Increase the strength of your brand by finding and filling brand gaps with competitor researchPosted on August 8th, 2019 by Mark Stecker
What makes a great hotel?
In the late 1980s, Marriott’s executive team spent six months traveling around the United States to find this out.
The executive team researched its competitors in economy accommodation. They checked a range of details from how soundproof the rooms were to the softness of the towels. After completing their analysis and developing a list of best practices from their findings, Marriott launched its new economy hotel chain, Fairfield Inn and Suites. Thanks in large part to the research, Fairfield opened to occupancy rates well above average.
Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott is now a big name in hotels. Marriott was successful because it did the research, found gaps in the market, and gained a competitive advantage by filling those gaps.
The takeaway? You don’t need a new invention to be successful. If you do competitor and consumer research, you’ll naturally find gaps in the marketplace where customers’ wants and needs are being overlooked.
How can you use research to make your brand a success?
Keep up with market shifts through continual research
71% of companies who exceed revenue and lead goals have documented personas, Understanding B2B Buyers, Cintell
Consumer research is key to keeping up with shifts in the market. It’s also an ongoing process. Consumers change, as do your target market and the economy. Your brand’s story is constantly unfolding. To stay relevant, it’s important to understand consumer trends and wants. What questions are essential to understanding your customers?
- What brands are available to them?
- Where do they seek advice?
- What factors influence their decision-making?
Answering these questions will help you better understand your buyers and better target them with your sales and marketing efforts. But, this type of buyer research can be narrow without also looking into your competitors. How can you perform solid competitor research and round out your knowledge of the market?
Your guideposts for strong competitor research
To improve your brand’s alignment with the public using competitor research, you need to do three things: Investigate the competition, identify gaps, and take action. Let’s talk about what each of these means.
1. Investigate the competition
When Starbucks entered the Chinese market, the coffee giant painstakingly researched the local culture and customs. Starbucks looked for gaps to fill in culture, geography, politics, and socioeconomics. Unique aspects of its final brand strategy included integrating local teas and using a high price strategy to attract Chinese customers.If, like Marriott or Starbucks, you have months to travel and research, then go for it. Otherwise, you may have to use more low-cost methods. Start by investigating your competitor’s digital presence. Check both their website and other social platforms.
To gain further insight into the competition, you need to analyze what they’re doing. What content, materials, and advertising are they using? What’s going on in the mind of their marketing department? What motivates their customers to make a purchase? To fully understand their customers, you have to put aside assumptions and think like them.
2. Identify gaps
As you research your competitors, do you see potential gaps that you can fill? For example, Starbucks in China found that no competitors were bridging the gap between the tea drinking culture and the coffee drinking culture and decided to fill the gap. Marriott found there was an untapped demand in economy hotels. The key to finding gaps isn’t simply creating products that don’t exist. It’s creating products that fill customer needs and wants.
Other potential market gaps include SEO and social media. Today’s consumers research online before buying and companies that dominate digital mediums are market leaders in the minds of prospects. How has this affected the market? Chief marketing officers are spending more on these new digital strategies than ever before. They realize that the gap created by technological advances shouldn’t be ignored. Are there similar gaps in your industry?
3. Take action
Once you understand the gaps in your market, you need to take action. Use this knowledge in your own company to make adjustments and set goals that promote business growth.
Consider Beiersdorf’s personal-care brand NIVEA. Its research identified a need for underarm beauty products targetting 18-35 year old women who were beauty-orientated, followed fashion and looked for products with extra benefits. However, no competitor was actively targeting this demographic. Taking action, NIVEA developed the Pearl and Beauty, deodorant and successfully filled the gap.
Do you currently see a gap that no other competitor is filling? It takes courage to take the leap and venture into uncharted territory, but courage can be key to driving innovation and solving real problems for consumers in your industry.
Don’t do it alone; leverage market research
There’s a catch-22 in competitor research. How do you know there’s a gap to fill if you don’t have the research? Yet, why do the research if you think there aren’t any gaps to fill?
While you might think there are no gaps, it’s difficult to know that for sure without conducting market research. This is difficult since entrepreneurial types are used to tackling problems alone and it’s hard to invest when there aren’t any perceived benefits. However, by continually researching your competitors, you’ll gain a better understanding of what your customers want.
When you know what customers want, you can find gaps that lead to innovation. Competitor research gives your organization an edge in a crowded marketplace and keeps you relevant for years to come.