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Everything You Need to Know About Competitive Analysis (Template Included!)

When it comes to competitive analysis, scope is everything. 

If you’re just starting out, you might go broad and deep on a dozen market stalwarts (like oil painters and SEC tailgaters, building a base is imperative). If you’re shoring up existing assets based on feedback from your sales team, perhaps you’re focused on a single facet (say, partner and reseller programs) of a cross-section of the greater competitive landscape.

Either way, competitive analysis starts with diligent research and ends with insights that can be used to give your organization a leg up.

You can bet your bottom dollar that somewhere, someone is dropping your logo into a matrix of their own. This is an essential step towards winning (and continuing to do so) as a business. 

Today, we’ll talk about how to scope a competitive analysis the right way, then run through an all-but exhaustive list of 10 things you could include in a competitive analysis, and, finally, a special opportunity for you!

Let’s dig in.

SAVE TIME USING THIS COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS TEMPLATE >>

How do you write a competitive analysis?

Excellent question.

There are countless competitive analysis frameworks you can leverage (comparison tables, for example, useful in juxtaposing product features) and areas on which to focus, which makes paralysis by analysis all too common. 

A complete competitive analysis would cover every aspect of every business whose logo sits in the same matrix as your own. If you operate in a crowded industry like, say, business analytics…

complete-competitive-analysis

… yikes. 

Simply aggregating everything you’d need to conduct a competitive analysis here would be a fulltime job, and we aren’t even at the fun part yet: Turning that analysis into something actionable.

Let's Look at a Competitive Analysis Example

This is why you need guardrails. Before you begin, ask yourself:

  • Who are the competitors you’re focusing on?
  • What aspects of their businesses are you focusing on?
  • What can you generate on the heels of your analysis that will create tangible business value?
  • How will you measure success? 

For example — let’s say your business sells marketing attribution software for DTC brands using Shopify. You’ve got a solid handle on your direct competitors, but in the last quarter, your AEs have begun losing deals to a specific indirect competitor who appears to have rolled out a new product in stealth mode. You need to help them combat this threat. So, ask yourself:

  • Who are the competitors you’re focusing on?
    • A single, formerly indirect competitor (side note: probaby time for a competitive audit). 
  • What aspects of their businesses are you focusing on?
    • Since the new, competitive offering has been flying under the radar, attempting to dig into marketing tactics would likely fall short. We probably want to focus on product and sales — mainly what the key features are and how they’re being referenced in conversations with prospects. Oh, and you might want to update existing market overview collateral to reflect this newcomer.
  • What can you generate on the heels of your analysis that will create tangible business value?
    • Since we’re losing deals, let's go with a killer talk track and a battlecard. This competitor has officially gained “direct” status and should be treated as such.
  • How will you measure success? 
    • Why, by observing changes to competitive win rate in deals involving formerly indirect competitor x, of course!

And just like that you’ve learned how to write an appropriate scope of work to scaffold your competitive analysis.

The Ultimate Competitive Analysis Template

As I hope has been made clear above, competitive analysis is a malleable tool. You needn’t go a mile wide and a mile deep on every competitor every time an exec says the word “matrix” aloud. 

Pick and choose the right facets of the right competitors. Present them clearly. Use them to affect change that induces positive outcomes.

Below, you’ll find 10 such facets that you might consider using to analyze your competitive landscape. They’re broken out into five different categories: market overview, team, product, marketing, and sales.

Worth noting: This is by no means an exhaustive list (ubiquity more your speed? Download the full template here).

Market Overview

1. Matrix

Competitive matrices are visual resources that help members of your team better understand your company’s position within the market. What they lack in depth, they make up for in ease of use.

competitive-matrix

They are powerful visual tools that make it super simple for anyone to “power rank” competitors at a glance. 

It might be useful to include a matrix in your competitive analysis if, as is the case in the example from the last section, you’re attempting to contextualize a newcomer in the larger competitive landscape.

2. Funding History

This is a fun one! Financial data can be murky, especially for private companies. But we live in an age where businesses wave fundraising successes around like blue ribbons: There’s probably a press release (if not, there’s definitely something on Crunchbase).

funding-history

Information on recent raises will often include quotes from founders and investors regarding capital allocation; this can be a great way to uncover directional changes (is a competitor moving up-market? Are they focusing on mobile? Is there an acquisition on the horizon?).

Team

3. Key Execs

While all employees are valuable to their respective organizations, not all new hires are created equal. New VP and C-level hires can be powerful signals of what’s to come. Remember this guy?

john-judge-linkedin

As such, you might consider focusing your competitive analysis on key executives--arrivals, departures, and the ride-or-dies who’ve been there since day one.

4. Employee Reviews

Overall employee sentiment can be another valuable signal.

Collect this data from websites like Glassdoor, where employees leave reviews. Aggregate it over time (in a spreadsheet or, you know, Crayon), and you can begin to paint a picture of internal sentiment. 

employee-review-data

You can get granular here and go beyond average rating, to focus on recommendations, CEO approval, or total review volume. An uptick in negative reviews could mean tumult; soaring executive approval means people are drinking the Kool Aid. Use these to support the story you’re trying to tell in head-to-head deals.

Product

5. Feature Comparison

This, folks, is your meat and potatoes.

Regardless of industry or business maturity, the feature comparison table might be the most common form of competitive analysis. It’s the jumping off point for deeper competitive analysis.

feature-comparison-chartYes, the prospect-facing version gets a bad rap (feature comparison checklists are, in many cases, reductive), but for internal research that will inform your own product roadmap and how your sales reps bridge the gap between demo and close, a thorough understanding of everything your competitors can do is essential.

6. Reviews

Product reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt (you know what they say about squeaky wheels), but they can be a great tool for competitive analysis.

Aggregating reviews of your competitors and comparing them against what customers say about you can lead to prescriptive solutions for marketing, sales, and product teams.

appcues-reviews

One sneaky way to leverage negative competitor reviews to help your sales team? How about:

  • You read reviews of Competitor X
  • You notice half a dozen mentions of the fact that Competitor X’s product doesn’t do Y
  • Your product does Y!
  • You hit a handful of your customers who you’d label evangelists (they LOVE your product) and ask them to tell you about how doing Y helps their business. Ideally there’s quantitative data.
  • Weave those customer stories into a talk track that sales reps can deploy when Competitor Y is mentioned.
  • Close deals.

Marketing

7. Positioning

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid made up of five sections: Physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Tl;dr… before one can self-actualize, they must be fed and rested and safe and loved.

If we were to build a competitive analysis hierarchy of needs, positioning would live somewhere between esteem and self-actualization. 

Positioning boils down to four things: 

  • Who’s being sold to
  • What’s being sold
  • The problem a product solves 
  • How solving that problem makes someone’s life better

By studying competitors’ positioning, you can develop an understanding for how sales, marketing, and customer success discuss their product with prospects and customers. Which you can dismantle.

For my money, a positioning-focused competitive analysis might be the most impactful.

8. CTA/CRO

This one’s heavy on tactical exploration, but focusing your analysis on a competitor’s call to action (CTA) and/or conversion rate optimization (CRO) can show you what your marketing team needs to build in order to succeed at each stage of the funnel.

The essential questions that guide a conversion-focused competitive analysis include:

  • How many touchpoints are in a competitor’s sales cycle?
  • What kinds of offers is a competitor using at each stage of the funnel?
  • How often is a competitor rolling out new offers?

CTA-competitive-analysis

If you conduct a CTA-focused competitive analysis and learn that your top three direct competitors are using boring gated content to capture leads through high-intent organic search, why not build a free tool (or, say, an expansive downloadable template) that delivers tangible value and builds brand equity?

Sales

9. Partners & Resellers

Look at ten companies and you’ll find ten different approaches to partnership and reseller models. 

Understanding how a competitor leverages partners and resellers can be incredibly valuable, as it allows you to make inferences about long-term strategic decisions they’ve made. Partnerships can highlight gaps in a company’s offerings and/or point to key markets where they are looking to expand. Reseller arrangements might signal struggles to grow an in-house sales organization OR a new agency-focused product suite.

If the reseller and/or partner channel is a key strategy in your market, you may want to dig deeper and compare each company’s partnerships across different verticals and functional areas. 

10. Competitive Win Rate

Win rate is your north star (at least where competitive analysis is concerned).

It refers to the rate at which your sales team turns opportunities into customers. It’s calculated by dividing the number of opportunities you’ve won by the total number of opportunities that have been generated.

win-rate-charts

It’s the most quantitative way to determine the competitors that represent a true existential threat to your business. As such, it’s an essential tool in determining where to dig in deeper and craft collateral.

***

These are a mere handful of the possible lines of inquiry that might guide your competitive analysis. If gathering all that data looks daunting, it's probably time to check out Crayon.

crayon-software

Our best-in-class competitive intelligence platform makes it easy to stay on top of industry trends and create simple, powerful reports, allowing you to skip right to the “making cool stuff that wins deals” part.

Get Your Hand on Our Competitive Analysis Template Today

As promised… opportunity. 

While above we highlighted 10 components that might make up your competitive analysis, you should check out our 50+ page competitive analysis template

It covers each key business area reviewed in this post, along with tools and tips for presenting your analysis and turning it into an actionable blueprint (oh, and it also comes with a bonus spreadsheet template to assist in data analysis and presentation). 

What are you waiting for? Click the link above to get your hands on our insanely popular competitive analysis template today (odds are, at least one of your competitors already has).

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Madison Blask
Madison Blask is a Content Marketing Senior Specialist at Crayon, where she creates compelling content that converts. Prior to joining Crayon, Madison worked as a Senior Copywriter at CXD Studio, a proudly women-owned creative agency based in Boston, MA.
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