Sneaky secrets to help you conquer the competitor landscape
Whether on Facebook, GDN or Twitter, these are the moves that you should use to entice away your rivals’ audience
Gathering and applying competitive intelligence informs your campaigns in two compelling ways.
Firstly, by paying close attention to the messaging your competitors use, the audience they’re targeting, and where they focus their efforts, you can swoop in and disrupt their marketing. Think of it as a sophisticated equivalent to the guys standing outside Apple stores holding signs that say, “50% cheaper Apple repairs over here →”. These small competitors know where their target customers will be, because Apple has spent a fortune attracting them there. All they need to do is intercept the traffic with a better value proposition and redirect these people into their own shop.
Secondly, watching how your competitors decide to market themselves, and cross-referencing this with your own research, helps you spot problems, gaps and failures in the way they do things, without making the same mistakes. You can then use this to hone your own campaigns, improving audience targeting with more relevant messages and offers.
How to use competitive intelligence in your marketing campaigns
The speed and precision of digital marketing mean you can be incredibly agile in applying what you’ve learned analyzing the competitor landscape to your own campaigns. Here are some top tactics to work into your strategy:
Focus on your competitor’s Facebook fans
Here’s an easy win to get you started: target your Facebook ad campaigns at users whose interests include your competitors’ pages (and lookalike audiences based on these users).
This allows you to identify people who actively engage with a competitor’s brand, which is useful for two reasons. First, of course, it means that they’re interested in products like yours - enough to express this on social media.
Secondly, it means that they’re already being targeted by your competitor’s marketing efforts, so they probably have a high level of awareness about what your brand’s products offer - and what they don’t. By using this tactic you can plug that gap.
Disrupting competitor’s videos with your own YouTube ads
This is a bold strategy and it certainly packs a punch. You can essentially “reply” to a pitch made by a competitor with a video of your own, even interrupting their video with your own ad!
Using Google Ads, you can bid for video ads placements in-stream on competitor’s videos, provided that they allow ads on their videos. Setting this to appear as a bumper video at the start of the video also means potential customers will see your message before your competitors’.
Even if the person skips your ad, provided you got your logo in quick, you’ll still have had the benefit of brand association, reminding viewers to look you up later (and without this eating into your marketing budget at all!)
You can also have ads appear “in-discovery”, meaning that they’ll be on the right-hand sidebar. If you do this, it makes sense to organize these into two different campaigns, as one will appear during the flow of your competitor’s video, while you may want the other to have a title that references your competitor’s video and promises to add value, enticing people to click on you next.
Using competitor’s emails against them with Gmail Ads
Retargeting ads to people who have already shown an interest in your stuff is one thing, but (re)targeting your ads at people who showed an interest in your competitor’s products? Genius!
One great but lesser-known way to do this is with Gmail Ads. These appear in the promotions tab in the personal email accounts of Gmail users.
You can actually set up keyword targeting on competitor brand terms that trigger your marketing emails to send to a person’s inbox, too. This means that if you’ve set up your competitor’s brand or product names as a keyword, if they send a marketing email, newsletter or anything else that mentions their brand name or product, it will be followed by an email from you.
If you’ve performed in-depth customer landscape research and evaluation, you can ensure that these emails specifically discuss ways in which your products have the edge over whatever your competitor just emailed that person about - and how you can offer better value than they can.
Bear in mind that this can come across as quite invasive for recipients who didn’t choose to sign up to your email list, so be upfront about why you’re emailing them and don’t overdo it!
Targeting your competitors’ audiences through Google Ads
Much like Facebook’s granular interest and behavioral targeting, when you’re advertising on AdWords you’ll get vastly better control of targeting using custom affinity audiences.
With custom affinity audiences, you have the option to create your own highly tailored audience based on their most recent web activity including search history, keywords used and website visits. If you set your competitors’ websites as a target, Google will do much of the hard work for you, allowing you to easily target users that visit your competitors’ websites.
As a result, the next time one of your competitor’s fans goes to use Google, they’ll see your name pop up, too.
This also means that you’re dealing with people who already “get” what your product is trying to do, so you can use messaging designed for a little further down the funnel (or your competitor’s funnel!). You can then seize the opportunity to draw some of these potential customers away to your brand instead.
Targeting your competitors' Twitter followers
Unlike Facebook, which tends to make it difficult to see exactly who follows a page in one place, there are tons of tools out there that let you download a comprehensive list of all your competitor’s Twitter followers. Once you have these, you can upload and target all those handles to Twitter Ads through the option “add tailored audiences”.
An added bonus compared to the Google and Facebook is that you have control over this list, so you can do a bit of pruning first to get rid of any obvious bots, people who work for the company, and so on. As well as promoted Tweets, you can also use these Twitter handles to start conversations with your competitor’s audiences, helping you to really hammer home the ways that you stand out by comparison!
With competitor targeting getting more granular and specific all the time, you really can put your hard-won competitor landscape intelligence to work fast. Incorporating competitor analysis into your audience analysis means learning from someone else’s mistakes and successes to strengthen your own performance. Just make sure you have the right tools and strategy in place to tease out the insights you need the most - and to stay ahead of the curve.
A version of this article has been previously published on EContent.