Competitive audits: The key to brand maintenance

Competitive audits: The key to brand maintenance

Slack and Company | March 8, 2018

First of all, don’t worry—we didn’t write a whole article about the importance of doing competitive audits. After all, everyone knows how important competitive audits are. Unless you’re not really interested in making well-informed decisions about your own marketing strategies.

Or understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

Or making sure your products and services are positioned better than theirs are.

Competitive audits are useful tools for keeping tabs on your competition, but the insights they contain-insights that you can use to make sure your brand's messaging and look and feel truly stand out from the rest-are worth their weight in gold. Just get one done, and you're all set!

Right?

Well … no.

Doing a competitive audit will certainly give you insights that can help you stand out—at least in the short term. But if you want to keep standing out, you need to keep doing them, and keep doing them regularly.

Here are a few ways you can help convince your peers not to settle with the competitive intel of yesteryear.

"We don’t need to do another competitive audit because we’re already happy with our current look and feel/message in the marketplace."

Actually ... you don’t have to change everything about your company every time you do a competitive audit. There’s a reason your doctor schedules regular checkups.

Have you done anything new in the past year? Chances are, so have your competitors. Don’t you want to know what that is? We live in a digital age where campaigns are being tinkered with and optimized on the fly. As wired-in as you are, you might still miss something (like the growing impact of mergers and acquisitions for example).

Regular competitive audits give you a rolling opportunity to try something new. We’ve written a lot of articles about some great low-cost or even free-to-use options for entering a part of marketing that your organization historically has avoided, from marketing automation to programmatic advertising to social media. All you need to do is start.

"Well, sure, but doing a competitive audit once is hard enough. Doing one every year wouldn’t be an effective use of our time and money."

You should always check your blind spots! Competitive audits don’t have to be Herculean, resource-guzzling efforts to be effective, but that’s sort of beside the point.

What’s the difference between putting your money in a mutual fund and putting your money in a hole in your backyard? Technically, both methods will help you keep your money safe. But if you’re interested in not only maintaining, but growing your investments, you need to actively look after and maintain them. Inactivity serves no one—not in banking, and not in B2B.

This isn't typically what "hitting pay dirt" refers to.

Getting the most out of the insights gained in your competitive audit means not just acting on them, but continually checking in on them. By not actively tending to your brand through regular competitive audits, you risk throwing away the investment you’ve already made—and stymieing any investments you might make in the future.

After all, what could be worse than going through all that intel-gathering work and revamping your whole look and feel after years of steady, sustained effort, only to launch with the same value prop, photography style, fonts or even the same general messaging and positioning as someone else? We’ve already written about how awful that is.

You’ve also heard the saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” right? Let’s say you’re recognized as an industry leader. Regular audits can also ensure that your competitors haven’t decided to ride your coattails with the hope that prospects might choose their brand over yours because they both look premium.

Trust us, this happened to one our clients after one of their competitors decided to adopt the same color palette, fonts and photography style, resulting in the need for us to quickly pivot our client’s brand in order to create more distinction in the marketplace again.

"Good point, but I’ve been in this industry for years and I’m surrounded by SMEs, so I know what’s happening with my industry and our competitors."

But ... what if you don’t?

What would happen if you were wrong—even just once? What if you missed out on an innovation that’s changing how your industry works? What if you fail to anticipate one of your competitors’ new service thrusts or pivots? What if you successfully remade your entire name around your “innovation” but now, after a few years, that key differentiator is little more than table stakes?

Regular competitive audits can even help you bring in new thinking from other industries. But according to Erica Hankes, it’s all about keeping your finger on the pulse.

“You can track the evolution of your competitors’ visual and verbal brand identities, allowing you to gain a high-level understanding of the evolution of your market or industry, pivot and be ahead of the curve.”

Erica Hankes, Brand Insights Manager

Competitive audits aren’t just there to tell you something new. They’re your ticket to a richer understanding of your competitors that you can’t get in a spreadsheet.

So, don’t skip the gym and don’t wait for next year. Put the time in. Create some healthy habits. And if you’re trying to make competitive intel a central part of your marketing strategy, keep going. You’ll be glad you did.

And speaking of healthy habits, we’re curious: How are competitive audits usually handled in your organization? Let us know by taking our short, four-question survey. Your answers could even feature in a future article!

And if you think your brand or messaging might be in need of an overhaul, then we should talk. We’re always eager to help.

Subscribe now