How well does your online marketing measure up against the competition? Do you know? When was the last time you actually checked?
One of the best ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your online marketing strategy is to see how your tactics and messaging compare to your competitors.
Benchmarking is at the heart of every one of my client engagements. It’s a way to identify specific and tangible examples and suggestions to help you make improvements and/or validate the things you’re already doing right.
What’s the best way to compare your local marketing against your competitors?
Identify your top three competitors
Who are they? Why are they on your list? You might find it hard to narrow down to only three in the beginning, but typically that’s going to make it so much easier for you to do some in-depth analysis.
Review their websites
Unlike a brochure or other print materials that can be difficult to get your hands on, websites are readily available and can provide a direct window into their marketing soul.
Be subjective. Try to take a step back and look at everything through the eyes of a prospective customer.
Is there anything that jumps out on their homepage? Think about first impressions. It could be their logo, their tagline, their navigation, etc. What are their key messages (ex. “Established 1975” or “Your hometown….”) and how do they compare to yours? Are they using images to showcase products and services effectively? What else could they improve?
Google your business
Use search terms you think customers would use to find you online.
When your business pops up, compare your meta description—the little blurb of text that appears under your business name and link on the results page.
Is your meta description more persuasive than your competitors? Less persuasive?
How can you make improvements to increase the likelihood that someone will actually click on your link?
Of course we can’t talk about Google without talking about SEO (search engine optimization). When it comes to your business being seen in the search results, you need to make sure you have all of the right blocking and tackling in place. This ecommerce SEO 101 video series from Shopify is a great place to start.
Review their social media presence
If they’re on Facebook, how are they using their cover photo to highlight their offerings? What types of content are they sharing (and how often)? Are people commenting and sharing their posts with others?
Don’t mistake social media “activity” for action. I see a lot of small businesses fixate on how many “Likes” or “Followers” they have on Facebook and Twitter—but ultimately neither of those mean anything if the “Likes” and “Followers” aren’t getting your phone to ring or getting people to buy your products.
Review online directory listings
Positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Foursquare can give your competitors a huge edge. If you only have a couple of reviews, encourage customers to check you out the appropriate platforms. Just be sure you follow their specific guidelines so you don’t violate any terms. With Yelp, for example, you can’t ask customers for reviews.
Make sure you claim your business listing if you haven’t already done so. Complete all of your profile information including your hours, services, forms of payment, etc. You’ll also want to add some photos to give your profile visual interest. That way when your business does appear in search results, you’ll be way more competitive.
The Benefits of Benchmarking
It’s difficult (if not impossible) to know how your business stacks up against the competition unless you periodically benchmark against your peers.
The sources mentioned above are just a few of the many places I look when performing an indepth online marketing analysis for my clients. And those sources will also help you identify what you’re already doing well, where you can make improvements, and how you can continue to differentiate your small business and your marketing efforts from your competitors.
In other words, it’s definitely worth your time.
How do you compare your local marketing against your competitors?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Andrew E. Larsen]