Competitor Analysis

Competitor Analysis in International Trade and How to Conduct One

Develop strong strategies with competitor analysis

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What is Competitor Analysis?

Competitor analysis is a holistic work of identifying the rivals of a company, finding out their strategies that make them successful in the industry, detecting threats and discovering opportunities to pave the way for developing strategic moves.

Competitor analysis helps businesses be proactive, take right actions, foresee the future trends and develop rocksolid strategies to get ahead of their rivals.

There are so few niches with moats that surround them. In almost every profitable business there is competition; however, where there is competition, there is a war to win. And each business struggles to gain a foothold in this war. Whoever fights better will dominate the larger area.

B2B is in particular a lot harder than B2C as there are less customers in number. So, while trying to gain customers on the one hand, on the other hand, they have to follow their competitors closely in order to win in the competition.

Here is how it’s going to happen.

Identify The Competitors

As a first step of competitor analysis you should identify your competitors in 2 categories: domestic and international.

As a company already in the business for some time, you probably recognize the important players in your industry.

Before searching for the unknowns, write down the ones you already know.

If your product is not one of a kind, you have lots of competitors from all around the world, so there is no point in trying to find them all. It will cost you a huge time and be no use for the insights.

Instead, do this;

  • Review your target market analysis and determine your target markets
  • Find which countries are your target markets buying from in addition to yours.

Now you have a list of rival countries to focus on. You don’t have to waste time looking for irrelevant companies from irrelevant countries.

There are always companies selling to all the continents, but it doesn’t indicate that those companies’ homelands are your rivals. They are big companies and operate independently of the country factor.

You just concentrate on the countries’ exports, not the deviations.

Search Engine

Search engines are one of the best reference guides in today’s world, and if there is no information of what you are looking for, it’s either not publicly available or unimportant.

In such an information ocean, you’ll need to use the right keywords and queries. The more advanced, the better results you get.

For example, you produce carpet and your rival country is Belgium. When you are done with “carpet manufacturers in Belgium” and variations in your country specific Google, continue your searches in Dutch, French and German on google.be

Also keep in mind that if an exporter company is hard to find on a search engine, then I assume it’s not running a successful business. 

The whole point of a business is to be found easily online. If not, it’s probably a weak competitor with a poor marketing activity. But make sure that you search with the correct keywords.

Directories

Company directories are also great sources to find your competitors. Filtering by the countries, you can reach most of the business for free.

Take notes of these companies’ introductions on their profiles. They will give you information about themselves.

Chambers of Commerce

Every company must be registered in the chamber of commerce where it’s located. While some chambers do not expose their members online, most of them do.

For me, they should all expose their members so the buyers can verify their legitimacy. After all they exist to sell and I see no point in hiding themselves.

Exporters’ Associations

Running a business doesn’t make the company an exporter. If it wants to export its products or services, it should register itself to the relevant exporters’ association and (if obligatory in that country) should get license, permit, certificate etc.

That’s how it’s done in many countries and that’s a perfect way to find out if a business actually exports or not.

Trade Data Websites

This is my favorite source to find the exporters and where they sell to. There are trade data companies which sell international transaction information with fair prices and it’s legal. Some countries run a transparent policy of showing the trade data.

It’s also possible to get free trials from these companies and learn where your competitors are exporting to including the importer information.

To see these websites, visit resources

Social Media

Although having a website is crucial for exporters to promote themselves, obviously not every exporter has one. This is especially the case in the countries where internet infrastructure is poor.

Instead of having a business website, they promote their offerings on social media which makes them another source of finding companies.

Almost all the social media platforms have features for businesses and most of the time they are more effective than their websites, because they are used to engage with their audience instantly.

B2B Marketplaces

B2B marketplaces like alibaba bring buyers and sellers from around the world together and they work like online trade fairs.

While the buyer information is only for the premium seller members, the information of sellers are out there for free and that’s exactly what you want.

Trade Shows

Are you looking for genuine competitors that spend money on marketing? Visit the websites of trade shows. Almost all the trade shows expose their exhibitors on their websites. That’s how they attract visitors to their organizations.

Find these kinds of organizations held in your target market, get the exhibitors’ lists on their websites and see your rivals.

Furthermore, visiting them in person, getting catalogs and observing the traffic in the exhibition will provide you with precious intel.

I can give you a lot more sources to find your competitors, but let’s be rational. If a company cannot be found through the channels above, let it live in its neighborhood with its customers.

Collect Data and Analyze

Now that you know who you compete against, it’s time to monitor their moves by collecting and analyzing the data. Yes, it takes time and it’s a big challenge to refine the intel from a ton of information pieces, but if you need valuable insights that work like early warning systems, you have to go to the trouble.

Product/Service Review

All of the businesses want their offerings to be seen as perfect in the eye of their audience and they try to show their products and services on every platform possible.

It means you can see what features they mostly are proud of. The detailed photos, videos, catalogs; footage from production, trade shows, events; about pages and videos, and news releases will be out there for you on their websites and social media accounts.

Using all this data, it will be so easy for you to benchmark all aspects. Most importantly, you can learn where you stand when compared to your competitors in terms of product quality, design, features and functions.

As such you can learn:

  • Who are their ideal customers
  • Full product / service range
  • How they want to differentiate
  • Their sales policy (high volume / low price vs. premium offering / high price)

Marketing Strategy

To understand what marketing strategies your competitors carry out, signing up their newsletters, analyzing their websites, blog pages and social media performance is a good starting point.

These channels show you;

  • What kind of keywords they mostly use
  • How they rank high in Google
  • What kind of content they create
  • What kind of visuals they use
  • How they interact with their audience
  • What marketing channels they mostly use to promote their products (social media, advertisements, content marketing, trade shows, exhibitions, online marketplaces)
  • What countries are they most present in and what channels they mostly use (direct sales, distributors, agents, franchise, etc.)
  • How big their organizations are (marketing and research teams, influencers they work with and whether they work with agencies etc.)
  • What type of events they sponsor

There are very useful tools to help you understand what kind of strategies your competitors use. A few of them are Ahrefs, Sprout Social, SimilarWeb, Semrush. Through these tools, you can learn what keywords are the most popular in your industry, what your competitors are doing online, what points they mostly focus on, where they are successful, where they are not and what you should do to beat the competition.

Technology

In this age of hyper competition, when it comes to the economy of scale, the production technologies are very important. The more advanced technologies you use in your production, the higher the speed, efficiency, product quality and standardization.

And this returns to you as an increase in customer satisfaction and number. In addition, when you frequently mention in your promotional activities that you are producing with modern technology, it helps you acquire new customers.

That being the case, wouldn’t you like to know what technologies your competitors are using? Sure you would.

Then, check their websites, catalogs, social media channels; meet them, ask people who know about them and find answers to these questions:

  • How technological are their machines?
  • How automated is the production?
  • Do they use digital technologies like ai or industry 4.0?
  • What digital systems do they use in marketing?
  • Do they also appeal to end users and have ecommerce websites?
  • How do their websites function? Are they well designed and easy in terms of user experience? Are they multilingual?

Customers

You can ask for information like a pricing list of your competitors available from your customers who you get along with well.

The main intelligence source is still human and you can’t ignore the power of human intelligence. On the other hand, it’s quite compelling as it pushes you to be good at human relations and communication.

If you are a shy or reserved person you are missing something big. You can’t be thinking that your customers are totally loyal to you, right? That would be too optimistic to think that way.

We’re all human and communicate with everyone in our surrounding and that’s normal your customers are in contact with your competitors. So, depending on your approach and skills your customers can be a source either to you or them.

If you want to keep them on your side, don’t take them for granted and try to be their best friend.

Trade Actions

As I mentioned above there are trade data companies which sell international transaction information. Besides finding your competitors, you can track their operations as well.

Knowing your competitor’s buyer, order, volume and shipment records is like finding a goldmine.

Action

At the end of your data collection and analysis process, to create actionable takeaways out of them, you need to compare your position against your competitors.

A SWOT analysis of both your competitors and your business will help you see the problems, pain points, missing points, gaps and your competitive edge.

Besides SWOT analysis, create a comparison chart that indicates all the critical differences between the rivals and you. That will make your vision sharp and guide you to take the right steps.

In addition to using them against rivals and for existing and potential customers, they will also be used for self-assessment and counter moves.

In the view of such analysis, you may need to renew your technology, marketing strategy, product features, or make changes to accommodate future regulations.

As you keep your competitor analysis updated and take necessary actions on time, you never stay behind your rivals.

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