What Makes Email Competitive Analysis Important

As I love to say, we marketers have a tendency to rely on intuition and experience to get us by. Assuming we don't have enough resources to make empirical data decisions and prove everything through a deep dive into data, how might we convince our organization to look at things differently and make decisions?

Competitive analysis is often a refreshing reflection that most everyone can grasp. Since ancient times, marketers have made business decisions based on how the market reacted or what competitors were doing. In the old days, we'd visit our competitors' stores to see what they were promoting and how -- and then we'd go back and modify our sale signs. Today, our evolving marketing place is digital, and email is a critical part of this equation. It's the sales sign, the storefront, the direct mail sales message and the bridge from the business to the consumer.

The problem with doing competitive analysis is twofold: first, there's the time and effort that goes into doing the research, and then, the issue of what in the world to do with the findings. But understanding your competitors and seeing how they are communicating with their customers is still a critical aspect of your business.



Over the years, I've felt that email and Web competitive analysis was a critical part of optimizing the customer experience, creating one's own creative voice and being responsive to competitive sales, events and trends. Doing this with email was generally an extremely time-consuming task and, besides a general awareness of the practice, few really knew what good it was. I've done this on many levels in many formats and it's evolved over the years to be quite meaningful. The tools are a little better, but it still requires a great deal of energy to monitor market activity properly and use this information to improve business.

So, I thought I'd frame how we do competitive monitoring and analysis through three levels:

Basic Monitoring: Signing up for all the competitor's site-side programs -- newsletters, special announcements -- anything you can get without having to buy something. You want a general pulse of mainstream messaging.

Advanced Monitoring: Seeding different types of customers based on registration requirements (this still requires no purchase). It might be a man or woman, someone with higher income, someone with certain preferences and interests. I did this for a "weather" company and seeded by products (alerts vs. daily forecasts)

Sophisticated Monitoring: This involves building purchase personas and simulating purchase behaviors to assess timing, messaging, content, promotional strategies, merchandising strategy and the subsequent approach within each key customer segment. This extends beyond traditional "batch" email monitoring and can even go as far as monitoring the use of a custom promotional landing page and various types of message streams (welcome, purchase, new customer).

There are tools in the market to help with the process, but advanced monitoring still takes customization and focus, or it can quickly become overwhelming to manage.

If your company thrives on market insight for making decisions balanced with performance-driven justification, the effort involved in monitoring competitors can really pay off. You just need to know where to start.

Competitive monitoring can offer many advantages:

  • It gives you a new dimension of the market/competitive landscape.
  • It helps tells your email story to the business.
  • It is an instant measuring stick for creative.
  • It helps expand your creative team's minds and approaches to messaging, treatment and promotion.
  • It helps you structure your own evaluations in side-by-side comparisons.
  • It can hold you to a competitive standard.

    Starting small is the key. If you begin this process and find it doesn't have value or resonance with your company, then perhaps you are not monitoring the right event or the right competitor, or not connecting what you learn to competitive tactics of your own. Part of this process is the art of analysis, and part is the production side of structuring the effort in a logical manner.

    We can no longer rely simply on our own program optimization to improve our programs. We must get back to the basics of marketing, and competitive marketing practices specific to this channel can truly help to optimize our programs.

    When you get behind this type of work, it will give you a greater visibility into your channel and efforts. It's a worthy exercise with lots of potential. If you'd like to link to some of the tools and services that I referenced in this article, visit my blog .

  • Next story loading loading..