Competitive Research in Content Marketing
While there’s real truth to the idea that if you stay focused on doing content marketing well, there’s no reason to worry about what anyone else is doing. But that overlooks the fact that operating in a vacuum — or an echo chamber — poses its own risks. With that in mind, I’ll offer thoughts on how to use competitive research to keep tabs on your competition and the marketplace.
What Kind of Competitive Research Should I Do?
Competitive research is an idea that covers a lot of ground and there are many tactics that fall under the competitive research umbrella. So how do you know whether to examine competitors' social media presence? Their website? Publications? Tradeshow and webinar activity? The list is as endless as the marketing tactics in your industry and most of us simply don’t have the resources to tackle them all.
Rather than spreading yourself too thin, I recommend that you focus on two things:
- The marketing channel or method most important to your business
- The marketing channel or method most productive to your competitors
The first is easy enough to define and should guide your tactical decisions. (More on this in the next section.) The second may take some thought, research, and even a bit of guesswork on your part. Even with that uncertainty, the information you can gain is worth the grain of salt with which you’ll need to take it.
The easiest path is to determining where a competitor is most effective is to see where they are most active. If it’s important to their marketing, they’re likely to be participating actively and on a regular schedule.
That said, without solid knowledge of their operation, you can’t know how tight a marketing ship they might run. Activity doesn’t always mean effectiveness. In fact, it can simply be a comfort zone that they’re unwilling or unable to push beyond. Bear that in mind and look a little deeper at the quality of their work in a given channel and not just the quantity.
How Should I Do the Research?
With so many different potential areas to research, there are lots of tactical options. Begin by eavesdropping. Not 1940s-private-eye style, with your ear pressed to the wall, but by subscribing to your competitors’ email newsletters and blog feeds, and by attending webinars and other events.
Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?
A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.
His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications.
Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")