Evaluating your competitor’s messaging before developing your own corporate messages is a key step in powerful message development. This isn’t so you can borrow their best ideas or just craft stories that are dead opposite. Rather, you should conduct a competitive message analysis so you know what your customers are hearing. How could you stand out from the crowd if you don’t know what the crowd is shouting?
Naturally, you don’t want to be chanting the same mantra as a competitor. In addition to differentiating language, you also want to select a unique tone, positioning and approach. A competitive message analysis helps you understand where you can be not only different, but more authentically yourself.
Five Steps in a Competitive Message Analysis
Step One: Determine your competitors. This seems like a no-brainer. However, do you know what or who your competition really is? Who is being chosen over you? What are your customers choosing to do that makes it hard for you to engage them, and why? One of our messaging clients (a foundation about to embark upon a capital campaign) identified their largest “competitor” as the financial press because of the negative economic messages being sent at that time. And, yes, it is possible to do a competitive message analysis on such a thing. We discovered what words were being used over and over again that would scare a contributor. Those were the sentiments that needed to be countered.
Step Two: Identify what you will review. Corporate web sites, Slideshare presentations, Linkedin Profiles, press releases, other google findings, press clippings and more are all available online. Choose channels to which your customers and stakeholders are paying attention . If your competition is another company, go to your competitor’s industry conference presentations. Monitor their media coverage. Follow them on Twitter. Watch what they choose to sponsor.
Step Three: What are the competition’s messages? This includes:
- What is their tag line? What energy does it convey?
- What position do they appear to take? This means, what are they hanging their hat on? For instance, GE’s positioning is clearly centered on “imagination.” I submit Nike is all about “sports playing in a no-whining zone.” Fidelity Investments wishes you to know they are “making it easy.”
- What are their main messages? Identify specific statements used time and again. Identify 10 key themes.
- What words do they appear to use over and over?
- What advantages do you see in their messages? For example, they are very clear in their messaging. Or, they make widgets sound really, really interesting.
- What disadvantages do you see in their messages? For instance, do they use a lot of jargon in their messaging? Do they sound too negative? Or unrealistic?
- What characteristics of the organization are being spotlighted repeatedly?
Step Four: What do they appear to be ultimately “selling?” Choose one word, if you can. Are they selling being a one-stop shop? The best? The fastest? The most economical?
Step Five: Where are you different? Choose one word or statement that differentiates you from this particular competitor.
Once about five competitive forces have been analyzed, you will be in a much better position to craft messages that can cut through the noise and get the attention you seek.