1st March 2017
Nine things to learn from your competitors (and then do better)
One of the most effective things you can do to grow your business is to keep an eye on your competition. Many clinics are cautious about doing this. After all, shouldn’t they be focusing on their own business? Isn’t there a danger that they’ll end up copying their competitors?
You should absolutely focus on growing your own business and building its distinct presence in the marketplace. However, it does make sense to keep your competitors on your radar, not with a view to copying them, but with a view to understanding:
- Why they do the things they do
- What they do well and how you could improve on it
- What doesn’t work and how to avoid it
We would advise against copycatting your competitors at all costs, but there are many things that you can learn from them and then do better.
1. How to respond to customers
If you don’t already follow your competitors on social media, it’s worth taking ten minutes out of your day to hit the like and follow buttons on platforms where they’re active. This will give you an immediate glimpse into how your competitors respond to customers.
- Are they quick to respond to comments, questions, complaints and compliments?
- How do they speak to their customers?
- How informative are their responses, when appropriate?
If you notice that your competitors take several days to respond to a customer comment on social media, this could give you the goal of responding to your own customers within a much shorter time frame.
2. How to use social media
While we’re on the subject of social media, following your competitors’ pages across platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram can give you some powerful insights into the type of content that attracts engagement.
What gets people talking? Is it pictures, information about treatments, news stories, pictures from awards ceremonies, inspirational memes, testimonials, questions or something else altogether?
There’s a helpful free tool called Likealyzer, which allows you to enter any Facebook business page URL, including that of your competitors, for an instant analysis of what the page does well and what could be improved. This may well give you some helpful pointers about what you should post, and when, to boost engagement.
3. How to create success stories
Try keeping an eye out for new reviews posted on Google, social media or your competitors’ websites about their services.
- What do the testimonials talk about?
- Is the range of treatments important, the results, friendliness of the staff or something else?
- Do they mention the location or the treatment rooms?
Testimonials and case studies can give you an overview of what your competitors do well to create happy customers. They also show you what your potential customers value in terms of the patient experience.
Many clinics with consistently high star reviews do a great job of thanking their customers for taking the time to comment. If you’re not already doing this, it may be a small touch you can employ quickly to further enhance your customer relationships.
4. How to respond to criticism
If a competitor attracts a negative review or a complaint on a public forum like Facebook or Google Reviews, it’s worth looking at how they respond as well as what the complaint is about.
- What has happened to prompt the complaint?
- Has your competitor responded?
- Do they appear to have resolved the complaint?
Imagine, for example, that many reviewers comment on the attitude of the reception staff at your nearest competitor’s clinic or highlight that they feel they don’t know enough about their dentist’s experience. This could be the ideal opportunity for you to highlight how welcoming and friendly your staff are or add some information to your staff profiles about their backgrounds.
5. What SEO strategies work
If you find that your competitors are consistently ranking higher than you in Google for your most profitable keywords, it’s wise to spend some time reviewing what SEO strategies they’re using.
There are a number of free online tools such as the MOZ toolbar extension in Chrome that will show you the main on-page SEO elements of any web page you visit. Once you’ve installed this, you can see at a glance what meta data your competitors are using, as well as their heading tags, alt tags, keywords and much more. The MOZ toolbar will also give you an indication of page authority and domain authority for any web page.
By monitoring your competitors’ SEO in this way, you may gain some helpful insights into how you can improve your own website or change the keywords you’re targeting.
6. What sort of content your customers want
We also recommend keeping an eye on your competitors’ content.
- What topics are their blogs about?
- How often are they posting fresh content?
- What treatments are they promoting on their website?
- What frequently asked questions are they answering?
- Do people appear to be sharing blog content on social media networks?
- What blog topics attract the most comments?
- How often do they send out a newsletter?
- What sort of content does the newsletter contain?
Again, the answers to these questions can help you to build up a clearer picture of your competitors’ content and marketing strategies. It can also help you to identify trending topics, particularly if you follow market leaders.
7. Where to find new opportunities
It isn’t just market leaders that can teach us a thing or two about how to grow a business. If you have new clinics opening in your area, it’s sensible to look at what they might be doing differently. Although it isn’t always the case, there’s a good chance that new competitors have done extensive research before opening.
- Are they advertising new treatments?
- Are they promoting a different type of approach, such as a spa and medi-clinic fusion?
Sometimes comments from your competitors’ followers on social media can also highlight gaps in the marketplace that represent new opportunities for you. For example, someone might ask a competitor whether they offer a particular service, only to be told that they don’t. If it’s something you do offer, you might want to promote this to show you can help.
8. How to plan ahead
Following on from the point above, your competitors may pick up on a forthcoming trend. ‘Sweaty skin’, i.e. a hyper-dewy complexion, is promised to be the must-have skin look for 2017, while some of the world’s most famous celebrities are extolling the virtues of ‘facial yoga’. If your competitors seem to have identified an incoming trend, it’s worth doing some wider research to see who else is talking about it and consider how you can capitalise on this within your own clinic.
You can set up Google Alerts for your competitors to receive notifications about any mentions they receive on Google. This can be a useful way to identify how they’re promoting new trends so that you can plan ahead for them too.
9. What not to do
Above all else, researching your competitors can show you what not to do, as well as what you can do better than them. Again, the aim isn’t to copy your competitors but to learn from their triumphs and from their mistakes.
Not sure how to find out what your competitors are doing?
There are several quick and easy steps you can take to find out more about your competitors:
- Sign up to their mailing list to receive their newsletter and marketing emails
- Sign up for a free trial, such as a Smile Design online assessment
- Follow them across all social media platforms
- Set up Google Alerts
- Identify where they rank for different keywords (try SEMrush’s free service for this)
- Ask your marketing agency whether they can help with a competitors’ review
Although we believe it’s important to keep an eye on the competition, it’s equally important that you don’t get bogged down by what the clinics around you are doing. Your business is unique, so focus on who your customers are and show them how you are right for them, above every other clinic in the area. And if you can take what the competition does and improve on it, that’s a bonus.