On the right side of the picture, a man in glasses and a white button-up shirt sits at a table and uses a teal pen to point to a line chart on the screen of an electronic tablet. To his left, three other people in businesswear, also seated at the table, look at him with concentration.
When assessing your competitors, go beyond just one key metric. Analyze elements like their reputation among customers, who and how they hire, and their digital presence. — Getty Images/EmirMemedovski

When you conduct a competitive analysis, you’ll need to spend time identifying your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. On the surface, this seems like a relatively straightforward task. However, there are many facets of each merchant that you could evaluate. How do you approach assessing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?

Many business owners start with the “four Ps” of the marketing mix and branch out from there. Here’s a useful framework to help you assess your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as some key resources to help you get the information you need to fuel your competitive analysis.

Start with the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion

The four Ps is a concept that originated from Harvard in the 1950s. It refers to four essential factors that play a role in marketing a product or service to consumers. The four Ps are:

  • Product: What is your competitor’s product like? How is the quality? What features does it offer, especially compared to yours and the rest of the market?
  • Price: How much is the competitor charging for the product? Do their prices vary depending on the channel partners? What is their discount policy? Can you tell their pricing model?
  • Place: What is their geographic reach? Do they have a similar service area to yours? Do they have an online store, brick-and-mortar locations, or both?
  • Promotion: What are their sales tactics? What marketing campaigns are they running? What is their social media presence?

To find information about the four Ps, put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Consider visiting their store in-person or online. Research the competitor’s social media channels and website. You may even decide to buy one of their products to compare quality, features, and pricing to your offering.

You may not think that a competitor’s product quality measures up, but if a customer is satisfied, that’s what matters.

Add in a few other key metrics

Don’t limit yourself to the four Ps. There are other factors that influence the customer experience and their purchase decision. It can also be helpful to look deeper into “how the sausage is made” — how does the competitor’s business operate differently than yours?

[Read more: 6 Steps to Performing a Competitive Analysis]

As you consider the customer experience, look at your competitor’s reputation and positioning. Who is their target market? How are they defining their product in a unique way, relative to the rest of the market? What are people saying about your competitors on online review sites?

In addition, look at the inner workings of your competitors to see where they may have an operational advantage. See how many employees the organization has, what positions they are hiring for, and their suppliers. For example, are their shipping partners offering better rates than yours?

Look at your competitors’ career sites, LinkedIn, Yelp, social media channels, Google reviews, and Glassdoor pages to understand more about their inner workings.

Rank your competitors on a common scale

It can be helpful to standardize the way you assess each competitor so you have an objective view of the market landscape. Create a matrix that scores your competition on common criteria on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst and one being the best. For instance, if a competitor has a great returns policy that customers mention frequently in their online reviews, give that business a one.

It’s important to approach this matrix through the eyes of the consumer. You may not think that a competitor’s product quality measures up, but if a customer is satisfied, that’s what matters. Customer perception plays a major role in sales and brand preference.

[Read more: Bed Bath & Beyond Tackles Heightened Pricing Competition Amid Quicksilver Online Sellers]

Assess what the results mean for your company

Finally, look at the scores in your matrix to see where there could be an opportunity for your business to gain traction. Perhaps you notice that customer service scores in your industry are low across the board. Or you see that all your competitors are using the same supplier. How can you adjust your business strategy to provide better service or avoid the risk of supplier delays?

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 19, 2022