When selling your handmade goods, craft items or art, you need to think like a commercial business. You’ll need to consider who is going to buy your work, whether there’s a market for it, and what you need to do to differentiate your offering.
Competitor research can answer these questions for you. And these days, analyzing your rivals doesn’t have to be aggressive or unimaginative. Read on to find out more about the techniques and tools that will simplify this planning process and set you up for success.
You can learn a lot from your rivals — but you can learn a lot from your mentor too. Discover the value of mentorship here.
Defining your market
Competitor research and analysis can help you lay the groundwork for defining your market. This is particularly useful if you’re selling your work for the first time or venturing out in a different niche.
You may have already conducted some research with customer surveys, which is a great start. Competitor research is another string to your bow if you really want to define your target market and identify your customers’ wants and needs.
There are all sorts of ways for you to gather this information; performing a Google search will allow to curate lists of ‘top’ businesses in your niche and market sites like Etsy at the same time as getting a feel for your competition.
An SEO tool like Ahrefs will enable you to carry out and collate research on the direct competitors you unearth. Using the Site Explorer feature, you can establish which organic keywords they are ranking for (among other things), deduce what your potential customers are searching for, and how your competitors get found.
Once you have defined your market and key players within it, you can target consumers more successfully and draw them towards your business rather than someone else’s. You can do this by streamlining your business model, your marketing strategy, and the products you offer.
Competitor research can often be very revealing, particularly when it comes to how their audience is interacting and engaging with content on social media.
By tracking your competitors’ actions and consumer responses on social media, you can gauge brand sentiment. This could be as simple as tracking their follower numbers and reading comments on their posts and customer reviews.
To start with, look at your competitors’ strengths. Do they share awesome content with strong engagement metrics? Are they great at promoting their products organically without being too salesy? Do they run online competitions and contests to generate more interest and leads? Use this as inspiration for your social sharing.
By mirroring the successful aspects of your competitor’s social media strategy and then building upon it, you can appeal to their followers as well as cultivate interest in your brand.
Conversely, if there are aspects of their social media strategy that are falling short, this is your opportunity to swoop in and take advantage. Whether it’s their poor customer service or posts with a poor tone of voice, you can do better; one-up them with a well-executed social strategy.
Use a social media analysis tool like AdEspresso to spy on Facebook ads that your competitors have run to figure out what your competitors are doing right, and what they are doing wrong.
Similarly, it’s worth looking at existing Messenger marketing flows you can use straight away. These are tried-and-tested Facebook recipes and virtually guaranteed to deliver results and can give you the upper-hand over the competition.
Developing your own marketing strategy
Competitor research is useful for initially defining your market, but it can also be used to develop your marketing strategy.
For a start, you can look at the marketing tactics your competitors are using. If these are working well for multiple businesses in your niche, then they can work for you too.
While using the tactics of others is a good jumping-off point for your own development, it’s important to differentiate your brand to make it more attractive to customers. Use competitor research to outshine other brands.
Websites for sale are a surprisingly useful source for niche data as they often mirror recent market trends. Take a look at online marketplaces, filter by your industry, and take a close look at the websites that are generating the highest revenue. Study their design, social feeds, and content marketing efforts, then pair this information with Google Trends to learn more about what your target audience finds fresh and exciting.
Generating great content ideas
Content marketing is an important part of your overall strategy, but it can often be challenging. Even the most imaginative of writers and marketers can struggle to come up with new ideas regularly — and content marketing calls for this. It’s not enough to post one amazing article on your blog; content needs to be fresh, relevant and engaging for readers. Otherwise, you will simply lose your readership to someone else doing it better.
Competitor research offers the opportunity to take inspiration from those around you and borrow (cough) some content ideas. We’re not talking outright stealing: the key is not to copy, but to improve and enhance what your competitors have done.
Take a look at your competitors’ most successful posts on their blogs. What are their titles? Which subject matter do they cover? Are they getting many shares and engagement on social media platforms?
Use this as a jumping-off point to write your own content. How could their post be improved? Perhaps you could take a deep dive into a subject, or approach it from a different angle. Maybe you have something additional to contribute — after all, this is your industry and your area of expertise too.
Read the comments from their customers on the post too; are they positive or negative responses? How are readers engaging with it? If there are questions they are asking that haven’t been answered in your competitor’s post, answer it in yours.
There are many benefits to using competitor research to launch a successful art business. Of course, you’ve got the obvious ones, like defining your market and offering products or a service that gives consumers more value than your competition. But competitor research can be much more imaginative than that — providing you with content inspiration and direction for your own social media and marketing strategies.
Rodney Laws is an e-commerce platform specialist and online business consultant. He’s worked in the e-commerce industry for nearly two decades, helping brands big and small to achieve their business goals. You can get his advice for free by visiting EcommercePlatforms.io and reading his detailed reviews. For more tips and advice, reach out to Rodney on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.