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We often tell our home service clients that the key to their success is to highlight what makes them unique. But what isn’t often said is that, in order to determine what makes your plumbing company special, you have to know what your competition is doing.
This is especially a good idea if your plumbers are leaving to go work for them or your customers have started calling them for estimates. And, even if these things aren’t happening, it’s still a good idea to take some time to discover your competitive advantage.
Doing Your Research
You don’t have to infiltrate your competition like some sort of spy movie, but you can start your reconnaissance by researching your competitors to see what they are doing that works, how their employees feel about them and what their customers say about them.
The internet, fortunately, makes researching your competition a lot easier than in times past.
One of the first things you should do is to conduct a keyword search on Google to see how your competitors’ page rankings stack up to yours. Chances are that if you’re a residential plumber and you type in your city’s name and “plumbing,” you’ll get thousands of pages of choices. Don’t worry about all of them. Simply focus on the first page’s organic results.
After scrolling through the ads, you’ll want to see which companies come up first in the organic list so you can begin assessing how they are achieving this honor. A number of factors are usually taken into consideration in any search engine algorithm, particularly Google’s.
If your competition regularly shows up in news articles or continuously adds new content to their website in the form of blogs or updated pages, a search engine’s algorithm will recognize that the company is active online and will reward this.
Other factors that determine a favorable search engine ranking are how much paid keyword advertising a company buys and how many times credible and authoritative external websites link back to their pages.
If your company isn’t on the first page, it may be time to consider adding some public relations spice to your advertising recipe. PR can help you get noticed by your local media and trade outlets who will post your company’s URL in stories so that you can start earning those backlinks.
A Deeper Dive
While a favorable search engine ranking can help you judge how well your brand is faring on the internet, it won’t necessarily explain why your techs are leaving or your customer calls are dwindling.
For this, you need to start looking at review sites and social media.
Start by reading your competition’s reviews on sites like Yelp! or Google and comparing them to your own. While it’s not perfect, reading a sampling of your competitors’ reviews can help you determine if they have a more responsive customer service department or if they’re providing more of a service for the price.
You should also start regularly visiting your competition’s social media pages for more insight into their business model. If they are active and responsive to customers on their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages or if they are constantly posting “how to” videos or beautiful imagery on TikTok or Instagram, they are boosting their Google rankings and grabbing attention away from you.
Finally, your competition’s social media might shed some light on their company culture. In addition to better pay, most employees move to another company because of company culture. If your competition is providing perks that you aren’t, this might be the reason you’re losing your best plumbers to them.
Boosting Your Visibility
Take a look at what your competition is doing that works and what they do that doesn’t work. You don’t necessarily want to imitate them directly, but you should borrow their most successful strategies and mold them into advantages that work for your organization.
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to formulate a plan that will improve your visibility and boost your attributes.
As part of your competitive analysis, you probably noticed that some of your competitors show up in news articles as thought leaders. When a story that involves your trade becomes news – like how to prevent bursting pipes during a cold snap, for example – if the media is calling your competition for a quote, chances are they aren’t just lucky, they’ve probably hired a PR agency.
You can also build up your bona fides by issuing press releases frequently. By crafting and issuing press releases that highlight the positive news coming from your company or offering tips to homeowners, you become more familiar to the media in your city or industry.
Once a journalist gets to know you better and becomes more familiar with your expertise, that reporter is more likely to call on you to provide a quick soundbite or quote when they are doing an article that involves your industry.
Not only that, but the additional clicks on your press releases or mentions of your company name in quotes will help drive up your appearance in Google searches.
When to Hire a PR Agency
While you may have determined it’s in your company’s best interest to reach out to the media and write more blog and social media posts, it’s not always easy to do.
It can take time to cultivate a relationship with members of the media or learn how to put out a press release that will garner media attention. It is also time consuming to write frequent blog posts and create content for social media that is compelling.
This is where a professional PR agency can help. They already have those relationships and they know how to approach the media. They also know what reporters are looking for in a news story.
PR pros also have a penchant for developing content for blogs and social media that will not only position you as the thought leader in your community or in your industry but promote your company’s culture and shared values. This helps you most with the passive recruiting you need to both maintain and attract the top talent in your area.
Knowing how your competition is boosting their own visibility is critical in how you position your company in your market. Competitive analysis research can help you discover what truly makes you unique, what you should do to better promote your distinctive attributes and how to better position your company so that it is seen as the market leader.