties (your company, your competitor and your customer) are better served by acknowledging that.

In fairness, Larry Ellison is the fifth richest man in the world, so if that’s how you keep score, he has much more credibility than I. On the other hand, he was paraphrasing Genghis Khan with his quote, so I guess it all depends whom you want to emulate with your marketing.

Learning from the competition

But, whether you agree with Larry or me (or even Genghis), I’m sure that we can all see the value in better understanding what competitors are doing.

So you can conduct a competitive analysis for the obvious reasons — to bludgeon the competition and raze their villages. However, you can also conduct a competitive analysis to help you better communicate with your customers about how you can best serve them (and even tell them what you can’t do) while perhaps honing the fine art of “coopetition.”

Moreover, a competitive analysis is an especially helpful tool to help you craft your value proposition.

Free competitive analysis templates

To help you conduct a competitive analysis, we’ve created a few free templates loosely based on the Summary Competitive Analyses we conduct for our own Research Partners here at MECLABS.

Competitive analysis presentation

For a slight deeper dive, you can use this PowerPoint template.

Download the MECLABS Competitive Analysis Presentation Template


Competitive analysis Excel template

For a more in-depth look at your competitive landscape, this competitive analysis Excel template might be helpful to you.

Download the MECLABS Competitive Analysis Template

 Download the MECLABS Competitive Analysis Template (Excel 97-2003 Version)


Very simple competitive analysis

If you’re only looking to get a very simple breakdown about your competitive landscape, you can use this simple Word document.


Download the MECLABS Very Simple Competitive Analysis Template

Even better, you can use these documents to communicate at three levels. While the fields aren’t the same in all of them, the PowerPoint and Word templates are meant to be a summary of the Excel template. So, you can use the Excel template to guide your own competitive analysis, the PowerPoint template to present this analysis to key marketing leaders, and the Word document as a memo to senior business leaders who would be less interested in all of the details.

Getting started

Digital marketing makes conducting a competitive analysis easier than it has ever been. While in the past, your best opportunity might have been to dive into the SEC filings of a public company, and perhaps sign up for their mailing list and buy some data from a business information vendor, now much of the information you need to know is publicly available … even metrics.

You can use social media and product review sites to see what customers think of your competitors, as well as obtain some real metrics on how many followers they have. You can also use sites like SimilarWeb and Alexa to get a very rough (and let me emphasize, very rough) look at the traffic numbers and patterns for your competitors’ sites.

And, don’t overlook the power of search …

“Start the competitive analysis as if you were a potential customer and a run couple of searches with your popular keywords or using keywords that search engines recommend,” said Ana Gabriela Paez, Associate Director of Research, MECLABS.

“Then analyze companies that appear on paid and natural search results. You may not get all of your possible competitors, but you will get those that are working hard to steal traffic from your site. Sometimes companies will focus too much on reviewing their traditional competitors and forget to frequently monitor search results to see if there are new competitors in the mix or potential new substitutes for your product or service.”

That last point Gaby makes is crucial. After all, your competitors aren’t who you think they are, your competitors are who your customers think they are. So, if your goal is to make the best horse-drawn carriage and that is your only focus, you’ll never see that automobile coming.

And, perhaps most importantly, don’t overlook your own efforts. A competitive analysis is of little practical use if you don’t look at your own products and marketing materials with the same inquisitive eye, and then place your findings side by side with your competitors, stand shoulder to shoulder and see how you match up.

And, while you’re standing next to them, if you follow the teachings of Larry Ellison and Genghis Khan, give them a good, hard kick in the shin.

Related Resources

Gather Competitive Intelligence: 5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace

Prospect Marketing: Nurturing leads lost to competitors

Competitive Messaging: Tell your customers what you can’t do

Online Reviews: How to start discovering your value proposition with Yelp

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Research And Measurement Tags: , , ,

  1. Ugur Ongor
    May 18th, 2012 at 04:27 | #1

    Hi Daniel,

    Excel template is composed of xml files and there is no xls document in it.

    Am I doing something wrong?



  2. Selena Blue
    Selena Blue
    May 18th, 2012 at 08:00 | #2

    Hi @Ugur Ongor,

    We uploaded the original file, which was created as a .xlsx. If you have an older version of Excel, then you might would have some issues. We have now added the template in a .xls file as well, but there may be some functionality lost with the version differences. I hope this helps.

    Let me know if there’s something I else I can do to help.


  3. May 18th, 2012 at 14:48 | #3

    Great post Daniel. Do you have an email address you could send me to get in touch with you? Thanks, Jason

  4. May 21st, 2012 at 08:48 | #4

    You can reach me at Editor AT MarketingSherpa DOT com

  5. Peter Altschuler
    May 23rd, 2012 at 18:25 | #5

    Ellison once told his sales force that Oracle’s competitive objective was to “cut off their oxygen,” but the quote you attribute to him was stolen from Gore Vidal (“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”) who said it in the late 1970s.

  6. March 7th, 2013 at 04:41 | #6

    I have learn several excellent stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you place to make such a magnificent informative web site.

  7. Neil Shah
    May 30th, 2013 at 02:21 | #7

    Very good templates.
    Any suggestions for technical evaluations of industrial software products? And specially B2B products?

  8. August 22nd, 2013 at 04:38 | #8

    I like these templates very interesting. Please update me with the current ones.

  9. Megan
    October 1st, 2013 at 03:46 | #9

    The templates are a fantastic help!
    Any suggestions or participants occupying the Mobile and or Application Development space?

  10. November 21st, 2013 at 10:14 | #10

    Thanks for these – very helpful. Do you have any thoughts on the usefulness of a visual competitive mapping vs a more linear competitive analysis? When do you think you should use each one?

  11. March 27th, 2015 at 04:52 | #11

    Great article!

  12. December 1st, 2015 at 10:14 | #12

    I think those templates are really good to get a start. But I think competitive intelligence in year 2015 includes a new strong component of monitoring marketing. This necessity comes along with the explosion f marketing channels in the digital world. Its really crucial to keep track of successful campaigns of the competition and to understand what is working within the target audience.

  13. June 23rd, 2017 at 10:04 | #13

    Thanks for reading and commenting Oleksandr. I agree, a competitive analysis isn’t a one-and-done activity. The marketplace is always changing. For example, anyone who conducted an analysis of the grocery marketplace a few months ago would probably be well served by understanding how recent developments change their competitive position in the marketplace.

  14. June 23rd, 2017 at 10:25 | #14

    I’m a big believer in properly attributing a quote, so thanks for questioning the source.

    Based on your comment, I did some further digging, and found this article on Quote Investigator (a website sourced by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other publications): http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/08/06/succeed-fail/

    According to the article, the first usage of a pretty similarly phrased idea was in 1959 by Somerset Maugham. Gore Vidal didn’t actually say it (he said the similar “Every time a friend succeeds I die a little.” but in an article by Wilfrid Sheed in The New York Times about Vidal, he uses the similarly phrased idea and credits it to La Rochefoucauld.

    And then in 1988 Larry Ellison said, “It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail” and crediting his paraphrase of the quote to Genghis Khan.

    While this seems like it’s an authoritative source, I’m not 100% sure if is exactly accurate. I think the big picture is that, while many have had this idea through history, whether the idea started with Genghis Khan, La Rochefoucauld or Somerset Maugham, this is roughly the way Larry Ellison used to subscribe Oracle’s competitive stance.

    While I disagree with the extreme nature of this sentiment, I do agree that it is important to keep an eye on your competition. After all, your value proposition is relative to other value propositions in the marketplace and dynamically changes as your competitors’ value propositions change as well.

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