Every company’s online acquisition strategy is out in the open. If you know where to look.
This post shows you exactly where to look, and how to reverse engineer their growth tactics.
Why is this important? Competitive analysis de-risks your own growth experiments: You find the best growth ideas to adopt and the worst ones to avoid.
First, a warning: Your goal is not to repurpose another company’s hard work. That makes you a thief. Your goal is to identify other companies who face the same growth challenges as you, then to study their approaches for solutions to draw from.
As I walk through uncovering a competitor’s tactics, keep in mind which competitors are worth looking at: For instance, you should rarely over-analyze early-stage companies. They’re unlikely to be methodical at growth.
Meaning, if you blindly copy their site and their ads, it’s possible you’ll be copying tactics that are not actually responsible for their growth. Their success may instead be from network effects or other hidden factors.
Instead, it’s safest to get inspiration from companies who’ve sustained high growth rates for a long time, and who face the same growth challenges as you. They’re likely to have sophisticated growth operations worth studying deeply. Examples include:
If these aren’t your direct competitors, don’t worry. You don’t need to audit a direct competitor’s tactics to get incredibly valuable insights.
You can look past direct competitors.
You’ll gain useful insights from auditing the user acquisition funnel of any company who has a similar audience and business model.
Examples of audiences:
- Wealthy consumers
- Enterprise businesses
- Middle-class adults who use Chrome
- Dog owners
- And so on
Audiences matter because their behaviors and needs differ wildly. Each requires its own growth strategy. You want to audit a company whose audiences is similar to yours.
You also want to ensure the company shares your business model. Examples include:
- A high-touch sales process with multiple phone calls
- A consumer ecommerce site with easy checkout
- A self-serve SaaS signup with a freemium plan
- A pay-to-play mobile game
- And so on
Each model may necessitate different ads, landing pages, automated emails, and sales collateral.
Never implement another company’s tactics blindly.
There’s an effective process for growth analysis, and it looks like this:
- Source potential growth ideas.
- Prioritize them.
- A/B test them.
- Measure if an A/B variant significantly outperformed its baseline and whether the cost of implementing the winner would be worthwhile.
- Only then should you implement it.
Here’s a brief example before we dive into tactics.
Let’s pretend we’re a SaaS company offering consumer banking tools, and that we’re struggling to get users to onboard our app. Our hypothesis is that visitors are bouncing because they don’t trust us with their sensitive information.
Our first step is to define both our audience and our business model:
- Audience: Tech-savvy, adult consumers.
Business model: SaaS freemium funnel.
Our next step is to look for companies who share those two aspects. (We can find them on Crunchbase.)
Once we have a few in hand, we look for how they handle customers’ sensitive information throughout their funnel. Specifically, we audit their:
It’s time to learn how we audit all that. I’ll share how our marketer training program teaches marketers to do this on the job.
Tactic #1: How to see a company’s A/B tests