Pursuing your entrepreneurial ambitions, you’ve set up an online store, and you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished. Your products are high-quality, your presentation is impeccable, your service is solid, and your prices are fair. That seems like a recipe for success, doesn’t it? Build a strong business with a decent value proposition and the results will follow.
Somehow, though, those results just aren’t there. You check and recheck every part of your business. Are all your internal links functional? Can payments go through correctly? Everything is running as it should be. You’re at a loss, completely perplexed about what’s going on, until you think to assume the perspective of a prospective customer — and then you understand.
Your business is very respectable, but a competitor is slightly outperforming you in some key ways and taking all your leads as a result. It’s incredibly rare for a company to have total control of its niche, so every move you make needs to help you stay ahead of your rivals, and that demands research. The more you know about what’s going on in your market, the more you can do to innovate and win prospects to your side.
In this post, we’re going to look at five great resources you can tap into when conducting competitor and/or market research. Let’s get started.
This should seem fairly obvious, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth mentioning, or that people habitually use Google to full effect as a research tool (they don’t). It isn’t just a utility for finding specific things: you can achieve remarkable things using the advanced search operators (Ahrefs has a very handy list). Find every page that a specific competitor has indexed, for instance, or use quotation marks to hunt down set keywords. Most importantly, it’s free. Get to grips with the various ways of using it and remember that it’s always there in your toolkit.
Wikis are interesting collections of information: anyone can contribute to them, but the claims and sources will subsequently be checked and edited by other contributors. It’s far from a perfect system, and anyone who’s ever tried to cite a wiki entry in an academic essay can tell you what the formal education world thinks of its accuracy and reliability — but it’s certainly useful as a research tool. I recommend checking out the Everipedia website in particular because it has a more relaxed editorial policy than its more illustrious rival: plenty of articles added to Wikipedia get removed for questionable reasons, and that can be frustrating when you’re looking for information on companies that aren’t objectively very important.
Offering myriad sections (or subreddits), with each one dedicated to a particular topic, Reddit is extremely useful for research. Not only can you find subreddits concerning an industry you’re trying to learn more about (or specific companies: some big brands have their own subreddits), but you can also talk to people who might have some insight to offer. Hootsuite has a useful guide to Reddit research, so I suggest checking it out.
I haven’t gone with a specific platform here because they all blur together when you’re carrying out research: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest… The central conceit is the same: pay close attention to the activity of relevant companies, and join discussions with your potential customers so you can find out what they’re looking for (different generations shop differently). People will generally be extremely candid on social media, making it great for learning what they really think (just be prepared to deal with a lot of negativity and vitriol).
Again, I won’t point out any particular blogs because this depends on the industry you’re trying to research, but the idea is very easy: there are already plenty of people conducting research and offering their expertise, so why not tap into it? There doesn’t seem to be much point in putting so much of your time into product research, for instance, if you can find a blogger who regularly offers industry product updates. You shouldn’t rely on blogs, of course, because then you’ll be limited to information that others have — but they can give you a great baseline.
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