Keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing is something you’ll doubtlessly be doing in any case – but have you signed up to receive their emails?
If you’re preparing (or indeed reviewing) your own email strategy then having a comprehensive understanding of your competitors’ tactics, what works and what doesn’t, can save you valuable time and money, by avoiding their mistakes and improving on what they already do well.
As well as this, conducting a competitor analysis will give you a great idea of what you’re up against, what standards have been set within your industry, and what you can do to make your email communications stand out from the crowd.
Step 1: Get on your Competitors’ Lists
Subscribing to your competitors’ mailing lists is the best way to gain valuable information on their email marketing strategies. Use a non-specific email address as some companies have been known to blacklist their competitors.
Step 2: Collate the Data
Once you’re receiving these emails, it’s important not to scan them aimlessly for ideas. You need to be focused on specific points:
- The Type of Email
Are they promotional or relationship building (things such as newsletters or blog posts)?
- The Content
What’s the email made up of? What products or services do they mention?
- When They’re Sent
Is there a pattern as to what gets sent when? Do they appear to have a particular strategy?
- Who They’re Sent To
Do they appear to segment their list and/or approach different markets in different ways?
After you’ve collected a couple of months worth of data, you should start to see patterns in their campaign. Perhaps they intersperse transactional (goal oriented) emails with relationship building ones, for example.
Step 3: Assess the Content
Now that you have built up a significant backlog of competitor emails, it’s time to assess the content. Again you will be looking for specific things:
- Does it seem to be professionally written or designed?
- It is specific to you, or generic?
- What are its aims? Is it trying to tempt the reader? Encourage them to click links? Perhaps note how the content left you, as a prospective customer, feeling.
Collating this information will then allow you to carry out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis.
What’s great about their email? Did their content have impact? Make a note of the tone of the email, does it seem suited to its audience? Is it easy to read? Think about the design, too. Was it particularly striking?
What have they done badly? Do they use industry jargon that could be off-putting? Are issues covered superficially? Does it seem shamelessly self-promotional, or poorly written?
This is where you can speculate on what you can improve on. Have your competitors missed something relevant? What would you prefer to have read? Did it feel pertinent to you? What can you do differently to them?
The threats section of this assessment allows you to objectively think about where you will find it difficult to compete. Is their content professionally (and perhaps expensively) written? Don’t be disheartened. The point of assessing threats is to ensure that you don’t dive head first into the deep end. If you can’t do something better, try and do something different.
When done well, a SWOT analysis can give you more than a fighting chance against your competitors. The more data you collect, the more prepared you will be to throw something new and exciting into the email marketing mix and achieve success.