David Cohen: In Online Marketing, Your Competition Can Make You Smarter
By blogs.wsj.com, 09-05-2014
DAVID COHEN: As an investor, I generally advise startups to be obsessed with their products, their customers and other things that they can directly control. The number of decisions the team needs to make on a daily basis can be overwhelming. This pain is especially acute when it comes to online marketing. A marketer chooses how they describe themselves, what keywords to focus on for search, the right social channels, the best content to produce…and the list goes on.Most high-growth companies tend to find themselves in fast moving markets, where the answers to these questions change quickly.
To make better decisions, a little competitive analysis goes a long way. As a starting point, every company should develop a list of two or three direct competitors and a collection of other players to monitor and learn from. With a competitive landscape in place, here are a few ways to consider evolving a marketing strategy with an eye toward learning from your competition.
Know What to Change, When
All elements of your marketing strategy should not evolve at the same rate. Things that change slowly include overall strategy, messaging/positioning, branding, pricing, and customer acquisition tactics. These have broad implications to the business or customer perception and should be reviewed and updated quarterly. Things that may change more quickly (i.e. weekly depending on resources) include ad keyword targeting, engaging social content or public relations. By paying close attention to competition, companies have further indication on what frequency to change and are more informed on the overall direction of a market, but the key is to have a defined internal plan that is informed with external events and data.
Pick the Right Channels
With the ever expanding collection of online marketing channels (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), having a defined focus and priority is important. This is especially true given limited internal resources. In order to make the best choices, identify which channels perform best for your competitors. Products like Moz or SEM Rush are great for identifying key competitive trends on search marketing. To get a more comprehensive understanding, competitive analysis products like Rival IQ (disclosure: I am an investor) can quickly identify where competitors are present (channels), where they’re growing and what content is getting the most engagement. By using these tools, companies will increase their marketing intelligence and make more informed choices about where to focus their precious resources.
Amplify What’s Working
To improve your social and content creation success, you have to monitor which blog or social posts are getting engagement and driving traffic. Using tools like Google Analytics, Hootsuite and Buffer, and ranking content by engagement like re-tweets or favorites, a social media manager can “re-post” the best content several times or across different channels, often times broadening the audience and value of a single piece of content. In addition, you could consider promoting popular content via paid/sponsored means like sponsored Tweets. Another good and low cost strategy is to look at what’s working for other brands that target your same audience and amplify their content via your own channels. For example, if you focus on selling to sports enthusiasts, check out RedBull’s success on YouTube. You could learn a thing or two from Michael Kors’ engagement on Facebook or Lowe’s activity on Twitter. If you’re more focused on B2B, analyze companies like Hubspot, KissMetrics or Eloqua who create superior content on a variety of channels. From companies like these you can analyze the best kinds of posts from photos vs. links or the best structure like asking questions or making offers and benefit from those continued efforts.
With the combination of structure, software tools and data, marketers can make much more informed choices and improve their focus. And, with an eye toward learning from your competitors, you can make better decisions.