We’ve been talking a lot lately about CLAs. What is all the commotion about?

Over the past year, our Competitive Landscape Analyses (CLAs) have taken off among our clients, providing valuable insight and serving as a great launching point for our marketing strategies. But we’ve also come to realize that not everyone knows what we’re talking about when we bring up CLAs in conversation—or even what to expect when they sign up for one.

Well, we certainly don’t want our industry jargon to leave you in the dark. A Competitive Landscape Analysis is our fancy way of saying competitor research. We pull together a list of competitors provided by you, and add to it a few more based on our own research. From there, we identify a peer group and an aspirational group, and then look for measurable traits we can track across each group.

By the end of our research, we are able to provide a comprehensive overview of your industry. It should show you exactly where you stand in relation to your peers, and provide some direction as to where you should direct your efforts in order to move your brand forward.

Here are some of the major questions a Competitive Landscape Analysis should help you answer.

1. Who are your competitors?

Almost anyone we talk to can name a handful of competitors. Many of them are local businesses or big names in their field. But most can’t name more than five or six before they start to run out of steam, and even then, those competitors may not be the most impressive names in their field.

Read our post: When (and Why) Competitor Research Matters

When we do a CLA, we begin with a list provided by our client, but we also do our own research. That usually involves some pretty intensive googling. After all, we’re a web agency with expertise in SEO: if we can’t find competitors on Google, your customers can’t either.

As I described earlier, we then separate this group into a set of peers (your direct competitors) and an aspirational group (the type of competitors you would like to have). Mostly we base this on first impressions, because your customers are doing the same. By the end, we’ve put quite a few more competitors on your radar. That’s our landscape. Next comes the analysis.

2. What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Our next step is to identify measurable traits that we can look for across all websites. These are often things like the colors used on the site, the language used in the headings, the items in the navigation menu, and the type and placement of CTAs.

This data tells us a lot, and it often gives us clues as to where else to look. Every industry is different, so we always tailor our CLAs to the client, looking for specific new items with each one. In some industries, social media plays a big role. Others are much more focused on how they present themselves to investors.

The point is, by compiling data, we begin to see which websites are designed most effectively, and this gives us significant insight into how we should focus the design, branding, and marketing of our client.

3. How do they present themselves to their customers?

One of the most important things we learn from a CLA has to do with the customer-facing language used by the competition. By comparing industries, we can see who’s using self-serving, jargon-laden copy, and who’s putting their focus on the consumer.

Bear in mind, every company uses language that they believe will be the best representation of their business—and the most likely to win over a new client. They’ll be basing that language on their experience, and by paying attention to this, we can learn about their marketing strategies.

Our goal is to try to find the businesses with the most inspiring value propositions. For example, in one CLA we did recently, we noticed a clear difference between the peer group, which used anxiety-ridden, fear-based language to sell services to clients, versus the aspirational group, which used powerful, motivational language. Once we identified this trend, the new headline for our client practically wrote itself.

4. What threats and opportunities are available to you?

Another powerful advantage of a CLA is its ability to identify upcoming challenges and opportunities for our clients. For instance, if we can find a competitor they’ve never heard of who has an exciting new business model and is executing a perfect social media strategy, we can respond to it faster. In this case, we’re not only helping our client respond to an emerging challenge, we’re helping them do so faster than their slower-footed peers.

Of course, this is an opportunity as well. Maybe we find a competitor with a new service that our client can also offer. Or maybe they’re using a clever marketing strategy we can emulate. CLAs are a smart and effective way to identify those tools and put them into practice for our clients.

5. What sets you apart?

Finally, once you go through a CLA, you’re going to have a pretty clear idea of who you are and why your customers should choose you over your competition. That can lead to some powerful, confident brand statements. There’s nothing like knowing exactly where your peers stand to be able to definitively say why you’re the better choice.

Read our post: 8 Ways to Use Your Website to Build Brand Awareness

Close your competitive blind spots.

Let’s be frank: we here at build/create hate dealing in intangibles. And branding can feel very vague at times, with many decisions coming down to a matter of opinion. We may have sound design and marketing principles to back our work, but if a client doesn’t like it, there’s not much we can do to bring them round to our way of thinking.

That’s why CLAs are so useful. They not only help you stay aware of what your competition has been doing, they also put everyone on the same page. There’s nothing like looking at an objective analysis of twenty of your peers to gain a better perspective on what needs to be happening with your own website.

So if you’ve been operating in the dark, maybe now’s the time to shine the light on your competition. You never know what you might find.

Published 07/11/19 by Laura Lynch