We have now covered four of the simple steps for creating your marketing plan: Step #1: Create a Unique Selling Proposition, Step #2: Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse which addresses the logical sequence of events in the planning process and #3: Establish Your Sweet Spot which revolves around your defining your target audience and Step #4: Articulate Your Brand.
The next step you want to consider in your marketing plan is a thorough investigation of your competition.
While your competitive intelligence fact-finding mission may take some time investment, it is worth it to do your homework by researching those other brands out there who occupy the same space in the marketplace. There are so many tools available to you, particularly online. In fact, it can be actually be a bit of a double-edged sword--both easy and overwhelming at the same time.
Overall, you want to get a 360-degree view of what your competition is promoting and all of the tools they are using in their arsenal (website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, mobile, press, etc.).
Social media is also a great resource-log onto Facebook and Twitter to eavesdrop on your competition’s conversations. Not only can you see the latest news/products they are promoting, you can also explore what customers are saying about them. This may give you clues to some weak points that you can leverage as a competitive advantage.
Leverage search tools. Look at how your competitors are found online for cues about where you want to (and don’t want to) be yourself.
Your plan can start very broad on the macro level with global or national brands. This is an excellent way to also get new inspiration for things you could modify for your own business. Ultimately you would look at the micro level to see what your local competition is doing. If your business has an e-comm component, then you will need to be looking at the vast array of competitive brands online as your competitive universe.
If your business is local, you can also tap word of mouth to learn more about your competition and customers’ first-hand experiences doing business with your competitors.
The more informed you are about your competition’s offerings and promotional strategies, the better equipped you will be to find the white space so that you may offer what they do not (or to better them on price), and to promote your brand in new and exciting ways that your competition has not considered.