CEO at RightMetric, we help marketers identify opportunities to unlock growth through digitally focused audience & competitor research.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Ever heard that phrase before? Maybe we should stop picking on our canine companions and face the real truth behind that saying: “Humans don’t like to change.”
It’s true in relationships, it’s true in business, and yes, it’s true in the marketing world as well. How often do we as marketers overlook new tactics in favor of ones we already know like the back of our hand? We like staying inside our comfort zone, where things feel easier and the common thought process is: “Yeah, we’ll check out these new tactics, but only after some serious vetting and testing. We need to know what lands with a specific audience first, before committing our resources.” There’s a better way to identify winning tactics, but that line of reasoning is often the path of least resistance.
When considering which new tactics to implement, and how to do so, there are a couple of common mistakes that I see:
• Focusing too much on past performance. Don’t get me wrong, using your past performance as a baseline can be a helpful way to gauge your current marketing efforts for tactics that you’re already familiar with. But what if you’re considering expanding onto a new platform or executing a completely new strategy? Focusing too much on past performance can lead you to the mistake of making an “apples to oranges” comparison of old tactics with new ones.
• Focusing too much on what peers and competitors are doing without measurement. It’s good to keep tabs on your competitors and industry peers—in fact, we’ll talk about how you can do so effectively in a moment. However, it can be hard to evaluate a particular tactic’s merit based on how competitors and industry leaders utilize it. For instance, can you really parse out why a competing brand is enjoying audience growth on a specific social media platform? Is it due to their posting cadence, their content or (most likely) a combination of all these factors? While it can be valuable to look outside your own four walls for best-practice examples, be careful that you don’t embark on a wild goose chase after tactics that aren’t really all that effective.
I’m going to share a framework that will enable you to keep up with marketing best practices without spending an eternity on Google, sinking all of your resources into competitor analysis or hiring a full-time analyst to do the job for you. It’s a streamlined and proven process that our team at RightMetric uses for deconstructing winning digital strategies and isolating the true growth drivers. Simply put, it will help you to cut through the noise and see if what your competitors are doing actually works.
Busting A Common Myth
Before we dive into the details of this framework, it’s important to call out one common misconception that I’ve noticed on the subject of winning marketing tactics. You’ll see plenty of advice from so-called “experts” who say that all you have to do is regularly check in-app analytics (like Instagram Insights or Google Analytics) to figure out which tactics you should pursue in earnest. However, while there’s definitely value in knowing where your analytics stand at any given time and where they’re trending, this is emphatically not the way to inform the tactical execution of your marketing strategy.
Think of it this way: If you want to get to a certain destination on a map, you need to know three things: where you are, where you want to go and how to get there. Analytics tell you where you are; your marketing goals tell you where you want to go. But when you look outside the confines of your company to explore winning tactics based on hard data, then you’ll know how to get there.
One final caveat before we start explaining our process: This framework expresses the concepts involved, not necessarily the technical details that you’ll need to handle on the back end. We highly recommend looking into marketing intelligence tools like Semrush or Unmetric and putting in some time for manual data collection if you want to start seeing results from the process we’re about to share.
Okay, so here are the four steps to implement:
1. Monitor your competitors’ marketing activities and KPIs across multiple channels. Pull data from as many digital channels as possible. Keep track of their progress over time. And if you’re wondering why you need to monitor both activities and KPIs, move on to step No. 2.
2. Identify growth spikes in either activities or KPIs. Determine if the growth spike happened for all brands in your sector or just for one. If it happened for all of them, then it’s likely a seasonal trend. However, if it only happened for one company, then it’s probably because they’ve discovered a winning tactic and they’re using it to the full.
3. Isolate the cause of the growth spike. You’ll have to get into the weeds here in order to get a complete picture. Look at as many channels as you can, including paid and organic advertising, email, social posts, their website, etc. You want to get a baseline of what their activities and KPIs looked like before the spike versus what they looked like during the spike. When you find a significant deviation from the norm in their activities, odds are you’ve found their growth driver.
4. Replicate the growth driver. Now that you’ve identified the tactic or strategy that’s working for your competitor, it’s time to replicate it! Turn that same growth driver into a step-by-step process that your team can use—and possibly refine—in a sustainable way.
We’ve used this framework over and over again for leading global brands, and it really works. It saves precious time and allows you to identify and replicate winning digital strategies that other brands are using. So please, steal this framework and get started today.