The Marketing Boutique

Conducting a competitive analysis is probably one of the most important reports you should spend time doing for your business. It’s time well spent in knowing your competition.

Why you should know your competition

The main reason is that clients now have quick access to your competitors’ perceived or actual product/service benefits. The second reason is that you may be promoting a specific product feature or an internal human factor like customer service as your key brand differentiation – which, depending on how competitive your industry is, could not be enough to make the sale.

The third reason is that the consumer has changed. We’ve changed. We want choices, and we’ll search online to get them. Even a new advertising or social media campaign can change your customers’ minds, and they move to your competition.

Online tracking makes it easier to know your competition

On the upside of things, as someone in marketing, it has gotten easier to read the competition thanks to the Internet. Granted, you may not know about an upcoming advertising campaign from your competition, but what competitor tracking will do is help you understand the current industry environment. But you’ll need to know what you are looking at to build a marketing plan, and it starts by creating a competitive analysis spreadsheet.

How to analyze and report

What you are looking for is the ability to understand what’s next. You should be asking questions such as, “what will be your competitor’s next move? What type of skill set do they have that I’ll need that will help my company grow?

Take your time to develop these questions as it will in the analysis phase.

The next area to track is how you compare against your direct competitors based on actual product features and clients’ perceptions of your product and your competition. Ideally, create an excel with a list of products and services your competition has and compare with your company’s offering. Look for gaps.

You can discover competitive gaps and opportunities from products, marketing or sales, brand strength, client perceptions and other staff, like finance or operations.

Below are the major factors you should be tracking either weekly, monthly or daily depending on your industry.  These factors include financial stability, type of clients, marketing investment, staffing, product and service offering and brand positioning and messaging.

Competitive analysis includes the following:
  1. Who are your direct and indirect competitors
  2. Understand the threat of substitution
  3. What is the ease of market entry
  4. Supplier Power
  5. Buyer Power

At the start, create an excel template listing the top 5 to 10 factors, benefits and features your customers believe to be important and are factors for your company’s success.

You’ll need to set at least 10 hours a week to stay on top of your competitive reporting; it comes with a lot of reading competitor’s annual reports, press releases, product brochures, patent applications and much, much more!

Also, you’ll need to travel to trade shows, check out how the competition presents their brand, attend all seminars and speak with the trade show organizers – the good ones will have a vibe on the industry’s outlook based on exhibitors and attendees comments, attendance and promotional programs.


I like doing a competitive analysis. It allows me to understand clearly my company’s position in the industry, as well as my company’s strengths and weakness. During a competitive analysis, you need to remove any bias. You need to think analytical because you won’t be doing your company any favours by listing brand strengths that are still not developed. Also, brand strengths need to be relevant since you’ll be using these strengths to create a truly unique brand message that is relevant to your target market.


Yes! It will help you formulate the marketing strategy, discover opportunities in new markets or product development and create a unique brand message that will help you stand apart from your competitors.


My biggest frustration is when I read posts that insist that you can know your competitor’s marketing strategy by reading a press release. By the time you’ve read the press release, it’s too late. You are in reactive move.

However, you can find out a lot from a public company from their annual shareholder report, especially in which product saw growth, which markets they are focusing on and why they’ve spent so much money. Here is a list on how to track your competition:

  1. Subscribe to their newsletter
  2. Speak with your salespeople
  3. Speak with your client/customers
  4. Track lost sales and find out why they chose to go with the competition.
  5. Understand your market trends and political environment
  6. Be curious, don’t accept the status quo.
  7. Visit trade shows, speak with the competition.
  8. Follow them on social media.
  9. Visit their website – often.
  10. Write up a monthly report. It will help to see changes before it comes to a full-blown problem.

The second area is sales forecasting. There are two types of sales forecasting, a) when you’ve just launched a business and need to know your cash flow and b) when you’ve been in business for a few years and need to know how much sales you need to stay profitable.

The idea that you can track your competitive and help you with your sales forecast is naïve. It will only help you understand how much work, like marketing, promotion, sales, and product development you need to do if you plan on entering ‘their territory.’

Or, it will help you determine whether you should enter their landscape, or not and go somewhere else.

NOTE: As much I appreciate the importance of a monthly competitive analysis report, I also know that things can happen quickly. You get a big client win, or overnight a competitor enters your niche market, or there a new product introduction that caught you by surprise and changes the market space. It happens. No matter how much competitive tracking you are doing. It what makes the business so exciting.

Need more? Check out The Business Toolkit.

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The Who, What, Where, When and Why of developing an online brand ambassador program

I come from a background of working with non-profits and charities, helping them to raise brand awareness about their cause. One of the things I loved the most about working with NGOs, is the virtually non-existent ad budgets!

Yes, you read that correctly.

There is a thrill in developing promotional campaigns with next to no funding; it not only breeds creativity but makes buy-in throughout the organisation a breeze. By having a gang of stakeholders rallied to promote the campaign, the resulting word-of-mouth advertising is not just inexpensive – it’s priceless.

I had a wonderful time managing a couple of Brand ambassador programs and here are my top tips to get you started.

1- Why implement a brand ambassador program?

During the Holidays, potential consumers are bombarded with marketing from all sides. Content that comes from brand ambassadors, however, doesn’t look or feel like traditional ad campaigns. The major advantage is that you are connecting a network of people who are already favourably predisposed to your brand with authentic and sincere content – backed by an ambassador to engage their networks with their content and hold a conversation around it.

2- Who are the right people to represent my brand?

The stakeholders who are best positioned to mobilize their networks are your employees, volunteers, brand fans and your customers (or beneficiaries). Select your ambassadors for their natural ability to communicate their genuine enthusiasm for your product, service or cause. A good candidate would be someone who is ideally passionate about your brand, active on their personal social media platforms, and is keen to answer questions and be the public face of your brand to their networks.

Today we have popular bloggers who can also be in your brand ambassador program with services ranging from wiring a blog post to attending an event.

3- What should I expect them to do?

You have chosen your ambassadors for their spunk and eagerness, but they are not necessarily trained public relations professionals! Help them help you by developing clear expectations – the place to start is by getting on the same page with the program’s objectives and messaging. Give them opportunities to practice articulating their passion with sincerity and authenticity – you don’t want them sounding scripted. The next step is to ask them to develop content in the form of blog posts, video testimonials, photos, that are in line with those objectives. This content is the collateral that will make your brand go viral!

You can also ask them to attend your events, speak with the media as well as participate in product development.

4- Where does content get posted?

Now that your ambassadors have pumped out quality content, it’s time for them to share it with their personal networks! Make sure that they are linking back to you, tagging you and mentioning you so that you can share their material in turn. This creates a far vaster web of exposure than any pure ad campaign could reach.

5- When is the best timing for a program?

The Holiday season is a natural time for your brand ambassadors to begin connecting your content to their network. It is a time in which people are getting in touch, and are feeling receptive to cheerful messages. While your campaign would necessarily need to be time-limited (the T in SMART objectives!), and could easily wrap up early in the New Year, the beauty of online campaigns is that the content remains even when the program has ended. Furthermore, you can constantly create new content and tap new networks by recruiting new ambassadors if you are targeting a longer-term program and have a sufficient candidate pool from which to draw from.

Case Study – Girl Guides of Canada

As the head of public relations for Quebec at Girl Guides of Canada, in 2012, I launched a year-long brand ambassador program, Quebec Girls Leading Tomorrow. The campaign objective was to promote girl leadership development by introducing adult members that had grown up as Girl Guides and are considered today’s leaders in various capacities.

The four dynamic women that participated in the Brand Ambassador program provided testimonials, blog posts, interviews, videos, and photos, and also attended events to help promote important brand messages of their wonderful experience, including gaining leadership skills as a Girl Guide! They also shared this same message on their social media platforms and made themselves available to the media for interviews during these events.

The campaign was a rousing success, garnering not only media coverage throughout the year-long program but through tapping the ambassadors’ personal networks – reaching audiences that Girl Guides of Canada had not been able to connect with otherwise.

Have you heard?

Copy Blogger wasn’t getting qualified likes or followers on his Facebook business page, claiming it was not beneficial for his brand. He had tried a number of things, from deleting junk fans, blocking those fans and then trying Facebook advertising in an effort to reach his actual fan base, with poor results. In the end, he deleted his Facebook business page. Read More

We’ve got eight online marketing tips to help improve your holiday sales! You need help with your online marketing as the holidays start to get close in on us. The big shopping rush is about to set upon us and as a local shop or an e-retailer, you know you need a certain percentage of this holiday buying momentum to make your year profitable. The good news is that based on Internet Retailer reports, the e-commerce holiday sales are set for double-digit growth for 2014. Even if you are a local shop and may not have a website or sell online, there are affordable online marketing tactics you can do to ensure you’ll get some of that holiday spending spirit!

Here are our eight online marketing tips to help you get more sales during the holiday shopping season.

1. Online marketing starts with advertising

Whether you are an online store or a local shop, now is the time to increase or invest in your online marketing tactics, specifically in advertising and promotions. Branding Brand reported that in August 2014, 51% of traffic to leading retailers came from smartphones and tablets and expect a steady increase in mobile shoppers.

Action #1: Invest in Mobile Advertising for this holiday season. This can be a solid tactic for a local retail shop that may not have a website.

Action #2: Test Facebook Advertising as they too report that 66% of their sales come from mobile users. Test early to ensure that during the holiday season you get your advert just right!

2. Optimize check-out

Your second 2 online marketing tip is to optimize your website before the holiday buying season, now is not the time to skimp out on enhancing the check-out process on your e-commerce site. Make any additional costs clearly visible during the “add to cart” step. Also make it easy to buy! Remove the required ‘have to register’ before purchase or add the option to buy as a guest. Finally, add produce images when they view their cart.

3. Develop a Holiday Gift Guide, or two!

We like it easy. As a stressed-out holiday shopper, we look to our retailers to do the work for us. That’s why an annual Holiday Gift Guide, as well as gift packages, are very popular. To create a branded experience, one where customers wait for every year, you need to start with holiday packaging materials, new products, different product sizes. Don’t forget to hire a top-notch photographer, one who has experience in product photography.

Make enough photos so you can create a general holiday guide and then another one for either the rush period or a dedicated guide, like just for men, depending on what you offer. Also, hire a graphic artist to create a beautiful layout because you want people to share your guide!!

4. CO-BRAND YOUR holiday promotion

According to Retail Information Systems News, 43% of us will pay full price in order to get the “perfect gift” for someone on their list. In other words, it pays to invest in public relations and co-branding with other online brands and influencers.

Don’t forget to optimize your website and create your yearly Holiday Gift Guide, add a dedicated holiday web page complete with insiders tips and favourite products and introducing new products. Take advantage of the buying mood.

If you are an e-Retailer, you have the opportunity to stretch beyond your traditional categories and introduce new categories that normally would not fit or you won’t have space in a brick and mortar location.

5. Expand your social MEDIA platforms

I’m sure you know that we share the stuff we love to our families and friends via social media. This year, 44% of us will also spend the time to discover new products via social networks! In fact, more of us will check out items online, primarily on social media and specifically on Facebook and then go to the store to buy them, primarily to avoid shipping costs.


Today’s shoppers put more hours into online research before they make a purchase. Creating a giveaway is a great way to build excitement and fun for your customers during this special time of the year. Include deals, specials, free shipping or home delivery.

Remember this post is about online marketing, so do look for the right technology for online contests.

7. In-store visits increase ONLINE value

True, many shoppers will be turning to smartphones while shopping at your store, however, these shoppers, according to Caltech, will spend 50% more for items they can see and touch. This suggests that while foot traffic to stores may have declined, the value and experience of in-store visits have increased. This suggests that in addition to introducing new products at your store, promotions just for the holiday season, home delivery, include something dramatic, like a stylist or develop a service excellence attitude.

8. Expand your sales channels

As a local shop, you should expand your sales channels. This can easily be done by selling your products on Amazon or creating a Facebook page and promote that you offer home delivery. Statics has shown that local shops have increased their sales by expanding their sales channels and adding an eCommerce component to their marketing mix.

In today’s post, we’re offering you six promotions for health and wellness companies. The health and wellness industry is big. It encompasses everything from day spas and gyms to wellness tourism, feminine hygiene, home fitness, and nutrition.

Because consumers are always on the lookout for the “next great thing” to help improve their health and lifestyles, you need to be promoting your brand.

Promoting Your Health and Wellness Company

The promotions are applicable for brick and mortar shops as well as for online shops.  Even though recent trends have shown that online shopping is becoming more popular than traditional shopping, many small shops continue to thrive in today’s competitive economy.

But today’s retailer needs to do more complex promotions, one that ties social media, brick and mortar shop, with their online shopper and the wider community. Many health and wellness companies today need to expand their marketing muscle. Because very few can survive today with a small advert in their local newspaper. 

Here are six promotions for health and wellness companies, boutiques, gyms and spas.
  1. Engage Brand Ambassadors or Micro-Influencers: Many bloggers have a large following, but you need to make sure their followers are truly engaged. Some don’t provide measurement for most of their promotional activities or even provide a report on how many clicks you’ll receive from an earlier blog post. You will both need to work with your influencer, your expectations and your working agreement. In other words, you may just have to reduce your expectations and work slowly with a brand ambassador until you can actually see the results you expect from using a brand ambassador. Micro-influencers in the health and wellness space has more credibility, as they are seen as experts and trusted sources of information. These influencers can generate substantial engagement and can yield a highly measurable ROI. They’re likely to get up to 9.7% engagement, while celebrities may clock in at around 1.6%.
  2. Branded Annual Event: The larger our online community grows, the more we love to connect on a more personal level. An annual event is exciting, especially when it’s exclusive. Create a theme around your annual event, something none of your competitors can copy. If you don’t have the time or money, you don’t have to create huge events to get your buyers’ attention. You can consider having pop-up shops, offering free samples, and getting a photo with their favourite influencer – all to get your consumer to talk about your product, share your content, and buy your product.
  3. Leverage Local Event or Charity: Take your time and pick the right charity you want to support. Sometimes it is better to support a young charity and get in early enough to help a charity grow; this way, most of the press will be directed at you, and that’s the point. No press, not worth it.
  4. Referral / Loyalty Program: While this tactic seems overdone and almost every store offers a loyalty program, these still work, especially to your loyal customers. They want to love you and an annual 10% discount on their birthday goes a long way.
  5. Media Relations: Many businesses have created success by being written up in beauty and wellness magazines. These are popular magazines read by a wide audience, and one positive write-up can new leads for years to come.
  6. Email marketing: Not sure where to start with your email marketing program? Subscribe to your competitors and a few other brands to see what they’re doing in their newsletter, and this will also fuel your creativity at the same time. But, take note, email marketing is not easy. Sometimes, I love a brand, but their email marketing is uninspiring. I end up deleting them. While others, I truly enjoy. Take note of the styles you like and why.