Conducting A Competitive Analysis: A 10-Step Guide

Conducting A Competitive Analysis: A 10-Step Guide

Conducting A Competitive Analysis: A 10-Step Guide

Ever wonder how you stack up against your competition? It’s a natural question, especially for industrial and manufacturing B2Bs who operate in tight markets, where all of the key players are well-known. Understanding where you stand in your market in relation to the competition is powerful information. It tells you how you’re doing, whether you’re growing, and what portion of the market you’re taking up. It’s also a really powerful way to figure out how to strategically optimize your own business operations to position yourself higher in your own market. 

Whether you’re gearing up for a new digital marketing strategy like inbound marketing, are planning to redesign your website, or are just looking for a way to get a leg up, understanding what your competition is doing is the first step to improving your own growth strategy. 

So how do you figure out where you stand in the market? It’s called a competitive analysis. 

What is a Competitive Analysis?

A competitive analysis is a method of strategically researching your competition, and analyzing their performance and position in the market. But, a competitive analysis does more than show you where you and your competitors stand — it’s also a powerful tool you can use to find and address gaps in the market, identify new market trends, and of course find opportunities for your company to improve marketing and sales efforts to you can perform better than your competitors. 

HubSpot says that by doing a competitive analysis, “you can create solid business strategies that improve upon your competitor’s.”

Why is a B2B Competitive Analysis Important?

Competitive analysis is often talked about in regards to e-commerce and direct-to-consumer applications, but it’s equally important for B2Bs. For most B2B industries, like manufacturing companies and industrial technology providers, the market is small and competitive. Chances are you already know who your top competitors are. A competitive analysis helps you get a better picture of what you’re doing, what your competition is doing, and how you can do better. 

A competitive analysis is key to strategic marketing positioning, which is essential for B2Bs. When there are only a handful of key players, your marketing and sales tactics are put under a microscope. The slightest edge over your competition can win you a huge market share in an industry that is so niche. 

So, now that we know why a competitive analysis is so important, especially for B2Bs, how do you conduct one? Let’s dive in. 

How to Conduct a Strategic B2B Competitive Analysis

When you start a competitive analysis, know that it is a big process. You don’t have to do the whole thing in a day. Take the time to really look into your competitors, and remember this is a learning experience. 

All of the research you gather, from what your competitors are doing really well, to what they’re not doing, is useful to you. With that in mind, here are 10 steps to a successful, strategic B2B competitive analysis: 

01. B2B Market Research

Even if you work in a small, competitive market, it’s worth it to do a bit of market research before you decide which competitors you’re going to analyze. There’s always the possibility that someone has shifted in the market or there’s a new player. The best way to start? 

Type your broadest and most relevant keywords into a search engine. 

If you’re a steel manufacturer, type that in. If you sell air compressors, type that it. Who comes up? Are they a competitor? 

Make sure you’re doing both general and geographically-specific research. 

It’s important to know who you’re in league with in your area, as well as who some of the national or international players might be. 

02. Who’s in Your Market?

Once you’ve completed some solid B2B market research, it’s time to narrow down all of the companies you’ve found into just your top competitors. 

For B2Bs, we’d recommend picking your top 5 competitors. 

I know a lot of other guides recommend picking 10 or more competitors to compare with, but for most niche industries, 5 is probably going to give you what you need. (You can always choose more for extra credit!)

Try to go for at least 3 direct competitors —  companies that sell the same product you do to a very similar market. The other two or three can be indirect or secondary competitors — maybe they sell the same product to a different market, or they have similar solutions, but not quite the same as what you offer. 

A good example here would be pre-fab cleanrooms vs. custom cleanrooms. 

If you sell custom cleanrooms, you can probably learn a lot from a company that sells pre-fab cleanroom kits, but they’re not your direct competitor. They’re selling to a slightly different market that doesn’t need the high level of customizability you offer. 

03. Take a Coffee Break and Gear up for the Work of your Competitive Analysis

Alright, you’ve made it through the first big part of your competitive analysis. Now’s a good time to take a break. The next step is going to be to dive into the actual analysis part of this competitive analysis. Make sure you’ve got your coffee ready to go and somewhere to take notes. 

Before you dive in, decide how you’re going to tackle this competitive analysis. You’ve got two main options:

  1. Run through all of these steps with all of your competitors, all at once. That means you’ll start by analyzing everyone’s marketing strategy. Then you’ll move on to everyone’s website, SEO, sales tactics, etc, all in the same order, at the same time.  
  2. Run through each competitor individually. This means you’ll start with one competitor, move through the entire competitive analysis guide, and then start over with the next competitor. 

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, it just depends on how you think best. And, if you’re working through this competitive analysis as a team, option two might be easier — just assign each team member a different competitor to analyze. 

Okay, we’ve got a plan. Let’s get going:

04. Check Out Their Marketing Strategy

I find it easiest to work through a competitive analysis exactly the way a lead might work through your competitor’s marketing and sales cycle. 

That means looking at them like a visitor, and then diving slowly deeper into their marketing strategy, until the point you’d become a sales lead. Then, you tackle the sales portion of the competitive analysis. 

That’s why we’re starting with marketing strategy first. 

Do a lot of digging into your competitor’s marketing strategy. For B2Bs, this is certain to look a little different from competitor to competitor, so pay special attention to those differences. Be sure to look at everything from their social media pages and engagement to their content strategy. Here are a few questions to get you started:

How Do They Manage Their Content Strategy?

Figure out what their content strategy is. 

  • Are they blogging
  • If they’re not blogging, how do they get the word out?
  • Do they submit to magazines or technical industry websites?
  • Do they put out content, blogs, videos, infographics, ect, regularly?
  • Does their content seem helpful?
  • Is it true?
  • How are they promoting their content?
  • Is that content and content promotion getting engagement?
  • If so, which platforms are most successful?
  • Do they have large followings on social media? 

Then, see if it’s working.  As an industry expert yourself, you know if their content is actually helpful, or if it’s designed with the sole purpose of putting out company news updates and gaining search engine positioning.

Is Their Content Strategy Working?

Ask:

  • What gets a lot of engagement?
  • Who are they speaking to with this content?
  • Is the content successful in reaching that audience? Answering their questions? Solving their pain points?
  • Does their content strategy go together seamlessly?
  • Do they use internal linking and lead nurturing strategies that drive visitors further into their content?
  • What could they be doing better?

Finally, compare that strategy to your own. 

  • What are they doing that’s working?
  • Can you apply that to your content strategy?
  • Are there gaps in their content that you can or already are filling?
  • Is your content speaking to the same audience? Should it be?

The key to a successful competitive analysis is the element of critical thinking. Just because your competitor is doing something doesn’t mean you have to be. 

That strategy you think is really cool is only right for you if it’s effective, and if it speaks to your audience.

05. Check Out Their Website and SEO

If you think about the inbound marketing process, content is what draws a visitor in. Their website is the next step in that visitor’s buyer’s journey. It should be working to keep visitors on the site by offering more quality content, and converting those visitors into leads with content offers, CTAs, and landing pages.

For B2Bs, this tends to be one of the biggest pain points. 

This step will give you a lot of insight into which of your competitors are really investing in digital growth, and which might still be a bit behind the times. 

Analyzing a Competitor’s Website

The website portion of the competitive analysis falls into two categories — how the website itself is working, in terms of usability and lead generation, and how they’re using their website to talk about their products and solutions, specifically in regards to SEO. 

Let’s start with UX and web design first: 

  • How does their website work? 
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Do they use any creative lead capturing tactics?
  • Are CTAs visible and eye-catching?
  • Do they have forms for leads to fill out?
  • Are there great content offers that you know target buyers would find value in?
  • Is it easy to find their contact button?
  • Is their website fast, responsive, and easy to look at?

Website design has a lot more to do with successful lead conversion than you’d think. A slow, non-responsive website that doesn’t look good is sure to turn visitors and leads away. Check out your competitor’s website, and think about how it stacks up against your own.

  • Are there elements you wish could be incorporated onto your site?
  • Are there elements to their site that you know you do better on?
  • Is their website missing anything?

Once you have a solid understanding of how their website performs for the user, you can take a look at how it performs for search engines. 

Analyzing a Competitor’s SEO

SEO isn’t always easy to analyze on your own, so be sure to use tools that can help you. 

We love these three to help give you a clear picture of how that website is performing overall, what keywords your competitor is targeting, and how your website stacks up against them in SERPs. 

SpyFu

SpyFu will give you a comprehensive comparison of your site against your competitors. It offers a clear analysis of what keywords that company is ranking for, what keywords its almost ranking for, and more. SpyFu will also give insight into your competition’s top paid search ads. 

Website Grader

HubSpot’s Website Grader will give you an idea of how well that competitor’s website is performing. HubSpot can tell you how fast the site is, how many keywords it’s ranking for, and if there are any problems it the backend that might be threatening the site’s performance. 

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a great tool for keyword analysis. Typing in your competitor’s URL will pull up a complete list of the keywords they’re ranking for, which of their pages are driving the most traffic, and how many keywords they rank for in general. You can compare this to your own results on Ubersuggest for a clear competitive analysis. 

Now That You Have the Numbers

Do a deep dive. 

  • What keywords does your competitor rank well for?
  • Are they the same keywords you try to rank for?
  • How are they managing to rank well for those keywords?
    • Blogs
    • Service Pages
    • Great on and off-page SEO
  • Are they ranking for any great long-tail keywords?
  • What’s their average site traffic per month?

In addition to looking at straight SEO, take a hard look at how your competitor is talking about their products and services. Are they highlighting the same benefits and solutions that you are? Or have they taken a slightly different angle than your team?

If they’re using a different angle, or marketing differently than you, is it working? Are they ranking for keywords that you’d like to rank for?

Most importantly, look for gaps in their SEO, in their content, and in their marketing strategy. 

Chances are, they haven’t covered every possible angle of any product or service. Maybe they’re not blogging, or maybe they’re not ranking for some keywords that you already know drive a lot of traffic. 

06. Dig Into Their Sales Tactics

This is probably the hardest part of any competitive analysis because there’s likely not a lot of information out there. That said, in a B2B market, you’re likely to have a slight advantage. You already know most of your competitors, and you probably already have an eye on how they’re performing, if they’ve been growing or expanding in the past year, and more. 

A few ways to look into your competitor’s sales tactics include: 

  • Check out your own CRM. Do you have past leads or customers who said they were considering other competitors? Why did they choose you?
  • See if they have a “process” page on their website. That can help you understand how they move prospects from leads to sales. 
  • If they’re a public company, you can find annual reports online. 
  • Are they scaling their company up or down? Have they been doing a lot of hiring?
  • Do they have multiple locations? If so, is that helping them close more sales?

Do a little digging to see why people may have chosen your product over your competitor’s, and vice versa. 

Even more importantly, look to see if their sales process matches up with their marketing process.

  • Do their sales and marketing efforts seem aligned?
  • Does marketing content feed seamlessly into sales content like estimate and quote requests?
  • Does it seem like they’re following up with leads, or is that a pain point for customers who chose your company instead?

You’ll have to do a bit of sleuthing to dig deeply into any company’s sales process, their sales tactics, and their results, but going the extra mile can return helpful information. 

The more you know about how your competitors are selling, and what’s working for them and what isn’t, the better you’ll be able to tailor your sales tactics to outperform them. 

For example, let’s say they’ve been scaling up but are having trouble following up on all the leads coming in. You can optimize your sale process by making timely, helpful contact with leads a priority. The more connected you are to your prospects, the better supported they’ll feel, compared to your competitor’s sales team. 

How you sell is equally important to how you market. If you can make improvements to your sales process as well as your marketing tactics according to the results you find in your competitive analysis, you’ll be able to draw in more of the qualified leads you want, and provide the nurturing sales touches those leads need to convert. 

07. Decide What’s Working for Them, and What’s Not

HubSpot calls this a SWOT analysis — identifying your competition’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. When you’ve figured these out, you can compare them to your own, to see where you’re crushing it in the market, and where you might have some opportunities to improve. A few questions to get you started might be: 

  • What is your competition’s best area? Sales, marketing, content, promotion, online engagement? 
  • Where are they performing better than your brand?
  • What is their weakest area?
  • Where are you performing better than your competitor?
  • Are there any gaps in your competitor’s marketing strategy?
  • Are they missing out on ideal keywords or strategic tactics?
  • In what ways might you consider this competitor a threat?
  • Are there opportunities in the market that your competitor has missed?
  • Are there opportunities they’re capitalizing on that you are not yet? 

When you have the time to sit down and list out answers to all of these questions, you’ll have a better idea of where you go next. If there are areas you’re performing well in, keep up the good work. If there are new strategies that you have yet to try, add that to your list of tactics to implement next. 

08. Implement What You’ve Learned

Chances are, through this whole process, you’ve learned what your competitors do well, and what they don’t. Both of those categories are opportunities for you to improve. 

Take what they do well, and do it better.

Take what you’re already doing really well, and keep on crushing it. 

A competitive analysis works for you in a variety of ways: 

  • It gives you a clear picture of the current market
  • It shows you upcoming market trends you can capitalize on now
  • It highlights your competitors strengths and weaknesses

Use all of that information to optimize your own company’s strengths and weaknesses. If there’s something your company is really missing out on, like an optimized website, take some time to really make that your strength. If you’ve been crushing the content game, don’t stop. Make sure you keep your competitive advantage by continuing to put out excellent content regularly. 

09. Save Your Research

You put a ton of time into your competitive analysis. Make sure you organize that research and save it somewhere your entire team can access it. Going forward, be sure to keep checking back on your competitors and adding to that competitive analysis you’ve put together. 

Just like you, your competitors are always looking for opportunities and areas to grow in the market. The good ones are going to continue optimizing and improving over time. Keep your research handy, and try to update it at least quarterly. This will help you keep an eye on how the market is moving and responding, keeping your brand as current, if not ahead of your competitors in market position. 

10. Always be Optimizing

Your company wants to keep growing. To feed that constant growth, you need a marketing and sales strategy that can keep up. That means you should always be looking critically at your marketing and sales tactics, and optimizing wherever you can. 

It’s not always an easy or straightforward task, but keeping an updated competitive analysis around should help you identify key areas for improvement. Remember to capitalize on the opportunities your competition is missing out on, and work to do the things they’re doing really well, better when it’s possible. 

Conducting a competitive analysis isn’t easy or fast, but it is worthwhile. If you’re struggling to dig up dirt on your competitors, we get it. There are a ton of components to a competitive analysis and it’s tough to know where to start and where to stop.

If you’ve got more questions about conducting a competitive analysis, what competitors to look at, or how to find the right information, we’re happy to help

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Should You Cut Your Digital Marketing Budget in a Recession?

Should You Cut Your Digital Marketing Budget in a Recession?

Should You Cut Your Digital Marketing Budget in a Recession?

As digital marketers, this is a question we’re getting a lot right now. And it’s a big one.

Many companies, our clients included, are struggling with the decision to spend more on digital marketing, even if they’re unsure of future revenue, or pause their inbound marketing strategy to save where they can. 

It feels like a Catch-22. If you’re marketing, you’re pulling in leads, but you’re not sure what to do with them right now, or even if you can convert them at this point. 

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If you’re not marketing, you’re saving money, but you’re not filling up your pipeline or maintaining your market position — which for many industries is a hard thing to get in the first place. 

So, what’s a business to do? 

Our president, John Heritage just posted a blog on his LinkedIn about exactly this. He’s been engaging actively with our clients through all of this, and the conversations he’s had have put a spotlight on what really happens when you cut your digital marketing budget or pause your marketing agency in a time of recession or crisis.

A Case Study:

The Real Effect of Cutting Your Digital Marketing Budget Amid a Global Crisis

I’ll leave it to you to read John’s full post — it’s a good one, with plenty of data to back it up — but I’ll also give you a quick synopsis here, too. 

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John’s article takes a look at two very similar clients, with opposite reactions to the COVID-19 crisis. Both clients function in technical B2B industries. Both clients use Evenbound to manage their entire marketing program. 

The Clients

Client #1 asked to pause their marketing program until they know that the industry is going to move past this crisis. They’re concerned their revenue will drop, and they don’t want to spend money if they don’t have any coming in. 

Client #2 chose to lean into their marketing program. They felt they’d recently made big gains positioning themselves in a competitive market, and don’t want to lose that market advantage They felt it would be better to fill up the sales pipeline now, so their sales team could hit the ground running when the economy gets back to work. 

John mentions in his post that both decisions are valid. They’re both based on sound logic, and each client is just working to do what’s best for their company. 

That said, the data that’s starting to emerge now (we’re about 6-7 weeks into Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order) is telling. Take a look at the high-level KPIs for each of these clients.

The Results

Client #1 (Paused Marketing Efforts)

Client #2 (Continued Marketing Efforts)

Again, John’s article will help make more sense of the data as a whole, but the big picture here is that client #2, who chose to keep investing in digital marketing, has made significant gains in all major KPIs — traffic, leads, and sales.

Their sales conversion rate isn’t perfect, but we knew going into this that it probably wouldn’t be. People aren’t buying right now, but they are planning for a future where they will buy. Client #2 is perfectly positioned for this, with a significant number of leads in their pipeline, ready to convert when the sales team can really get back to full steam. 

Though Client #1 will probably be fine, they haven’t gained any market share, aren’t adding leads to their sales pipeline, and have opened the door for competitors to beat them out online. 

Considering Cutting Your Digital Marketing Budget in a Recession?

That’s not a decision we can make for you. It’s up to you.

But know that by cutting your digital marketing budget, you’re probably going to make your climb back to breaking even more difficult. Like client #1, you’re going to have to work a little harder to fill up your pipeline when we all go back to work. 

Companies that keep marketing, even a little, during this time, are helping to maintain their market position, and fill their sales pipeline with qualified leads, just as client #2 did. 

Even if you’re not making conversions now, you’re setting your sales team up for success when they’re able to get back to work, and when buyers are ready to make purchasing decisions again. 

I think John summed it up pretty well: 

And I get that, “Just keep marketing” isn’t a compelling reason to do it, especially when it’s coming from a digital marketing agency. So, here are 5 key reasons to keep marketing, based on the actual data we’ve been seeing over the past few months:

5 Reasons To Keep Digital Marketing in a Recession

So we’ve shown you data from our clients, and we’ve told you, as experts, why we think it’s a good idea to keep marketing. But, you’re a savvy businessperson, and you know better than to take the word of a marketer at face value. Good critical thinking on your part. 

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Here are 5 reasons, based in fact, and on tangible data, that it’s a good idea to keep digital marketing, even in a recession. 

01. Search Traffic is Up

Internet use is up 70%. As more people are in lockdown, more people are turning to the internet for work, for entertainment, and more. 

If you’ve got great digital content, you’re going to see a spike in organic traffic. If you don’t have great digital content, now is a good time to start creating it. 

Now, we know that conversions are down. Neil Patel said it himself.

That doesn’t mean that educational content isn’t useful right now. 

Just because people aren’t buying, doesn’t mean their eyes and lead conversions on your site aren’t useful to you. 

The more quality content you create now — that’s targeted to keywords and phrases that are relevant to you and to your ideal buyer — the more leads you’re pulling into your pipeline.  

And the more leads you have in your pipeline, who are ready to make a purchase as soon as accounting says, “go ahead, we’re getting back to business”, the more sales you stand to make, and quickly when we’re all back to work. 

That really sets your sales team up for success.

Take this time to create great content. Content that answers your ideal buyer’s top questions, solves their pain points, and helps them make the decisions that are best for them and their companies. Those buyers are searching for those answers, and they’re searching now.

When you’re at the top of the list (and search engine results pages) with quality content that answers questions, informs, and solves problems, you’re also going to be at the top of the list when those people are ready to buy.

02. PPC Advertising Costs Are Down

A global crisis means that many companies have paused their marketing and advertising efforts. Social media advertising rates and PPC costs are down.

And it stands to reason — if there’s less competition, and fewer companies bidding on search terms, that bid cost will go down. 

For you, this means there’s some opportunity to reconfigure your paid digital advertising campaigns for keywords that are relevant to your business. 

Since conversions are still down a bit (though not as much as you’d expect), it’s important to be smart here, but if you’re doing paid advertising right, you can see some serious results. Neil Patel has shown that his paid ads have increased in ROI from 31% to 53%.

That’s a significant increase in ROI, showing that he’s paying a whole lot less, to get a whole lot more. 

We’d suggest you take a look at your paid ad strategy and focus on two main areas of user intent — awareness, and decision making. Awareness ads, especially on social media platforms, will work to keep your name out there, solidifying you as an authority in the industry. 

Their cost is significantly lower right now, which means that when people do convert, you’re getting a whole lot more bang for your buck.  

03. Digital Marketing is Both Flexible and Scaleable

Their cost is significantly lower right now, which means that when people do convert, you’re getting a whole lot more bang for your buck.  

A huge advantage of digital marketing is that it’s not static.

You’re not putting down a huge chunk of money to wait and see what it returns. 

Digital marketing is comprised of a multitude of tactics — blogging, social media engagement, paid search advertising, social media advertising, email marketing, conversational marketing, the list goes on. 

Some of those tactics are easier and less expensive than others, and some might cost you something, but only what you are willing to spend. 

The beauty of digital marketing is that you get to decide what works for your business, and optimize those efforts based on the results you’re seeing.

If something’s not working, making a change is easy. If your budget is light one month, you can scale back paid ads to just the campaigns that are producing results. Or you can shift your efforts to nurturing the leads you have with content and email marketing. 

Digital marketing is one of the few marketing and advertising opportunities that can produce significant results while being flexible according to your capacity, and scaleable to your available budget. It makes sense to lean in now, with whatever you’ve got. 

04. You Have the Time to Make Necessary Improvements

It’s never a good thing to have your sales team stuck at home. It’s not ideal, and we’re not getting around that. But, this is an opportunity to make improvements. 

In normal times, your sales team, your marketing team, and everyone else is typically functioning at full capacity. 

They’re on the road, handling client meetings, drawing up quotes, and more. There isn’t much space to optimize or improve your process when everyone is so busy. 

Right now, you have the opportunity to take a close look at how your marketing and sales processes are working, and make the necessary improvements. 

We’ve had clients who have decided to use this time to improve a long-outdated website.

They’ll move out of this crisis with a fresh, new digital face for their company that’s also working to draw in leads. 

We’ve had clients who decided to use this time to improve their sales process.

Setting up a solid sales pipeline with deal stages, and clear visibility on what deals are in the pipeline, and where, can do a ton to streamline sales, improving your reps ability to focus on closing hot and warm leads when the time comes. 

Finally, sales and marketing alignment is another great place to spend a bit of extra time right now. Get your sales and marketing teams together on a zoom call, and work on some alignment strategies. 

While this isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, we can’t control what has already happened. 

You can control how you use this time to move your business forward. 

05. You Have the Space to Gain Market Position

Finally, maintaining a digital marketing strategy allows you to gain a better position in your market. For many industries, your company’s reputation is everything. If people know your name, you’ll get the business.

But, you have to build up a lot of awareness, and a lot of trust to gain that reputation, and that’s where digital marketing comes in now. 

At this point, you have the time, and you have the space, to work to better position yourself as a leader and an authority in your industry. 

Many companies have halted all marketing and advertising efforts. That means there’s room for you to grow and move up. The greater your authority online, the better positioned you are on search engines, which in turn boosts your competitive position in the market. 

Take this time to do some research and identify where those opportunities exist. 

Write educational content that helps people. Update your website to show new visitors what you are capable of, and what sets you apart in the industry. Then take all of that work, and promote it. 

Together, these efforts work to position you higher, and more strategically in your industry. With a bit less competition online right now, and a bit more effort on your part, you’ll start to see your position rise, just like it did for client #1 in the case study mentioned earlier. 

That helps you draw in more site visitors, who become leads, who eventually — when the economy reopens — turn into sales.

What Can You Do Today, To Ensure Growth Tomorrow?

Choosing to extend or pause your digital marketing budget at this time really comes down to this question: what can you do today, to ensure growth tomorrow?

For any business, the answer to that question might look a little different. And it’s true that not every business will have the budget to market as they were before this crisis happened. But, if you have the ability, any level of digital marketing is absolutely an opportunity for growth at this time.

If you’re new to digital marketing or aren’t sure where to start optimizing or reconfiguring your existing strategy, you might just need a fresh pair of eyes to help you out. The Evenbound team is here to help. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have. 

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7 Steps to Developing a Growth Strategy That Delivers Results

7 Steps to Developing a Growth Strategy That Delivers Results

7 Steps to Developing a Growth Strategy That Delivers Results

You want to grow your company. But, you’re not sure where to start. We get it. 

It’d be great if we could all just grow our businesses and companies by taking on more projects. Unfortunately, sustainable growth needs a little bit more direction and structure than that. 

If you’re looking to grow your company by pulling in more of the right leads, and converting them more efficiently, you need to start developing a growth strategy. 

What’s a Growth Strategy?

A growth strategy is a detailed plan of action designed to help your company grow — that is, increase sales and revenue over a specific period of time. Effective growth strategies are specific, measurable, and focused on continuous improvement. 

No two growth strategies are exactly alike — they’re unique depending on the company, the company’s specific goals, and the resources you have available to implement that strategy. 

What is universal to all companies, however, is that you need a growth strategy if you want to build your company in a specific way: to close bigger deals, to shorten your sales cycle, and grow your company strategically for the best results. 

If you’re working on developing a growth strategy that gets your company moving in the right direction, here are 7 steps you can take to start creating a growth strategy that delivers the tangible results you’ve been looking for. 

7 Steps to Developing a Growth Strategy That Delivers Results

Use this menu to jump to the steps you’re most interested, or read on through for the complete step-by-step guide to developing a growth strategy that delivers results. 

#1 Start with SMART Growth Goals, Big and Small

Real, effective growth strategies start with SMART goals. We’ve got an entire post about how to determine your SMART goals, but here’s a quick cliff-notes version: 

What are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

So, “I want to grow my business,” is not, in fact, a smart goal. It doesn’t give you any mile-markers. It doesn’t really tell you what you want, or where you want to be. 

A SMART goal is something like: I want to grow 20% in the next fiscal year. 

The Difference Between Big and Small SMART Goals

Now that’s still a pretty broad goal, which is fine. You can have big growth goals, but it’s also important to set small SMART goals too, so you know you’re keeping your company on track. How are you going to reach that 20% growth mark by the end of the year? 

Examples of smaller growth goals that can help contribute to your big growth goal might be to:

  • Convert 500 leads per month. 

  • Close on 15 sales per month.

  • Generate at least $375,000 in new revenue per month.

One or all of these goals are great mile markers that help keep your team on track while moving to your big, overarching SMART goal. Defining these little goals also makes it easier to start developing strategies that put you closer to your big goals. 

Saying, “oh, I want to grow by 20% in the next year” sounds great. But it doesn’t give you a lot of direction. Saying, “I want to convert 500 leads per month” does give you some direction — how are you generating leads now? How can you generate more leads? Are there lead generating tactics you haven’t tried yet that you could check out?

Now you have a launching-off point to really start moving your company towards your growth goals. 

#2 Develop Strategies to Support Those Growth Goals

Okay, so you’ve got your SMART goals, big and small. Start with the small goals first. Let’s go with generating 500 leads per month as our example.

If you’re generating leads primarily through word of mouth, you have a lot of room to improve:

  • You can start developing a digital growth strategy that focuses on generating leads. 

  • You can increase your web presence, start implementing content marketing strategies, and try out lead capture tactics like landing pages, forms, and calls-to-action. 

If you already have a web presence and are hoping to generate more leads, start by really drilling down on the efforts that work:

  • If you’ve been getting a ton of leads through your blog, up your posting schedule to once or twice a week instead twice a month. 

  • If you have an active list of newsletter subscribers, lean on them a little harder for conversions.  

    You can also start expanding your lead generation efforts. Try new tactics like social media advertising, guest blogging, or adding more lead touch points to your marketing and sales process. 

    The point is that if you have specific, attainable (etc.) goals, determining your plan of action is a lot easier. If you know exactly where you want to be, it’s a little easier to figure out how to get there. 

    #3 Consider Tools That Support Your Goals and Strategies

    Another great way to bolster your growth strategy is to consider investing in tools and software that can make it easier for you to implement your new strategies and reach those growth goals. 

    Using that same lead generation goal as an example, let’s say that one of your new strategies is to start promoting your content more often, and follow up with new leads more promptly.

    It’s important to remember that all of these changes aren’t always on your sales and marketing teams — there are plenty of tools out there that can help you reach these goals and implement these new efforts.

    What Growth Tools Are Right for Me?

    Consider investing in a social media publishing tool that allows you to schedule posts out when it’s convenient for your team. 

    Many marketing software platforms also offer automated email and workflow tools. The minute a lead downloads a content offer or signs up for your newsletter, you can have them automatically entered into a welcome workflow that sends them helpful, relevant communication that nurtures that lead for you. 

    At Evenbound, we’re big advocates for the, “work smarter, not harder” mindset. Implementing a growth strategy can be tough work. If there are tricks and tools that can help you reach those growth goals more easily and that offer your leads and prospects better service, use them

    Don’t be afraid of tools because they’re new or different. They can seriously help you reach those growth goals, usually faster than your team could do it on their own. 

    #4 Implement Your Growth Strategies

    Alright, now that you’ve got your goals nailed down and you’ve got a plan to reach them, it’s time to launch! Put your growth strategies into action. Let your new marketing software do its work. 

    And give your strategies a little bit of time, too. Especially if you’re implementing inbound strategies meant to bolster your organic traffic, you probably won’t see results overnight. That’s okay. 

    Keep with your growth strategies, and keep with your plan.

    In general, you should wait at least a month before you start making judgement calls on the effectiveness of your new initiatives. For some tactics, you might even have to wait a few months to get a really clear picture of how your efforts are impacting your bottom line.

    It’s good to remember that you put time and effort into developing your growth strategies. If you did your research, at least some of your new tactics and strategies are going to deliver results. 

    #5 Analyze Your Results

    When your new strategies and growth campaigns have been running for a while, analyze them. Maybe that’s at the one-month mark for tactics like paid advertising and new initiatives in your marketing and sales process.

    For organic and inbound tactics like content marketing, you might give it two or three months before you take a good hard look at the results. Either way, when it’s time to take a look at how far you’ve come, it’s important to look at the big picture. Make sure you’re analyzing both your wins and your challenges. 

    Looking at the Big Picture: Wins

    Let’s say your new strategy is doing awesome. You’ve reached that 500 leads per month goal already, and you’re only three months into your new strategy.

    Don’t just leave it at, “well, my strategy is working great”. Take a look at which efforts specifically are generating those leads for you.

    Are the majority of your leads coming to your site organically? If so, which pages are they coming to or landing on? 

    Are your paid ads converting leads like crazy? Great! Which ads were most effective? 

    Is your new marketing process shortening your sales cycle and converting qualified leads in just a week or two after their first touch? Amazing. What specific efforts are getting those leads so excited about your company?

    The deeper you dig into your new growth strategies’ results, the better you’ll understand how you’re generating those results. 

    Looking at the Big Picture: Challenges

    This works the other way, too. Maybe you implemented a new email marketing strategy that totally flopped. Look at why it flopped.

    Did you just not have the depth of email contacts you needed to make that strategy work? Were people not connecting with that specific message? How can you improve it for the next round of growth goals? 

    The more you analyze your results, the better your growth strategy will perform in the long-term. When you know exactly what your leads respond best to, and why, you can continue on that upward growth trajectory, and you can keep optimizing your growth strategy with actual data and results in hand. Which brings us to step #6.

    #6 Optimize Your Growth Strategy

    After you analyze your results to death, it’s important to use all of that information you’ve collected and actually put it to work. If a specific set of Facebook ads performed really well, start launching more campaigns with similar attributes. If your email marketing strategy didn’t work, don’t keep doing the same old thing — try something new! 

    The great gift of analytics is that they give you the data you need to make changes and improvements. Use analytics to your advantage and apply what you’ve learned to your future growth tactics and strategies. When you do that, you’re truly implementing a continuous growth strategy that will continue to support your company even as your goals change. 

    #7 Set New SMART Growth Goals

    The key to an effective growth strategy is a mindset of continuous improvement. Once you reach your growth goals, it’s time to set new goals, and repeat the process. 

    If you want your company to keep growing, your growth strategies have to change as your company does. Once you reach your first set of goals, re-evaluate where your company is, set new SMART goals, and keep developing your growth strategy to help you reach them. 

    The best growth strategies are the ones that are constantly changing and adapting to your business’ needs and goals. And it makes sense: a growth strategy that worked for a small business isn’t going to work the same for a mid-sized business. Your growth strategy should evolve and adapt as your company continues to grow. 

    The Most Effective Growth Strategy Is the One That’s Continuously Improving

    In the end, building a growth strategy that delivers results is all about setting up the structure and mindset your team needs to grow, and allowing plenty of space and flexibility to keep improving. The best growth strategies are the ones that grow and improve themselves. 

    So, start with your SMART goals for right now, and keep moving that needle forward as your company grows. 

    Developing a growth strategy and actually implementing it can seem like big, daunting work. If you’re just not sure where to start, drop us a line! We help companies like yours grow every day, and we’d be happy to answer any questions you’ve got about developing a growth strategy, sticking to it, or optimizing it as you reach your goals. 

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    What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing Strategies?

    What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing Strategies?

    What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing Strategies?

    The goal of every business is to sell something to someone. Whether it’s a product, service, or information, the business has something that it provides to its customers, for a price. For that reason, it seems like the point of sales strategies and marketing strategies are the same—to sell that thing. But in reality, the purposes, goals, and methods of sales and marketing strategies differ, by necessity.   What is the difference between sales and marketing strategies, and why does that matter to your company? 

    What is the purpose of marketing strategies?

    Marketing is what you do to reach potential future customers. It can be outbound marketing, which entails pushing your product/service/message to your audience through things like advertising, or inbound marketing, which includes bringing people in through content strategy and search engine ranking. At any rate, marketing’s purpose is to get your information in front of possible clients. To accomplish those things, marketing teams strive to:

    • Reach target audiences through various forms of marketing, including social media, PPC, content, and more, tailored to those audiences’ unique needs.
    • Provide visitors and prospects with information about your company’s products and services that is tailored to their stage of the buyer’s journey, their goals and challenges, and their specific pain points.
    • Provide the sales team with marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
    • Analyze and evaluate marketing efforts for effectiveness and return on investment (ROI).
    • Provide reports and analytics on the ROI of marketing efforts to relevant stakeholders.

    What are the goals of marketing strategies?

    As you can see, the goal of the marketing strategy isn’t to make sales. Particularly in the B2B world, there aren’t many cases of a person seeing an ad and deciding then and there to buy. Instead, it’s to reach potential customers and raise their awareness of your products, services, and company, and the benefits of all of those to them.

    Marketing practices are designed to support sales, but not make them, necessarily. This is because not every visitor to your website or company in your target market is a good fit for your company/product/service. This could be true for a variety of reasons, such as they’re not far enough along the buyer’s journey to make a decision, their budget, or their pain points.  Leads that aren’t a good fit, for whatever reason, aren’t leads—they’re a waste of your sales team’s time. Click To Tweet

    They’re not going to answer calls or email, and they’re going to (pun very much intended) lead you on. Good marketing filters out those bad prospects and provides the sales team with leads that are vetted, a.k.a, MQLs.

    What is the purpose of sales strategies?

    It seems like the goal of any sales strategy is pretty straightforward: make sales. While that is a goal, sales strategies are so much more complicated than that. Sales teams are tasked with managing relationships with prospective customers and guiding them to a purchase decision. In order to do that, sales teams must:

    • Connect with leads and prospects through various sales practices, including quote requests, pitches, demos, etc.
    • Provide prospects and leads with information relevant to their pain points and needs that helps them make a decision about purchasing your company’s products or services.
    • Determine whether marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are ready or eligible to become sales qualified leads (SQLs).
    • Guide new clients through the purchase process.
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    Why do sales and marketing strategies need to align?

    Because if they don’t, you’re wasting time, money, and resources. You’re going to have a low ROI on both your sales and marketing efforts, and you’re going to be missing out on potential leads, sales, and revenue.

    Your company needs alignment of its sales and marketing strategies to be truly effective. In fact, according to Hubspot, misalignment between marketing and sales can cost companies 10 percent of revenue per year, or more If you consider the goals of marketing and sales strategies, even though they’re different, they’re in support of a bigger, common goal: increasing revenue. Click To Tweet   Aligning sales and marketing strategies can result in 36 percent higher customer retention, 38 percent higher sales win rates, and up to 208 percent more revenue from marketing efforts.

    How do sales and marketing strategies work together?

    How exactly your sales and marketing teams begin working together and collaborating on strategy is going to be unique to your situation. 

    Sales and marketing alignment looks different for a company with already established in-house sales and marketing teams than for a company with no marketing team at all (or no marketing team, yet—we can help with that!) or for a company with sales and marketing teams spread out across various locations.

    To align your sales and marketing efforts, communication between your sales and marketing teams is crucial. This ensures that sales has input on the kinds of marketing content that will be useful, that common goals are created, and that everyone is speaking the same language and understanding each other’s terminology. 

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    Anatomy of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

    Anatomy of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

    Anatomy of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

    If you’ve ever used the internet, you’ve seen a SERP.

    SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are the pages that return a list of web pages in response to a query you enter into the search engine. You’ve seen them on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and even Ask Jeeves, if you’ve been on the internet for a while.

    For the most part, we as consumers don’t give SERPs a second thought. They return the answers and the web pages we’re looking for — so we get on with our day. But as digital marketers, SERPs play a huge role in everything we do.

    We need to know how SERPs work, so we can optimize our strategies to get on the first page as much a possible. So, whether you’re new to digital marketing, or are looking for some insight about ranking highly on SERPs, this blog will offer a complete breakdown of the anatomy of a SERP. We’ll tell you what everything is, how it got there, and what that means for you as a marketer. Let’s get started with a basic query anyone might type in:

    Let’s say you entered “how to open a coconut” in Google’s search bar.

    You’ll end up with a page like this after you hit the enter button. This is your SERP.

    It’s a list of results a search engine has pulled together to offer you the best possible answer to your question. Let’s look a little closer at this particular page because it’s returned some interesting results.

    The first thing you see on this SERP is the “snippet” Google has published at the very top of the page.

    What is a Snippet?

    A snippet is a piece of content that a search engine pulls off of a webpage in an attempt to answer the user’s query immediately.

    Usually, a snippet comes from one of the first page SERP results. Let’s take a closer look at this snippet:

    This is an example of excellent SEO at work. Food Network is obviously a huge platform with tons of ranking authority, but they’ve done a good job of optimizing for this specific query by titling their page “how to break down a coconut.”

    Google recognizes that this page title is very similar to my query, and thus returns Food Network’s short, one paragraph answer in a snippet.

    This is a big win for Food Network. A first-page ranking and a snippet callout will drive major traffic to their site, especially for a common search query like this one. (This specific query is searched about 14,800 times a month.)

    Suggested Queries, or “People Also Ask”

    Next up on the SERP, you’ll see Google’s suggested queries based on the one you just entered. If you’re not seeing the answers you wanted, you can choose one of those other questions, and the dropdown will offer up a different snippet.

    These “people also ask” suggested query snippets are great places to get ideas for blog posts that will rank well, and they’re a wonderful place to rank. For example, HealthfulPursuit took advantage of the key phrase “opening a coconut in 7 simple steps.”

    They rank highly for that specific key phrase, and since it’s a very targeted phrase — telling people how to open a coconut, step by step — they’re going to see qualified traffic. Any consumer who didn’t find enough information in the first snippet Google provided can scroll a little further down the page to find a perfect breakdown about opening a coconut.

    Finally, you’ll see the rest of the results on the SERP. All of the videos and the suggested web pages displayed are organic results for this query.

    You might notice something odd about this SERP. Can you guess what it is?

    There aren’t any ads.

    Why?

    It’s likely that “how to open a coconut” is just too general a search term for any company to spend money on. It doesn’t signal any buyer intent and actually shows that the consumer probably already has a coconut. They just need help opening it. There’s little incentive for anyone to buy anything here unless you had a coconut-specific machete company, I guess.

    Let’s look at the SERP for my query, “where to buy a coconut,” instead.

    This is a search query with significantly more intent. I searched “where to buy a coconut”, which signals to Google that I might be interested in actually buying a coconut. So, this SERP looks much different than the previous query.

    I’ve only included the top part of the first page on purpose, to call out: 1) the ads, and 2) the local search results.

    Search Engine Ads

    We’ve all seen Google Ads before. It’s not really a revelation, but it is important to see how ads show up in SERPs if you’re considering making paid advertising a part of your outbound marketing strategy.

    The ads shown on this page are all display ads — they display an image of a product, and link over to the site where you can purchase the product. Advertisers have to pay to get this placement, but Google also plays a part by selecting only the ads it thinks are most relevant to this query to display. Click To Tweet

    Why do you care?

    Because this a perfect example of how search engine advertising works, and how you can do it well. Google Ads appear at the top of SERPs and display the products most relevant to the user’s query.

    If you want to have ads that appear first on relevant pages like this, it’s important to consider the users’ intent when bidding on keywords, and make sure that every phrase you bid on is relevant to what you’re offering.

    Local Search

    The last component of SERPs I’m going to talk about today is local search. Though local search results do appear under ads, they tend to get the most clicks, no matter what.

    They’re specifically relevant to each unique user. When I searched “where to buy coconuts” Google offered me results that were close to my immediate proximity.

    It's important to remember that SERPs do a lot more than just find you the best answer to your question. They also try to populate results that are specific to you personally. Click To Tweet That means that every time someone searches “where to buy coconuts”, the results will be different based on their specific location.

    This is important for you if you have a brick and mortar business that encourages foot traffic.

    If you do, you should make sure you’ve claimed your business on search engines, and work hard to boost your website’s SEO so that you’re ranking well for local search results like these. The more Google associates you with your location, the more you’ll show up organically for relevant searches in your area. (Want to know more about local search? We got you.)

    SERPs are an integral component of any digital marketing strategy. You need to know how they work, so you can leverage them for the best traffic, whether it’s from paid or organic search results. We hope this little guide gives you a bit more insight into the anatomy of a SERP. If you’ve still got questions, we’re here to help!

    Leave us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. And if you’re looking for more digital marketing support, just let us know. We’d love to offer any advice or guidance you need to grow your business and your brand.

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    Evenbound Hits Gold!

    Evenbound Hits Gold!

    Evenbound Hits Gold!

    Evenbound is excited to announce our promotion from HubSpot Silver Agency Partner to HubSpot Gold Agency Partner. Since 2012, we’ve used the HubSpot platform to reach the amazing clients we continue to partner with today, and we’ve helped those clients learn how to engage with, and utilize the HubSpot platform for their own effective, measurable growth. Our Gold Agency Partner status serves as an acknowledgment of the positive results we’ve delivered to clients using our unique inbound marketing strategy in conjunction with the HubSpot platform.

    What Does Hubspot Gold Agency Partner Mean?

    To award Gold Status to a partner agency, HubSpot evaluates a number of metrics to see how well the agency is 1) bringing in new clients, 2) providing exceptional service to, and retaining existing clients, 3) empowering clients to use the HubSpot platform and its variety of applications on their own, and 4) delivering inbound marketing success to each client.

    To sum it up with a few words from HubSpot, “The HubSpot Partner Tier Program acknowledges those Agency Partners who have not only brought the inbound message to the most clients but also those who executed inbound services to the highest standards.”

    Thank You!

    We’re grateful to HubSpot for their support and partnership, and we’d also like to thank our incredible clients for their dedication and loyalty to our company. This promotion encourages us to keep pushing the inbound marketing envelope, as we continue to strive for exceptional, measurable growth for our inbound marketing clients.

     

    About HubSpot

    HubSpot provides inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract new visitors, convert warm leads, and close customers.

    About Evenbound

    We’re a growth agency. That means our business is growing yours. From pulling in qualified leads to training your team how to shorten the sales cycle, we work with you every step of the way to grow your business with the right clients. Evenbound is a 100% in-house team of specialized tacticians delivering the competitive advantage to clients in construction and manufacturing industries.  

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