There’s an old Gypsy saying heard around the campfire: “speed can be a friend or your enemy.”
This is so applicable to small to mid sized companies today.
Rapid change and global markets are defining how business grow and compete.
Competitive Analysis is Critical in the High Speed Digital Age
- It’s truly a spy vs. spy world and don’t think it isn’t.
- Don’t take your competitors for granted. They may be bigger, smarter and much more sophisticated than you think.
- If your biggest competitor(s) are big don’t assume they are “dumb” - their internal bureaucracy may be slowing them down.
- Paranoia can be a good thing (see Andy Grove). Use it to keep you focused on what’s going on around you.
- The old saw about not belittling your competitors is still germane in today’s blurred lines world. Don’t fall into this trap.
- Global markets are volatile and what you don’t see on the radar screen can kill you faster than what you do see.
Four Great Services for Competitive Intelligence Monitoring
Rival IQ: Good Competitive Insights Monitoring with plans from $99. to $399.
BuzzSumo: shows you the most shared links and key influencers for any topic or website.
SpyFu: stellar service for doing a deep dive into when, where and how direct competitors are advertising.
MailCharts - the only and best way to monitor what your direct competitiors are doing with email marketing.
SiteAlerts provides basic web site, keyword and social media monitoring; cost effective plans with under $100. USD per month.
Finding, motivating and retaining great people is a challenge for many of you.
Most of you are operating cost-driven lean business models.
Outsourcing, virtual assistants and/or using freelancers are growth drivers for small business. But, non disclosure agreements give you little protection with most freelancers or smaller agencies.
So, pick and choose carefully and know offshore is not always a good idea.
Noise is Everywhere in today’s Digital Din Driven World
Brand (what makes you special) and positioning or the lack thereof, can make or break your business.
Grasp “intersection marketing” to build a digital brand: where do your targeted consumers make buying decisions and how do you reach them?
All content has to be published with a rinse and repeat cycle. Envision a crowded intersection in rush hour. Getting heard is tough but doable.
Social media has a high cost for every business: it can be distracting for your staff and exec management team.
Remember one bad customer review on Yelp (or anywhere) can and does drive negative perception of your brand. Use social listening monitoring tools and address any all issues as soon as they percolate up to the surface.
Why Crowd-funding is in vogue Especially for Raw Startups
On Kickstarter only 11% of projects finished having never received a single pledge, 79% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded.
But, don’t believe the hype in the marketplace about how easy it is to micro finance your company on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. It’s not. If you get traction, it’s a good way to test pre-sales of any produc; but, getting scale on these platforms requires savvy marketing like any other social community.
Expect to spend 20-40 hours setting up a campaign. Be aware, customer support can be challenging and the platforms don’t work as advertised. If your brand/business has no social profiles in place it’s going to be much more challenging, requiring paid ads and PR.
Think of rewards based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter as the wild wild west, with no regulatory issues overshadowing capital raises/revenue generation.
Great Content Not Heard is Content Not Written
Make sure Your Business Makes the Distinction Between Publishing and Syndicating Content
So much is written about how to write great content, self included. Yes, if your content is funky it’s not going to get traction. But, if it’s never seen, you’re losing the battle.
Syndicate and publish your content aggressively - 20-30% of your time and marketing budget should be spent on syndication and publishing activities and channels.
Once it’s been uploaded to your own site and indexed (attributed to your brand) by Google then syndicate the hell out of it, with rinse and repeat cycles.
- HootSuite: Very popular content syndication platform & supports Twitter, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn and even WordPress; good for scheduling but can be a bit challenging for Team Collaboration, incorporates good baseline functional analytics; but, for Facebook “can’t access Liked pages” requiring toggling.
- Sprout Social: Only supports 2-3 Channels, on-board analytics are good; bit pricey for the functionality.
- IFTTT: Not pure play syndication platform; uses “channel” building blocks to create “triggers” and “actions” – think of this as a cool “DIY” platform for building custom ways to move content around.
- Zapier: Same functionality as IFTTT: User Interface is a bit more polished than IFTTT and supports 30-40% more web apps; no onboard “recipes” and expect to pay $15-30. per month for achieve real productivity.
- Buffer: Supports all top tier social channels (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), great for scheduling updates; has over 50 apps integrated with the platform that drive competitive advantage; great TOS, pricing is reasonable and c/service is excellent; have now integrated Google Analytics with platform.
- Outbrain: Brands can syndicate content (sponsorships) across other top tier sites as “sponsored” or “suggested” – solid platform for publishers and bigger brands. Paid content syndication. Taboola is a direct competitor with similar terms of services.
- Content Blvd: supports submission of sponsored or guest posts to blogs and third party sites your brand approves of; utilizes their own dashboard for managing content publishing.
- Gravity: Promote your content to targeted audience demographics (has built in API for publishers) across several hundred thousand sites, has nifty “Chrome” browser plugin for consumers to personalize content.
- OneSpot: Owned or “earned” content is converted to optimized “spots” (think very targeted ads) on third party sites and social networks. Hybrid publishing/content syndication platform.
- ShareThis: Create account via web site (free and paid up-sell) for brand analytics tracking; the absolute best way to share “one off” content via a browser (plug in), with built in “automation” for LinkedIn Groups, which is cool.
Putting Speed to Work for Your Business
Your infrastructure (domain name setup, hosting, server, email, marketing platforms, forms, apps) are critical assets and drive competitive advantage.
Organize your Content Marketing and Team with an Editorial Calendar (download and go link).
Go through a formal Customer Review Persona Analysis and turn this into a poster and put it in major room in your office.
Use Visual Content to Reach Clutter Connected Consumers
Most small businesses have insufficient raw data to make good marketing decisions.
A/B testing, landing pages and analytics are all part of the equation. But, it takes transaction volumes to make really informed decisions.
Be prepared to make “on the fly” decisions about marketing strategy and tactics.
Have some idea of what your direct competitors are doing: site, social accounts, content strategy, media spend. Then, adjust your marketing tactics accordingly.
Know the difference between publishing your content (other sites, newsletters, mentions, etc.) vs. syndicating content (using marketing platforms or paid syndication).
Make sure you tactically execute and don’t forget to do a dive into where your direct competitors are advertising and publishing.
Create smart persuasive content for connected consumers: use high impact images, build in facts, links and data and integrate calls to action.
Know distraction rules and smart small businesses have to target their marketing as never before to get heard.
Googlize your marketing when/where you can: you are never confused on Google’s site, for good reason.
Invest 75% of your marketing expenditures with digital assets where you have “command and control.”
Grasp Renting vs. Owning in a Marketing Context
Your renting on social media platforms. But, you own your web site and content (intellectual property). Budget marketing expenditures accordingly.