Get a competitive advantage with a marketing map

Friday, November 25, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 48

It sometimes seems like marketing campaigns are an escalating game of chase.

When your closest competition takes out an advertisement in the newspaper emphasizing their clients’ successes, you might feel like you need to make your presence known with a two-page spread doing the same.

When your competition puts up a billboard about the efficiency of a product or service, you wonder if you need one.

When they start advertising with client testimonials on TV, you consider altering your marketing strategy to match.

Before you can blink, your marketing budget is stretched dangerously thin – but you still feel like you’re struggling to keep up.

If this sounds familiar, you should know that you’re not alone. Companies of all sizes get caught keeping up with the Joneses.

Eventually, though, you need to know when enough is enough. If you’re tired of playing a game of one-upmanship with your competition, it’s time to get smarter about your marketing strategy.

Start by analyzing your competitive landscape. Take a close look at your competitors’ websites, their social media accounts and their advertisements to see what they’re saying about their brands.

Most marketing messages fall somewhere on a defined map. On the far side of the map, messages will be very practical, focuses on features and facts. What does the product do well?

For example, some retirement planning brands focus on numbers and savings tips. Their marketing messages emphasize practical advice, like saving one-third of your income.

On the other side of the map, you have messages that are aspirational. Messages like these focus on benefits and long-term impacts. How will the product affect a buyer’s lifestyle?

On this side of the map, financial planning brands focus on the possible outcomes of saving effectively for retirement, like traveling the world – and they leave out the small print.

Once you find out where your competitors fall on this map, you’ll know where the playing field is crowded – and where your brand can most easily stand out.

For example, if most of your competitors are sending out aspirational messages designed to give viewers warm, fuzzy feelings, your brand could have a bigger impact by emphasizing the clear facts and features that differentiate you from the competition.

Remember, though, that marketing messages fall everywhere on this map. You won’t often see a message that is purely aspirational, and you’ll be equally unlikely to find messages that are completely practical.

However, once you lay out your competition’s marketing messages on this map, you’ll clearly see where the playing field is wide open.

If you have a bird’s eye view of the competitive landscape, you can easily find the most direct path to greater profitability and growth for your business.

Ashley McHugh, Senior Analyst and Trainer at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at