Understand Your Competitors’ Customers Like Your Own

Insight Frameworks / by Lee Parker on June 25, 2021

Understand Your Competitors’ Customers Like Your Own

4 minute read

As a sales guy, I love competition. It keeps you on your toes and pushes you to be better than you were the day before. 


But to come out on top, you need to make smarter moves than the people you’re up against. In terms of business, this means you need to understand who your competitors are actually selling to. If you only focus on their public activities, you’re missing a crucial part of the story.


While you’ll never know their customers as well as they do, audience intelligence tools allow you to understand how they think, what they care about, and where to find them. All of this comes at a level of detail that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.


I’m going to let you in on three of my favorite ways to do competitive analysis using Helixa, paired with three of my lasting memories from the quarantine we’re finally emerging from. 


First, let’s go back to the beginning.


Double down on your strengths


To start our COVID-19 themed competitive analysis, think back to the first months of the pandemic. The knock on your front door quickly stopped signaling the arrival of company and started becoming a recurring reminder of your new delivery habit. 


It was a real bummer… but not for a company like Grubhub. If I had been working with them back then to go up against Doordash and Uber Eats, I’d have recommended playing to their strengths to win.


The first thing I noticed after running the analysis is the overlap between the three audiences. Depending on the brand, up to 30 percent of the audience is shared with the other two competitors. 


Helixa_meal delivery overlap

To me, that’s a great sign that people aren’t all that loyal to their chosen brand, and that makes sense when each app has a different selection of restaurants. 


Next, let’s take a look at the psychographic profiles for each audience. Our Grubhub users are more likely to be “thoughtful eaters” and “home chefs” than those using the competitor apps. The audience is much more likely to fall into either category than the national average, as well.


Helixa_meal delivery psychographics

Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s the last thing I want to hear if I’m working with Grubhub,” and I get it, but this could have become a competitive advantage with a little creativity. 


For example, a lot of restaurants were launching “build-your-own” kits around this time, and Grubhub could have highlighted this new strategy in a specific campaign or dedicated section of the app. 


After all, even the most dedicated home chef needs a break at times, and Grubhub could’ve positioned its app as the place to go when that time came. 


Attract your competitor’s audience


Next, we’re taking our time machine to last summer, after we had been in quarantine for a while. I don’t know what your friends were doing, but plenty of mine became pro bakers seemingly overnight.


Many people were thinking critically about the flour they bought for the first time, if they could find it at all. This was a great opportunity for a brand like Gold Medal to expand its reach, not only with new bakers but also with established home cooks that used the competitor brands disappearing from the shelves.


Helixa_flour head to head

Let’s say Gold Medal wanted to steal market share from King Arthur during this peak period. The first thing I notice when I compare their audiences is that King Arthur wins in the Northeast, by a substantial amount. That seems like a good place to run a campaign angling for that audience.


But what would you include in that campaign? King Arthur has almost double the affinity of Gold Medal in both the political and social activist categories. But when offering a staple product like flour, the brand might be hesitant to rock the boat.


Here’s another angle: King Arthur fans are more than twice as likely as Gold Medal’s audience to be dedicated readers. 


Helixa_flour psychographic readers 1


Gold Medal could have done a content series where notable authors cooked recipes that would pair well with one of their books, and ran it in the Northeast region. Maybe those King Arthur fans would’ve been willing to turn a new page.


Use segmentation to identify opportunities


Now, fast forward to the present day — things are finally reopening. Fitness centers and gyms have to be jumping for joy. (I know I’m just as excited to get back.)


Let’s use LA Fitness as an example of a business trying to convince once-regulars to return to the gym and start dropping those extra pandemic pounds.


There’s only one problem: the brand is competing against its audience’s new Pelotons and at-home routines. The audience has already made the investment, so how do you convince them to venture out of their homes for a workout?


Segmentation is a potential solution that can be powerful for uncovering new growth opportunities and white space. 


To demonstrate, I built an at-home-fitness audience of people engaging with Peloton, Mirror, or Tonal, then used Helixa’s segmentation tool to see what insights I could find.


The first thing I noticed was one segment had a very high affinity for meal kits.


Helixa_meal kits for LA fitness audience

I thought that was pretty curious, so I used our fusion with MRI-Simmons to figure out why they might be so engaged with these meal kit brands.


Turns out, 71 percent of this segment tries to eat dinner with their family every night and 75 percent say they’re always on the lookout for quick and easy meal options.


Perhaps LA Fitness could reach this segment of the at-home-fitness audience by partnering with a meal kit brand and offering a holistic health package. The quicker meals leave more time for them to get back to the gym.


The company that knows the most, wins the most


Competitive analysis is critical for building a successful business. 


You’re not operating in a vacuum, so you need as much information as possible about competing companies and other factors that affect your business. Otherwise, you’ll be too unprepared to come out on top.


By understanding competing companies and their customers, you can double down on your strengths, attract their audience, and use strategic tools like segmentation to identify untapped opportunities.


Most companies move blindly, relying on gut feelings and past executions while understanding little about their competitors. If your competition is falling short with a portion of the market, why wouldn’t you lean in and take it from them. 


By taking those first steps and putting together a proper competitive analysis, you’ll be ahead of the game. 



As Director of Business Development here at Helixa, Lee Parker is focused on helping agencies and PR firms achieve greater success by inspiring his clients to think beyond the status quo and demand real-world insights to drive their campaign strategies. When he isn’t working with media, content and strategy teams, you can find him enjoying the great outdoors, wandering the wilderness for that perfect primitive camping spot.


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