Every good business strategy incorporates regularly scheduled data gathering on competitors and potential market threats. Information on your competitors’ latest product changes, position in the market and current approach to the sales process is invaluable. No matter the size of your business, you should be actively aware of your peers; you can bet they’re keeping up with your movements and what you have to say, too.

This eye on the market helps you keep your content informative and interesting. It’s cool to be on the bleeding edge of market activity, beating the crowd to the chase and sharing the hottest news and the latest trends. However, staying one step ahead when content marketing isn’t your core business can be exhausting. Relax- even the best content producers and thought leaders in a given industry sometimes show up late to the party.

That’s completely fine. If you’ve built a solid strategy for monitoring your competitors, you’ll have lots to write about and plenty of new ideas to explore with your audience.

Respect Your Peers

You know who your best competitors are. They’re the companies who are good enough at what they do to nab potential clients out of your pipeline by offering similar services at similar costs.

Want to get a step ahead? Pick a few leaders in your market. Spend some time compiling  information about their marketing approach, social media and content development activities. When writer’s block strikes, use this information to generate new ideas.

Sourcing the Competition

Read through the blogs or social media updates of five competitors you respect. If there aren’t five similar firms in your market, broaden your scope and look for companies like yours in other cities. If you ever run out of ideas for new content or fall behind the ball on the latest news, these are the businesses you want to catch up with to get back up to speed.

Once you pick your top five thought leaders, keep a spreadsheet for your research called “(YEAR) (MONTH) – Competitor Topics” if you want to track competitors on a monthly basis. Keep a different tab for each competitor.

The objective of this task is to track content trends over a longer period of time and determine what’s working for your competition. Spurring new ideas for your content is a secondary benefit.

Track these metrics in your sheet:

  • Content Title. Is the title engaging and informative?
  • Author. Does your competition use a content team or do they publish under one brand name?
  • Important Keyword(s). This is the secret sauce! What words do you think your competition is trying to capitalize on? Do you have the expertise to write about this topic?
  • Product or Service. Is this piece about a product or service you also offer? How can you write effectively on this topic, too?
  • Newsworthiness. If the content is about a breaking news story or industry breakthrough, what new information can you add to the conversation?

Complementary Content

Now that you have a firm grasp on what your competition is talking about, start writing content that compliments the current industry narrative. This is where your creativity gets a chance to shine through. If you’re sourcing your competitions’ topics, you definitely weren’t the first one to scoop the latest story or the newest information. Instead of parroting the ideas of major thought leaders, take the time to develop your brand’s take on situations and developments.

Let’s pretend you’re a company that offers commercial sandblasting services. A revolutionary new blasting apparatus hits the market and your competition got the scoop because they are a premier partner with the engineering company. You can still add plenty of interesting content to the conversation- simply shape your message around how you will use the new machinery to offer a higher quality of service to your customers at an improved rate.

Always bring your content back to how your services benefit the customer, even if your competitors have beaten you to the information. The playing field is full of competition monitoring the things you do. Make sure you’re aware, prepared to play hard and always ahead of the game.

Build Offline Relationships

Building respectful relationships with your peers can lead to valuable streams of revenue if you take the time to nurture them. Try incorporating some of these tactics into your interactions with competitors:

  • Send a hand written congratulatory message to a competitor who hits a news-worthy milestone. They might return the favor by spreading the word about your next accomplishment.
  • Be upfront about your referral process and share the wealth. Change a competitor into a successful strategic partner to lighten your load or move clients who may not be a good fit for your business.
  • Share the things your competitors are writing about. If it catches on with your audience, you know it’s time to capitalize on the trend.

Do you have an effective strategy for monitoring competitors’ news and content? What works best for your business?