I'm sure you've heard that expression "Same Stuff-Different Day!" in one form or another. You've probably used it yourself. And...since we just started a brand new year, why don't we rewrite that phrase in a more positive way? Let's go with, "Better Stuff-New Day!"

Now that we're starting off the new year with a brand-new mindset...let's also change the mindset of our marketing approach by analyzing our competition.

Analyze Your Top Five Competitors' Marketing & Business Activities

Pick who you think are your top five competitors and start paying careful attention to what they do.5

There is an "official" name for this exercise, and it is called a competitive analysis. This type of analysis can be very helpful in identifying trends in your industry. Plus, it provides both offensive and defensive strategic context to identify opportunities and threats to your business. Most companies are informal about this exercise, but I recommend that you type your findings into a spreadsheet or an organized template so that you can quickly compare the results.

Make a list of the things your competitors do that you like and think they are doing right. Now, make a list of the things that you don't like and think they are doing wrong.

Think about why you put those choices on each list. Was it a personal bias or do you have another reason?

Now, ask around about the things that seem to be working for them. Ask people who've done business with them. What seems to work the best?

Ask vendors that serve you and your competitors. Many times, suppliers will give you great advice because they want you to be a steady customer. Don't hesitate to ask your competition directly. Many of your competitors will be willing to tell you, as well as offer you some encouragement.

Compare the answers you get to both of your previous lists. If many of the answers fall under your "don't like" or "doing it wrong" lists-maybe you need to rethink YOUR strategy.

Keep Your Competitive Analysis Short and Easy to Update

Track the obvious items including:  products, services, fee schedules, strategy, and marketing activities.  Other items I like to track are competitors': color pallet, taglines, blog activity, target markets, principals, ratings, etc. Don't have too many items on the analysis list -- or it can be overwhelming to keep it updated.

A tip for keeping your competitive analysis updated is to commit to reviewing the results quarterly when you are reviewing your other business dashboard results. By updating the information regularly, you will be able to see trends and be proactive in your marketing efforts which will ensure your "Better Stuff--New Day" approach.

If you do find that your strategy needs revamping...don't worry! During the next few posts, we'll give you the tools to do just that. It's called a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, and we'll show you how it's done.

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