By Juli Durante

In business, watching competitors is generally a good idea - but perhaps not in the way you think. Effectively, it’s essential to understand your competitors, what they do, and why they do it, but it’s a mistake to obsess over your competitors and every action they take.

How do you know what to look at, how often to consider it, and what you can actually forget about? Here’s a sanity-saving shortlist of what you should be looking at:

Products/Services

Watch it:

It’s a good idea to know how your products and services differ from those offered by the competition. Have they added a new technology that you’re not ready to roll out? Is there a security vulnerability that they have not yet addressed? Knowing what action your competitors are taking in these areas can be important for sales and marketing messages.

Forget it:

When your competitor has a new product, service, or feature, don’t scramble to copy it. First, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Does it actually help our customers?

  • Does this make sense for our business?

  • Do we have the time and budget necessary for development?

  • Does it support our value proposition?

  • Do we already have a partner who offers it?

Of course, there are times when radical new features become the new standard (iPhone, anyone?). In these cases, it’s important to diversify your offerings - but still stay true to your core reasons for doing business and helping your customers.

Content

Watch it:

Always take a look at the kind of content your competitors produce. Are they blogging, writing case studies, creating infographics, releasing eBooks, or performing other marketing activities? What is the overall quality of their content? Are they using their content to generate leads (the same leads that you want to convert on your website)? How do your competitors position their solution in the world?

These are all important considerations when looking at competitors’ content. They give you a baseline for how your competitors communicate. They can give you ideas for blog posts or premium content. They can provide an example of how you don’t want to position your product.

Forget it:

Don’t blatantly copy everything your competitors do. If they release an eBook or blog post on a particular, you aren’t obligated to do the same. In fact, there may be many reasons why you don’t want to cover that topic. Ultimately, visitors will engage with your content because it is unique and speaks to their needs, so focus on that instead.

Media Mentions

Watch it:

It’s not a bad idea to set up some Google Alerts for your competitors’ names or brands so you know if they’ve been mentioned in a news article or have released a new product. If many people are talking about your competitors, you should know - it may be important information for your business or industry in general.

Forget it:

Again, don’t be obsessive. If a journalist writes about a competitor, that’s not an open invitation to spam them with tweets and news releases asking for a feature. Just like your customers and leads, journalists are humans who are looking for the right information at the right time.

The Bottom Line

Too often, companies are so focused on the competition that they forget to be themselves. They’re chasing competitors and not standing on their own two feet. Never lose sight of what your company does and why you do it - that’s why employees show up every day and customers are happy to keep working with you.

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Juli Durante

About the author

Juli Durante was formerly a team lead and marketing strategist for SmartBug Media. She has been using HubSpot and practicing inbound marketing since 2011, first as a one-woman inbound marketing team and then at SmartBug. A born and bred Jersey girl, she's a graduate of Rutgers University where she studied Anthropology, Art History, and Classics, making a very natural transition to digital marketing. Juli's education helped her learn more about research, analysis, and Jasper Johns, which she applies today when planning and measuring campaigns. She's particularly passionate about CRO and website optimization. Read more articles by Juli Durante.

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