How to Start Your Competitive Analysis

I promised you last week that I'd write a post about doing competitive analysis, so that we could answer three very important questions.

  1. Where are you in the competitive space?
  2. Who are the other players and what do they offer right now?
  3. How are they getting the word out?
Today, I'm going to tackle the second question only. This is usually the most practical place to start. After all, you can't answer the other two questions until you know the answer to this one. A few thoughts on this:

  • Don't forget that your customer always has the option not to buy whatever it is you're marketing. This is actually your first, and your largest competitor. You'll have to overcome your customer's resistance to spending money, eating dessert, going shoe-shopping, getting a manicure, etc., etc. Don't worry, I'll cover this in a future post.
  • Next it's time to look at where people are buying products similar to yours, as well as products that are different than yours, but solve the same problem. For example, if you sell pies, don't just look to other piemakers. Check out cake bakeries, and any other place people might get dessert - ice cream shops, cupcake trucks, regular restaurants, and the grocery store.
  • Look carefully at product offerings by the competitors you've identifed. What's different about your pie? How does it solve the problem of what to eat for dessert better than other pies? What other problems can be solved with pie? Are there better ingredients? Is it handmade? Is it a great value? Is it customizable? Is it more convenient? Also, why is pie a better choice for dessert than cake, ice cream, or anything else?
These are thoughts to get you started as you begin your own competitive analysis. If you have any questions, please let me know.

What is Story Marketing and How Does it Work?

If you've been doing any research on marketing trends lately, you've probably seen a lot of buzz around story marketing.

Story marketing sounds good, but what the heck is it?

Well, one thing that most people don't know about me is that I love TV commercials. A great commercial is 30 seconds of art - it can make you laugh or even cry (remember those old AT&T commercials?).  Today's commercials are chock full of story marketing.

Let me give you a few examples of story marketing commercials I saw tonight:

  • A woman uses her new, cheaper home phone service to stay in touch with her mom in a foreign country.
  • A man uses his fast mobile device with great picture quality to say goodnight to his son while he's away on a business trip.
  • A woman uses an online dating service that helps her find the right person to marry, rather than just reviewing photo after photo and trying to make a decision.
  • A man uses his credit card's concierge service to send his parents a special gift after they are transferred to another country and they feel homesick.
  • A couple meet, get married, move in together, and start a family while their insurance company helps them meet their changing needs.
So, what's the commonality here?

Every product is connected to a person and their life story. There's the story of the woman who wishes she could talk to her mother more often, but doesn't want her phone bill to get out of control. There's the man who' s working hard to advance his career and always makes time to say goodnight to his children.

Why does this work?

Story marketing works because it connects people to products. It places the product in the context of a life. It allows us, the consumers, to see ourselves using this product and having it improve our lives. It makes the ad personal, to you and me.

So what's your story? I'd love to hear it.

Related Posts:
Creating Your Brand Story
Writing Your Own Customer Stories

Why Marketing is not Sales

One endless source of confusion for business owners is the difference between marketing and sales. As I said in my first post:

Marketing is NOT sales. Marketing is your sales strategy. Marketing is a disciplined plan as to how you will identify your audience, assess their unmet needs, and communicate to them how your service or product can meet those needs.
Basically, Marketing is the how of how you sell. It's strategic:
  • Determining where your business exists in the competitive space;
  • Defining your unique offering;
  • Clarifying your brand; and
  • Defining your audience...

And it's also tactical:
  • Developing lists of contacts;
  • Creating or updating your online presence;
  • Designing other marketing materials if you need them;
  • Creating your marketing calendar; and
  • Executing that calendar
To have great sales, you must support your sales activities with a strong marketing strategy.

So here's the first question. Where are you in the competitive space? Who are the other players and what do they offer right now? How are they getting the word out?

OK, that was three questions.

You'll need to figure out the answers to them all (or ask for help).  I'll tell you more about competitive analysis in a future post.

What IS Marketing?

Some of my clients are small businesses - tiny businesses, in fact. My clients in these tiny businesses are experts at what they do - and they do amazing things all the time. They are some of the smartest, most innovative, most creative people I know. But marketing gives them the shakes. What is it about marketing that's so scary? Here are a few common misconceptions people have about marketing and a few hints about how to get started:

1) Marketing is NOT sales. Marketing is your sales strategy. Marketing is a disciplined plan as to how you will identify your audience, assess their unmet needs, and communicate to them how your service or product can meet those needs.

2) Marketing is NOT rocket science. See above. It's about planning, getting organized, and executing. You already know your customers and you already know your product. Now you just have to get the two together.

3) Marketing is NOT impossible! See 1 &2. Be organized, be disciplined, and be action-oriented. Each step you take gets your customers closer to your product.

4) You don't have to go it alone. You can begin with Ad Age's list of 150 best marketing blogs or work with a marketing consultant like me to make a plan and get it done.