Let’s say you are a small business on the road to formulating a great content strategy. There are numerous ways you can come up with great foundational points for a content strategy. Check out our video on content strategies and our blog on how to create a content strategy.

But today, we’re here to talk about a niche topic – getting inspiration from your competitors. That’s right – the guys you might evil-eye the rest of the week as you pass their super-successful, vibrant and busy offices. This time, it’s time to put your feelings aside and see just what you can learn from others who are successful in your industry.

3 Ways to Determine Who Your Competitors Are

How do you find your competitors? This is a very simple question, but an excellent starting point.

1. Internet Searches. Searching the Internet is a very good way to find out who your competitors are. It seems overly simple, but by using the keywords you would use for your own business, you will be able to find businesses that do similar things or sell similar products. This will be helpful as you create your 2014 content plan. By doing this search, you can see new ways your competitors are trying to sell a product or service. This can give you ideas on how to implement a similar strategy. Notice, we say similar, not exact! Do not steal their ideas out from under them. That is highly unprofessional and will give your company a rather negative reputation. Instead, brainstorm with your team members and decide new and unique ways to implement the ideas you found interesting in your own content strategy.

  • Use What the Internet Gave You. Finding tools to help you keep up with your competitors will be useful as trends change rapidly. According to INC.com, GoogleAlerts is a great way to be notified about new updates on products or services relating to your company and can be used when tracking what your competitors are up to. INC.com also suggests GoogleTrends, which maps the current trends within your area all the way to incorporating trends worldwide.

2. Social Media is More Useful than You Realize. Social media is not only important when attempting to engage with clients or to reach out in order to bring in new clients; it can also be used to spy on your competitors. We all know how to do it. In fact, we have all done this in some fashion with different friends and relatives. Why not implement this when researching your competitors? You can keep track of what your competitors are up to by following their Twitter, Facebook, and various other social media sites. Seeing how they interact on a social media site can give your company ideas on how to interact with clients. Many businesses have yet to become socially savvy online, so do not follow blindly exactly what your competitor does on social media. The Internet is a whole different game from face-to-face interaction. If your competitor happens to have a successful social media presence, then start gleaning from the field of social media information they have provided when developing your content strategy.

3. We the People. Info Entrepreneurs states that distributing questionnaires and talking to customers will help you learn more about your competitors and will help you understand how they are able to keep customers or even how they chase customers away. When you learn of any negative transactions with customers, do your best to stay away from repeating the same action. A typical example of a negative transaction with customers would be customer service. Many places have customer service policies that they are meant to follow, but not all companies follow the policies. You know that customers are what keep your business going and growing, so by listening to their wants and needs you can build a successful 2014 content strategy that beats your competitors.

5 Ways to Learn Content Strategy Tips from Your Competitors

Competitors can offer sage advice on how to formulate a 2014 content strategy. While they may not realize that they are helping you improve your company, they are, in fact, doing just that!

Following a few of these tips can help you as you seek ways to learn from your competitors and implement your new ideas.

1. Their SEO Strategy. What keywords are they ranking for? We are not talking about copying and pasting their list of keywords (which they likely won’t take kindly to) – but what can you learn from their keywords and implement into your own? For example, do they use location keywords? If you are location specific, consider using your location in your website page meta tags and keywords. According to CopyPress, MOZ is a leading website that helps companies such as yours learn about your keywords and pulls in information that will help you create a better SEO strategy for your company. Using this tool for your company will end up being very beneficial and help you as you fight the good fight with your competitors.

2. Their Blogging and Content Strategy. Blogging is a major aspect of the Internet. Everyone loves to read updates on their friends, family members, and what their favorite business are doing. Blogs offer a great form of interaction with customers and potential clients, keeping them “in-the-know” and feeling included. When it comes to your competitors, look at their blog presence and see how they work with it. You will be able to learn and implement many helpful tips just by reading their blog!

  • How do they blog? Look at the content they use in publications and see if there is anything you can gain from it. You never know, but by simply reading your competitors blog you may learn something new to you and be able to implement it in your 2014 content strategy. Do not be afraid to learn from your competitors. It helps your business grow, and they may even be learning something from you! Pay attention to how they format their blogs and if customers accept that format. You can easily tell if customers like or hate the format by simply reading comments on any of the posts. People are not shy when they are on the Internet, and they will say, “I hate this format! Why do you use it?” or “Wow this is great!” If customers hate the format, do not replicate it! If they love it, create a similar, but different, format. Do not copy their webpage exactly, your competition will not appreciate it, and the Internet will talk about it constantly.
  • When Do They Blog? The “when” of blogging is very important. Let’s say that again. The “when” of blogging is very important. You need to know when to blog and how often to blog while participating in the Internet world. Companies that blog often tend to have more readers, whereas companies who hardly blog will eventually lose readers. When it comes to blogging often, you need to find a good balance between “often” and “far too often” because blogging too much will also lose you readers and followers. People do not like spam in can form or on the Internet. Watch your competitors to see how regularly they blog and how their customers and the community take to it. If customers find a blog too tedious, find ways to implement those comments into creating a blog they will like and if a customer comments in approval of a certain post, find a way to implement that, as well. (Using originality, that is! Just say no to plagiarism; OK?)
  • What Received the Most Comments? Often one of the best gauges of successful online blog and article content is which topics and postings received the most comments. An abundance of comments means success in Internet-land. How can you replicate that topic and create your own original content from it? You might want to shy away from imitating the topic, but it is possible to duplicate an idea without plagiarizing it when writing new content. If you come up with a new perspective on the subject, it will be refreshing and help you standout from your competitors.

3. Check Out the Website. Your competitor’s website is the key to finding out what they are doing and if it is successful or not. Scour every inch to see what they post about. Do they post tips and tricks on how to use their product in everyday life? Tips and tricks are great things to have on a website because people love learning new things, especially when in list form! Next, look at how they have incorporated website design changes and possibly how often they go about changing their look. You can learn many things from how they use their web content. Do they interact more with customers and do customers appreciate it? Is their web content positive and bright? Informative? Take these things and discover how you can use them for your company. Also, see how your competitors offer information on their products or services, and learn how you can apply their ideas into new and unique ideas for your company. Once you have checked out their website, why not sign up for their newsletters and updates?

4. You’ve Got Mail! According to an YP article on how a small business can check out the competition, signing up for your competitors newsletters will help you properly gauge what they are up to and teach you new ideas to implement in your own company and newsletters. You will be able to see what new programs your competition is planning, gaining new insights into how to run your own company. It is also a great way to see how they go about sending newsletters out. Do they have more than one? Do they send them all at the same time or different days throughout the week? They may be overwhelming their customers’ inboxes, making for some pretty upset customers. Gaining information on sending out newsletters and what to incorporate in them is priceless when it comes to keeping your customers.

5. Once Again, Social Media. Social media is tops when it comes to creating a competent content strategy for 2014. Statistic Brain states that as of January 2014, 1.4 billion people use Facebook worldwide. Statistic Brain also states that 650 million people use Twitter. That is a lot of people online! Meaning, a lot of people your company can reach. As you can see, creating content for social media is imperative in 2014. It provides the chance to spy on your competitors to see how they run social media. We already discussed part of this in point 2 of learning about your competitors. You already know you can use social media as a way to keep up with what they are doing and how they interact with customers. Pay attention to how often they update or tweet, as well as paying attention to how their customers and followers react to their social media presence. If there are negative reactions to the social media presence, be sure to implement ways that are not negative for YOUR customers. Customers who are disappointed in the service provided online will be looking for new companies who have good social media etiquette.

Final Thoughts

Your competitors are some of your best teachers when it comes to a new 2014 content strategy, just as you are one of the best teachers for them as they go about creating a new content strategy for themselves.

We are all here to help each other develop in our fields, and while we want to be the best in our fields it is great to know that we can also help others grow. This blog has provided you with a few tips on how to go about learning from your competitors’ mistakes and their successes. As you begin planning your content strategy for 2014, try to implement some of these new tactics and see how easy your planning meetings become!

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