Know Your Competitor By Sight: How We Conducted Competitor Analysis
Increase of conversion rate. Content Marketing. Internet Marketing. Blog of Everyday Tools Company
Releasing a new product without doing a competitor analysis beforehand is like starting on a journey without any directions. Sure, you will cover some distance, but actually reaching your destination is an unlikely outcome. And yet, all too often the developers find themselves so enamored with an idea of a new application they skip the research stage altogether — perhaps due to the subconscious fear of a concept turning out unmarketable. In this article we, the developers of MaCleaner utility, would like to share our own story — a story of how after two unsuccessful releases we finally craved out a niche for ourselves on the crowded market of system optimizers for Mac.
Obviously, we are not the first team (nor the last one, most likely) to create a cleaner for Mac. Still, in our opinion the project had some good potential. Utilities of this kind belong into the standard Mac user starter kit and ‘optimization’ is a vague enough term that the feature set can be expanded and enriched endlessly. In other words, we have an audience and we have vast room for maneuverer. What’s more to ask for?
During the pilot prototype development we went through every bullet point in the book, or so it seemed. We identified the competitors, set the bar with an eye to their products, added plenty of extra features in order to be attractive among the others.
Not seeing the desired effect, for the second version we decided to go full out with the functionality. But the situation still didn’t change. Not that our debut was disastrous: in its first months on the market the product has attracted quite a few loyal users. Yet we weren’t able to lure in the masses and get the number of installs we were after. It’s only with the release of MaCleaner 3 that we finally hit our sales goal. So, what’s made MaCleaner 3 different?
The answer is simple. Before the work on MaCleaner 3 started, we had actually sat down and done detailed marketing competitor analysis in its most textbook form.
The research included three stages:
- On the first stage we answered the question: whom do we consider our competitors?
2. On the second stage: what are your competitors like?
3. On the third stage: what are our competitors doing that we are not?
Whom do we consider our competitors?
This stage took the least effort on our part — all our competitors are pretty obvious at a glance (they are listed in table below). Possibly yours are too, but it’s better not to lower your guard anyway. Sometimes dark-horse players can show up and pull ahead when you least expect it. You should always be ready for that.
What are your competitors like?
When all competitors are identified, it’s time to describe and compare. And this task turned out to be more difficult. We had tried various approaches before working out an easy and efficient algorithm.
It goes like this:
- Step one: break down the feature set of each product competitor.
2. Step two: based on that, make a separate list of features for each of them.
3. Step three: repeat the first two steps for your own product (in our case MaCleaner 3).
4. Step four: combine all the resulting lists into a table.
5.The fifth step: fill out the table, marking each of the feature as present or absent in the specific product.
That’s the table we got upon completing all the steps:
This form is very illustrative and helps to answer the following questions:
- How do competitors fare against each other in terms of functionality?
- Are any of the applications extremely similar?
- Which products have superior feature sets and which ones are dropping behind? how does it affect their respective success rates?
- Which tools can be considered a part of universal ‘baseline set’ and which ones are less common and therefore worth highlighting?
A table like this can be helpful in charting out ad campaigns, bringing into sharp relief the advantages of the app that should be demonstrated to the target audience first and foremost. In this case, apart from everything else, we have concluded we need to beat the other players to the punch. And that’s why MaCleaner 4 saw the light of the day soon after. This version tops off all the tools MaCleaner3 could boast with ergonomic design and enhanced controls system, including voice commands and some other features the users of OS Sierra might appreciate.
What are our competitors doing?
In order to answer this questions we studied all the communication channels which our competitors use. We paid close attention to:
- video reviews,
- users’ reviews in plain text,
- mentions on IT and tech resources,
- social media presence,
- descriptions on markets.
Different parameters have been taken into account:
- the number of publications, refresh rate, websites and media viewing figures,
- users’ activity on social networks,
- the type and origin of materials (i.e. a paid review vs an unsolicited mention) and so on.
From all this we got the general outlines of the promotion strategy each of the competitors is following. Some of them are focusing on video reviews and cooperating with popular YouTube bloggers. Others are amassing mentions on reputable resources. Then there are those who try to get by buying fake reviews in bulk. Thus, we could evaluate the efficiency of all these methods and take some notes for our own product. For example, we took pains to publish our pitch on some of the popular Russian IT resources. Since competitors cover a wide range of promotion platforms and create their own too, we’ve given up on our original intention to stick to Mac Store only.
Naturally, you can go the other way and plan promotion of your product without relying on the experience of competitors. But in this case you should act with caution: usually all the methods your competitors use, they use for a reason. In particular, the brand voice — this is one component of the promotion strategy which we paid close attention to. Considering that you’re all working with the same target audience, straying away from the accepted norm in your niche is risky — you might end up getting pushback.
‘In order to successfully promote a product you need to know your competitors’ — sounds like a banal statement, too reasonable not to agree with, too obvious to really think about. In times of tough competition and information accessibility even the most wide-eyed startupers don’t enter the market blindly. During the planning stage you can’t help asking yourself all the textbook questions: what will make us different? what are the users missing? what are the competitors’ vulnerabilities?
Maybe answering these questions our way will help you to build your promotion strategy. Good luck and may successful projects and competitive products be with you!