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Eat Your Veggies Before Dessert: Why Competitive Analysis is Your First Step in Your Strategy

At BottomLine, we’re big on research and data. You’ll see that theme woven in everything we do, from your Impact Assessment all the way to your Strategy. That’s because we know that good marketing and copy is rooted in insights, and far more than words on a page. When you deeply understand what is at the heart of your customer’s behaviour, decisions, and desires, along with where you shine (or fall short), you can create the plan to perfectly match. The result? Maximized ROI and far more bang for your buck.

 

The Importance of a Competitive Analysis

 

One of the key pieces of research that cannot be sidestepped is a competitive analysis. Just like you need to deeply understand your customers, you must also understand who plays in the same space. What do they do well? What are their opportunities? How does your company differentiate from the rest? Without this insight, you’re at risk of being another carbon copy—and copies don’t translate to dollars.

 

The goal isn’t usually to be like others in the business. Instead, you want to find your niche or strength and play that up. You can’t be everything to everyone, and you don’t want to be. And you can’t begin to know what the opportunities are if you don’t understand your competition. 

 

When to Do a Competitive Analysis

 

When starting a new business or rebranding your current one, an evaluation of other market players should be one of your first steps. It can even be a good idea if you don’t fully have your business model finalized! Sometimes, knowing what gaps that need filling can help you develop the right product or tactic to address them. 

 

But don’t forget that the market changes, and that you need to change with it. It’s also important to conduct periodical analyses to see what has shifted and how you might need to adapt.

 

How to Do a Competitive Analysis

 

Let’s break down the steps in a good competitive analysis.

 

1. Identify the competition.
Although this may sound easy, competitors come in many forms. You want to list the obvious direct competitors that offer similar service or products as you, but you also want to identify your indirect competitors and your replacement competitors.  Indirect competitors offer products or services in the same general category as you (coffee vs tea, for example), while replacement competitors don’t offer the same product or service at all, but are after your same customer (an energy bar company trying to get customers to choose a different way to wake them up, or a detox company trying to promote a coffee fast).

Coming up with the full list can take some out-of-the-box thinking and creativity.

2. Research critical data points.
For each competitor identified, it’s time to outline their approach.  How does their product or service compare to yours? What do the reviews say, both good and bad? What is their marketing approach? Where do they place their ads? What geographic area do they serve and how big is their company? How big is their market share?

3. Compare.
Now that you know who your competitors are and what they do, it’s time to rate each element when compared to you. A spreadsheet or chart works great for this. List out all the attributes you researched in the rows, and then you and your competitors in the columns. Give yourself and each competitor a rating (1-5 or 1-10 is common) for each element.  For any particularly low or high scores, reflect on what earned them that rating.

4. Strategize.
From your comparison, where do you stand out? What are your relative strengths when compared to your peers? Alternatively, what are your peers’ weaknesses that you could solve with your offer?
Once you identify your area of focus, now you can develop your content, marketing, and business strategy to highlight your differentiators to the customers that need them. 

 

Tools You Can Use

 

There are many tools available online to help with your competitive analysis. Hubspot, for example, offers some templates to get you started, alongside their paid Competitor Analysis Tool.  Similarly, Semrush has a Market Explorer tool that can analyze web and ad traffic. 

While these tools are indeed helpful, keep in mind that they don’t (and can’t) encompass all aspects of a thorough report. You will still need human expertise to dive into the more nuanced elements.

 

Call in the Experts

 

If doing your own research sounds daunting, or if you’d rather save the time to focus on other critical pieces of your business, we can help! Our team of experts are well-versed in competitive analysis, and are happy to help you gain actionable insights. In fact, we take business from idea to implementation, and can leverage our hard-earned data on top of the additional research we do for you. 

 

Case Study: Verge Ag

 

When Verge Ag came to BottomLine, they had just acquired a software solution that was set to revolutionize the way agriculture was done. Despite the desire for their solution, however, the demand was way less than it should’ve been.  Verge needed insights—what was getting in their way?

 

Through research, particularly a competitive analysis, BottomLine determined that Verge was not internationally recognized and not yet trusted by the international market they were trying to tap into. Through analysis of other players in the market, it became clear that Verge needed a full rebrand to attract the clients they wanted.

 

In fact, Verge wasn’t even their name! But, insights clearly showed that a name change was also necessary to gain market share. 

 

It was the competitive analysis that highlighted the opportunities and gaps that lead to a laser focus on the right priorities. The result? Multi-million funding from investors and an 800% increase in profit.  

 

Having the right insights that come from the right research is often (if not always) the key differentiator in a business’ success. At BottomLine, our entire foundation is rooted in research, so we can help you toward the same results that Verge was able to realize.

Engagement vs. Reach vs. Impressions: What sets these social media metrics apart?

As a go-to marketing channel for many businesses, social media is often used to share information about a company or product, promote events, and build rapport with potential customers. 

Back in the day, social media marketing success was determined by the amount of “likes” or “followers” they have. In recent years, however, we’ve seen a shift to metrics that are much more complex.

Sure, you’ve heard of the terms “engagement”, “reach”, and “impressions” but what do they really mean?

 

Engagement

Engagement is the number of times a person clicks on, comments on, or shares a post. It’s a good indicator of the quality of your content because it shows that people are interested in what you’re producing.

Engagement is important because it shows that people are actually interacting with your content – not just passively consuming it. Engagement represents audience interest through actions like clicking links or sharing photos with others in their network. 

Your engagement numbers tell you how well your posts are resonating with your audience so you can use that information to improve future posts’ quality and performance.

 

Reach

Reach is the total number of unique users who saw your posts. This includes people who see your content in their newsfeeds, on their timelines, or in an advertisement. Reach is a good indicator of how many people you can reach with your social media channel.

Paying close attention to reach gives insight into the size of your audience’s engagement with a campaign or piece of content. For example, if a post has a high percentage of reach but low engagement (such as a lack of shares and comments), this may mean that more users have seen the post than liked it or shared it, which could indicate that improvements need to be made before posting again.

 

Impressions

Impressions are the total number of times a post is viewed. It’s important to distinguish that impressions do not mean engagement. 

For example, if your brand has a large following and you’ve posted an ad or product image on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and received thousands of views without any likes or comments, this could indicate a problem: your content isn’t resonating with your audience.

 

Bringing it all together

Now you understand the difference between engagements, reach, and impressions. Great! 

But how do you measure the success of these metrics? 

Like any other marketing initiative, it’s critical that you can demonstrate results and, therefore, ROI from your social media activities. Measuring the impact of your content is important because it allows for more accurate budgeting for future campaigns by showing which channels are working best for each type of post and what types of posts generate higher engagement rates overall.

As you can see, these metrics are closely related and are often used together. However, they each have their own specific role to play when measuring the effectiveness of your social media strategy. 

 

Marketing is nothing without metrics. Find where your brand is hitting the mark – and where it isn’t – with a Digital Assessment. Send us a note at info@wearebottomline.com to learn more and get the ball rolling!

The Inner Workings of a New Brand Identity

 

Branding is about so much more than just a logo. A strong brand provides a visual identity for your company and brings life to the value that you have to offer your customer. Yes, a brand’s visual identity includes specific colours, fonts and graphics, but these are part of a larger picture to support your brand’s personality and messaging.

 

 

 

What makes up a brand identity?

  • Clear brand purpose and positioning
  • Thorough market research
  • Likeable brand personality
  • Memorable name & logo
  • Attractive colour palette
  • On-brand typography
  • Supporting graphics
  • Proper messaging

 

How a BottomLine rebrand takes shape

 

Step 1 – Branding homework questionnaire

Here, we ask our clients prompting questions to help everyone involved get clear on WHY we’re rebranding in the first place. Questions about the brand’s audience, market position, and what’s working (and what’s not) for the current brand all helps us narrow the scope.

Step 2 – Official Kick-off Meeting

With more background info in our back pocket, we dive into our official kick-off call with clients where we uncover even more insights that will help us intentionally craft a brand that will resonate. Some aspects covered include: 

  • Research highlights 
    • Industry
    • Competitors
    • Key demographics
    • Stats & data
  • Brand purpose (current and new)
  • Target audience
  • Brand personality, message, tone
  • Visual identity aspects
    • Colours, typography, brand
    • Graphics
  • Naming

Step 3 – Develop Creative Brief

One of the most important things you can do when undertaking a rebrand is to create a detailed creative brief. A creative brief will outline how the visual identity elements need to be designed in order to fit with our new brand strategy. 

Step 4 – Design Concepts

Creative brief in hand, our team of strategists, copywriters, and designers develop a complete brand identity including elements such as colours, typography, logos, graphics, and messaging.

Step 5 – Refine

As with anything creative, a rebrand is an iterative process; we go through a few rounds of review within our internal team before collaborating with our clients for the final review stages. 

Step 6 – Finalization

Once our clients are happy, so are we! New brand identity in hand, we help our clients introduce the brand’s new persona to the world.  

Yes, rebranding is fun – but it can also be daunting, especially before you dive in. Taking each phase as it comes is important – not only does it help with overwhelm, but it ensures that the new brand really lands with your audience. 

 

If your company’s brand is in serious need of an overhaul, connect with us! We’ll walk you through a free brainstorming session to see what a rebrand strategy could look like for you.  

What’s the deal with AI copywriting tools? BottomLine’s Content Specialist weighs in

It’s only Tuesday, and by the end of the week, you have your company’s monthly blog, social media calendar, and a new whitepaper to finish – all while juggling the rest of the meetings, emails, and responsibilities on your plate. 

 

Let me guess – your stress level probably just went up reading this. 

That’s when your coworker suggests the latest and greatest AI copywriting tool to you, which certainly piques your interest if it lives up to its promises (“This tool will help you Write 10x Faster!”) of saving what precious time you have in your week. 

 

Okay, I’ll bite. 

Yes, an AI writer sounds like a great idea for automation and it has the potential to help you write faster and speed up the writing process without having to hire another writer, but that’s really only true if the software’s content generation works as it’s truly intended. 

 

If you’ve ever explored AI copywriting tools, you’ve likely looked at it through the lens of a ‘handy helper’ rather than a complete solution to your writing woes – and in our opinion at BottomLine, that’s exactly the extent to which you should rely on it. 

 

Getting AI to write content that *actually* replaces human creativity and quality is a tall order. 

After giving it a test of our own, here’s what we have to say to you if you’re thinking about including AI-generated content into your digital marketing workflows. 

 

What you’ll get

With most AI writing software out there at this point in time, you can typically get access to: 

  • Generate titles based on keywords you identify
  • Outline for blog posts or other content such as social media posts
  • Additional keyword suggestions
  • Depending on the software, can help you rephrase or create more concise content

 

What you’ll miss out on

But just like anything, AI writing solutions have their limitations. If you were to rely on the tool for completely share-worthy content, this is what you’d be missing out on:

  • Content that follows true continuity and flows in a logical order for the reader
  • Good writing for business is generally written in active voice because it’s more engaging and punchy – writing tools can tend to write in passive voice
  • Information errors (because, of course, the software is pulling from a variety of sources on the internet)
  • Lack of alignment with your brand’s tone of voice

 

Our biggest holdup: technology simply can’t mimic the creativity and strategic lens that humans can. 

 

If you know us at all, you know that BottomLine thrives on research and strategy… and that’s something that we’re simply not willing to give up. As we tested out a handful of solutions and did further research, we found that AI writing tools miss the bigger picture of strategy and fail to consider your ideal customer’s needs and pain points. 

 

Of course, AI copywriting solutions aren’t all created equal. If you do decide to go for one, give a few solutions a try and go into it with the mindset that it won’t be doing the work for you, but it could easily help you overcome writer’s block and give you a starting point that you can then edit from if that style of writing and working jives with you. 

 

For many BottomLine clients, content is often the sticking point in the digital marketing workflow – and we don’t blame them! These days, frequency is the name of the game, and harnessing the attention of your ideal customers is no easy feat. If you’re struggling to get enough content in front of enough customers, connect with us! We’ll walk you through a free brainstorming session to improve your brand strategy and content marketing process.  

Creating an effective sales process

Yes, we often talk about marketing here, but wherever you find marketing, sales is not that far away

Honestly, it would be silly for us to approach our work with our clients through the narrow lens of typical advertising, especially since marketing’s main purpose is to contribute to the larger organizational objectives

So while you’re building a lead machine that feeds your sales funnel, here are some tips to refine the other side of the equation. 

 

What your sales process should include

 

Time to understand if they’ve added staff or let staff go recently. 

Taking the time to evaluate their organizational structure gives us a good picture into whether there may be issues inside the organization operationally or if they’re growing rapidly.

 

LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

We’re tellin’ you right now – it’s worth the money. Leveraging LinkedIn’s sales function saves us time when searching out prospects and staying on top of their updates so we can stay in touch in a meaningful way. 

 

Virtual Coffee or Zoom Call.

The first ‘real’ engagement we have with a prospect is a virtual coffee. This helps us to get to know our prospect on a more personal level and BottomLine’s representative, can gauge if they are the right fit for us (and vice versa!)

 

Leverage personal networks. 

Many of the organizations that we cross paths with are fantastic places to meet new people, both for sales and simply as new professional acquaintances. We work closely with organizations like Alberta IoT, Women Presidents Organization (WPO), and WeConnect. Clients usually come from referrals so it’s best to tap into those genuine personal connections and people from within our circles. 

 

Strengthen connections and stay in touch with them. Who knows? They might have a client for us someday! 

 

Utilize Hubspot (CRM)

As a robust CRM tool, Hubspot helps us stay organized, keep records, manage our pipeline effectively, track activities & store contact info. Not only does this just eliminate our stress, but it creates a foundation for a much smoother and, honestly, genuine relationship with our prospective clients. 


Take a step back

We dive into all of this when we complete an Impact Assessment for a client: 

  • What is the typical buying journey for the customer? 
  • Where are the sticking points in your sales process? 
  • What are your competitors doing differently?

 

Understand what your sales process needs with research

 

We’d love to help you take your new ambitions and make them a reality. If you’re looking to improve your brand strategy and sales process, let’s talk. 

Refresh the Right Way: Rebranding in 2022

Deciding to take your brand’s forward-facing identity in a new direction isn’t something that just happens overnight. For many businesses, a rebrand can take months – if not years (and that’s just once it’s officially started). 

We recently worked with one of our long-time clients to turn their current brand into something that would fit their growing ambitions for the future. How’d we do it? And, more importantly, what do you need to think about if you’re about to embark on the rebranding process? 

 

Poke holes in what you think you know

 

Step 1: Get clear about the primary target audience(s)

Who’s actually buying from you – and who they’re buying from instead of you? How does this compare to your understanding of your current target market? You might be shocked to find some pretty drastic differences. 

Confer with the team

 

At the beginning of the process, it’s important to take stock of where your brand currently sits, and what your goals are for this new iteration of the brand identity.

 

Step 2: Outline the direction of the brand. 

What’s new? Why the change? What’s the new brand purpose?

 

Step 3: Agree on the brand personality

If your brand was a person, what would they be like? What would they say (and how would they say it)? 

 

Step 4: Identify three key messages 

Your new brand needs to communicate effectively with the new target audiences you’ve found. What would resonate the most with your ideal customers? What can you communicate to them that would foster affection, connection and passion (ahem – the three elements of brand attachment)? 

Think both explicit and implicit messages here. 

 

Step 5: Come to some agreements

First, take a look back at the existing brand. Are there major concerns? What do you like about the existing brand? How will we maintain the brand equity already built?

Then, looking ahead: What must be included? What must be excluded?

 

Step 6: Pull out that drawing board

That’s right – now we can finally brainstorm a new name for your brand, but set some ground rules first! 

IDEO U has some great rules that will help you and your team make the most of your brainstorming session: 

  1. Defer judgement
  2. Encourage wild ideas
  3. Build on the ideas of others
  4. Stay focused
  5. One conversation at a time
  6. Be visual (use a Google Jamboard)
  7. Go for quantity

 

Step 7: Run focus groups with the list of names 

You didn’t think we’d exclude research, did you? Incorporating research into your rebrand process will give you an added layer of certainty that what you’re coming up with amongst your team isn’t the result of an echo chamber but a brand that is truly 

If you have a board or leadership team that you need approvals from, present the final shortlist with rationales, then dive into the next stage! 

 

Step 8: Name and visuals collide

Once you have decided on a name, dive into the visual identity with your creative team, complete with colour, font, logo + mood board, and the general concept of other graphics for your sales and marketing collateral. 

 

There are many reasons that your brand might be taking a closer look at its identity through a new lens; whether it’s market repositioning, a new philosophy, an acquisition or (if we’re being honest) boredom! We hope you have fun thinking about the new future of your brand – we’d love to help you take your new ambitions and make them a reality. If you’re looking to improve your brand strategy, let’s talk.