It's important to keep track of what your competitors are doing so you can identify trends, stay ahead of the game, and anticipate changes in the market. While you could just casually check out your competitors' websites and social media to see what they're doing, it's best to have an organized and repeatable approach. To help you with that, we've put together this guide to competitive analysis (including competitive analysis templates) you can use to conduct a competitive analysis that will help you pull the information you need to make data-driven decisions that will keep you on top of your industry.
Let's start with the basics to make sure we're all on the same page.
Guide to Competitive Analysis + Competitive Analysis Templates to Get You Started:
- What Is a Competitive Analysis?
- Why You Need a Competitive Analysis
- How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis
- Choose From Existing Competitive Analysis Templates for Easier Tracking
- Choose 7–10 Competitors
- Analyze Their Product Offering
- Determine Your Competitor's Market Share
- Calculate Their Market Reach
- Find Out if They're Meeting Customer Expectations
- Research Your Competitor's Marketing Strategy
- Detail Your Competitor's Content and Social Media
- Research Your Competitor's Tech Stack
- Conduct a SWOT Analysis
- Use a Competitive Analysis to Beat the Competition
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Competitive Analysis?
A competitive analysis is the process of identifying your top competitors, their positioning, the products and services they offer, and their strengths and weaknesses. The goal of a competitive analysis is to provide you the information you need to make data-driven business decisions, from product offerings to marketing.
Why You Need a Competitive Analysis
A competitive analysis helps you learn more about your competitors so you can find ways to perform better than them. Of course, the benefits go deeper than that. Here are some of the benefits of conducting a competitive analysis:
- Identify your unique selling proposition. This is what sets you apart from your competitors and shows potential customers why they should choose you.
- Learn more about what's working and what isn't. With a competitive analysis, you'll be able to find out what's working for your competitors as well as where they're failing. This will help you refine your offer and marketing strategy.
- Find out what your competitors' customers want. Part of a competitive analysis is checking out competitor reviews. This lets you identify gaps in your competitors' offers so you can improve your own offer and capture more of your competitors' market share.
- Establish a benchmark. A comprehensive competitive analysis gives you a benchmark against which you can track and measure your success and growth.
How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis
As you'll see from the competitive analysis templates and examples we include here, a competitive analysis can range from an overview to an incredibly detailed analysis. No matter how brief or detailed you want to be, your goal should be to create an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use document that covers the information and data that's going to be most valuable to your business. Here's how to conduct a competitive analysis, step by step.
Choose From Existing Competitive Analysis Templates for Easier Tracking
Before you start jotting down notes, you'll want to find a competitive analysis template that works for your business. There are several options, but here are some of our favorite competitive analysis templates you can use.
Competitive Analysis Template #1: Battle Card
In this competitive analysis template from HubSpot, you'll detail information about your competitors like:
- Competitor name
- Basic facts: Location, number of employees, year founded, annual revenue, number of customers
- Key products
- Pricing model
- Their unique selling proposition
- Competitor media coverage
- Competitor strengths and how your brand can beat them
- Competitor weaknesses and case studies from your customers that will help you win sales
Competitive Analysis Template #2
In this competitive analysis template from Column Five, you'll track:
- Competitor name
- Their purpose, mission, vision, and values
- The brand's look and feel
- Their value proposition or unique selling proposition
- Core products or services
- The customers they serve
- How they talk about their customers
- How they acquire customers
- Marketing, advertising, and sales channels they use
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Similarities and differences
Competitive Analysis Template #3
In this simple competitive analysis template from Shopify, you'll use a spreadsheet to track:
- The type of competitor (primary, secondary, tertiary)
- Their positioning
- Price point
- Target audience
- Key competitive advantages
- Sales channels
- Marketing strategy
- Support offering
- Number of products
- Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
Choose 7–10 Competitors
Once you've chosen a competitive analysis template, it's time to choose the competitors you're going to analyze. We recommend choosing seven–10 competitors so you have a broad range of businesses and data points. A really easy way to find your top competitors is through a simple Google search for the niche, product, or services you offer.
You might also use a consumer research platform to directly ask your ideal audience what brands come to mind when they think about your product or service, what brands they recognize (from a list you provide), brands they've bought your products and services from in the past, and more.
Analyze Their Product Offering
After you've put together your list of competitors it's time to learn more about them. This means diving into their unique selling proposition, the products they have to offer, their pricing, and their branding. You'll want to be honest about how your own branding, products, and pricing stack up as well as explore your competitors' business models. What you're looking for here is what it is that customers find appealing about your competitors.
Determine Your Competitor's Market Share
The next step is to take a closer look at your competitors' finances. For companies that are publicly held, this information is usually available on the company's website or in trading reports. You can also search for them on sites like Crunchbase, ZoomInfo, or Owler, among others.
To calculate a company's market share, divide the company's total revenue by the industry's total revenue over a fiscal period. You can then determine whether the company is growing its market share on par with or faster than competitors by comparing calculations over time.
To get a comprehensive overview of a company's market share, revenue, and value, you'll want to find and track:
- Revenue/total sales
- Funding received
- Investments mad
- Expansion plans
- Current staff, vacancies, notable new hires
- Store closures or redundancies
Calculate Their Market Reach
Market reach is how many customers your competitor has access to and includes both they can reach and those that can reach them. For online brands, you'll want to note their shipping capabilities (local only or international), the price of shipping, how long it takes, how returns are handled, and whether or not they offer free delivery. For brick-and-mortar stores, you'll want to track how many locations they have and where.
Find Out if They're Meeting Customer Expectations
Next, you're going to want to dig into reviews of your competitors to find out what they're doing right (and wrong) in the eyes of the most important people — customers. But don't just check out the reviews your competitors include on their own websites. Why would they want to highlight the bad ones? To get the full story, you'll want to check out Google reviews, Amazon reviews, Yelp reviews, or any review site that your competitor is likely to show up on.
In addition to checking out their reviews, you'll benefit greatly from checking on social media. There are several wonderful social media listening tools that make it really easy to find out the sentiment towards your competitors' brands. Along with social listening, we recommend that you take the time to read some posts and comments from and about your competitors to get a full understanding of what customers love about the brand and what they wish were different.
You can also get into other types of market research like Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a market research metric that usually involves a single survey question, asking survey respondents to rate the likelihood that they'd recommend a brand, product, or service to a friend, family member, or colleague.
Research Your Competitor's Marketing Strategy
Now it's time to dig into what your competitor is doing surrounding marketing. There are several different marketing channels your competitors might be leveraging:
- Owned media: email newsletters, blogs, podcasts, downloadable content, etc.
- Paid social: ads on social media.
- Organic social content: anything posted on social media that isn't paid for. Make a note of the social media platforms they use.
- Paid search, display, and native advertising: note the keywords that competitors are targeting with Google Ads/PPC ads as well as what banner ads they're running and the promoted content they're showing on third-party sites.
- Organic SEO: where are they showing up in organic search results and for which keywords?
- Affiliate marketing, partnerships, and sponsorships: do they run an affiliate marketing program or have a connection to other brands?
- Print or broadcast media: are they running ads in magazines or newspapers or using radio or TV spots?
- Event marketing: do they host or attend online or offline events?
- Marketing collateral: do they use direct mail, brochures, or other collateral?
- Out of home: do they advertise using billboards, buses, or other out-of-home channels?
- Influencer marketing: do they utilize brand ambassadors or influencers for marketing?
The goal is to understand where your competitors are spending their marketing dollars so you can identify the channels that are over or under-utilized.
Detail Your Competitor's Content and Social Media
In addition to understanding your competitors' marketing strategies, you'll want to know more about their content and social media. Track how many followers they have on each social media platform where they have a presence and note the engagement they get (likes, comments, and shares) as well as how often they post.
Pay close attention to the types of content their followers enjoy and engage with most. Remember, these are your competitors and, as such, their customers should be nearly identical to your target market. If they're seeing good results with a particular platform or type of content, you'll want to take over on that platform and outperform them.
You'll also want to check out the blog on their website as well as the other types of content they create. What's their blog posting schedule? Do they publish other content like infographics, whitepapers, eBooks, or guides? What lead magnets do they offer?
Take a look at a sample of the content on your competitors' websites and evaluate them based on:
- The accuracy of their content
- If the content is well-written, formatted for online readers, and grammatically correct
- The type of content they're creating (advanced ideas or basics)
- The tone they use in their writing
- Whether their content is freely available or gated
- Who's writing the content
- The quality of visuals they're using
For each competitor, note the social media platforms they're on and evaluate them based on:
- Posting frequency and consistency
- Engagement and virality
- The type of original content they're posting and its purpose (engagement, brand awareness, lead generation)
- The type of content they're sharing from others (and which others they're sharing content from)
- If/how they interact with their followers
How are your competitors promoting their marketing content? Pay attention to keywords used, keyword density, alt-text tags on images, and internal linking. You'll also want to note keyword opportunities, the backlinks they're getting (and which content is getting those backlinks).
To check engagement on your competitors' content you'll be looking at comments, likes, and shares. Pay particular attention to the types of content that tend to get more engagement and dig a little deeper to see whether that engagement is positive or negative.
Research Your Competitor's Tech Stack
We're going to shift our attention from your competitors' content and social media to the technology that they use. While it might not seem readily apparent, the tech your company uses can have an enormous impact on how your company performs. To find out what tech your competitors are using, you can use a tool like Built With (just enter the URL). You can also go full-on detective mode and explore job listings from your competitors to see which tools they want applicants to be familiar with.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
The last piece of your competitive analysis is a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It's an incredibly common and long-beloved way businesses have used to analyze both competitors and their own businesses. Here are the questions to ask for each section of the SWOT analysis:
- What are their assets?
- What is their strongest asset?
- How is their business different from mine?
- What unique resources do they have access to?
- Do they have a sustainable competitive advantage?
- What is their unique selling proposition?
- Does their business have any exclusive relationships with suppliers or distributors?
- Where do their sales and marketing teams excel?
- What skills do their employees have that our employees don’t have?
- Do they have a strong customer base?
- What things do their customers say they do really well?
- In what areas do they need to improve?
- What expertise do they lack?
- In what areas are we better than our competitors?
- Is there one customer carrying their entire company?
- How much debt do they have?
- What complaints do they regularly hear from their customers?
- What objections do they most often hear from potential customers?
- Do they have any technology or equipment that needs to be updated?
- Are they understaffed?
- Do they have any cash flow problems?
- Are their profit margins lower than ours?
- What trends might positively affect the industry?
- Is there talent available that they could hire?
- Is there a need in the industry that they're not meeting, but could?
- Can they package their products/services differently and set a higher price?
- Do we have any weaknesses that our competitors could take advantage of?
- Is our target market changing in a way that could help them?
- Is there a niche market that they're not currently targeting?
- Do their customers ever ask for something that they don’t offer, but could offer?
- Could they steal our customers by offering something we don’t?
- Is there anyone who’s not currently a direct competitor, but could become one soon?
- Are their employees happy and supported, or could they easily be poached?
- What happens if a manufacturer or supplier runs out of materials they need?
- What if a natural disaster strikes?
- Are they planning on expanding or offering new products soon?
- Is their target marketing shrinking?
Use a Competitive Analysis to Beat the Competition
In this digital age, we have more access to data than ever before. But if you don't know how to use that data, it doesn't matter how much of it you collect. Once you've put together your analysis using the competitive analysis templates of your choice, you need to do something with it. Competitive analysis will show you where your opportunities are to pull market share from your competitors, it's up to you to take action.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a competitive analysis?
A competitive analysis is an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how your own business measures up. You can use this information to gain an advantage.
What is needed for a competitive analysis?
To conduct a competitive analysis:
Choose the competitive analysis templates you want to use
Choose your 7–10 top competitors
Analyze their product offering
Determine their market share
Calculate their market reach
Find out how their customers feel about them
Research their marketing strategy
Look into their content and social media
Check out their technology
Conduct a SWOT analysis
What is a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to business competition.