Nataliya Mykhaylova, winner of a student competition to find new ways to thwart cyber criminals, has devised a novel method for detecting attacks that already has the interest of banks.
Source: Knowledge @ Wharton
How a Student Competition Led to a New Cyber Security Approach
How well do you know your competition?
Depending on your industry or location, the market may be saturated with businesses providing the same services or offering the same products as your company does.
Not everyone will survive.
Sooner or later, one or two companies will separate themselves from the crowd.
If you want to be an expert in your niche, you’ll need to learn effective competitor analysis skills.
Otherwise, you could put yourself at risk of falling behind those businesses that adopt these strategies first.
As a marketing expert who founded several startup companies, I’m well aware of how competitive certain spaces can be.
It’s not easy to operate a business, especially when you’re worried about the guy down the street taking customers away from you.
Whether you’re a small-town business or a global ecommerce store, you need to analyze your competition.
If you’ve never done this before, I’ll show you how to get started.
My techniques will help you improve your business and increase profits fast.
Identify your competitors
Knowing your competitors may sound obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how many people I meet can’t name their competitors.
Those of you who fall into this category have to identify your top competitors before you do anything else.
Even if you know who your competition is, it won’t hurt to start here. You may be find new information.
Let’s say you’re a local business selling sandwiches in Seattle.
Run a search on Yelp:
The top results will be advertisements, but that doesn’t mean those aren’t your competitors.
Don’t disregard them completely just yet.
Here’s something else to keep in mind.
You’re looking only for your direct competition.
If your sandwich shop also sells cookies or pies, you’re not looking for bakeries or specialty dessert shops.
You’re also not competing with every bar in your neighborhood that has a sandwich on the menu.
So filter your search to get more accurate results:
If you click on the “all filters” tab, you can narrow the results.
For this example, I’d recommend picking a price range similar to yours and a place in the same neighborhood.
If your most expensive menu item is $12, you don’t care about the gourmet restaurant 8 miles away selling $45 sirloin steak sandwiches on their dinner menu.
Now that you’ve got a more accurate list, write down your top competitors.
In a busy city, like Seattle, you may find upward of 30 sandwich shops in your neighborhood alone.
That’s way too many.
Look for businesses with the most reviews and the highest ratings.
Narrow that list down to 5 or 10 at most.
Yelp isn’t your only resource.
However, these platforms may not be helpful if you’re trying to identify competitors in a digital marketplace.
If your operations are run completely through a blog, website, or ecommerce store, you’ll need to use other tools to identify your competitors.
Try using a service like SimilarWeb:
They offer lots of competitor analysis tools, including competitor identification.
All you need to do is put in the name of your website, and they’ll generate a list of your competitors.
They have a free sign-up option, but to maximize your research, I would recommend paying for an upgraded subscription.
If you don’t want to pay for a subscription, consider reaching out to your current customers.
Creating an effective customer survey can help you learn more about their habits.
Send a survey to your subscriber list asking them to identify other websites they shop at or blogs they read.
Who is their target audience?
Now that you’ve identified your top competitors, it’s time for you to see whom they are targeting.
You can’t assume their target market is the same as yours.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s continue with the local sandwiches example.
Here’s a chain sandwich shop called Cheba Hut:
Take a look at the names of the sandwiches on their menu.
Also, notice how they refer to their different sizes.
Based on your research, you may have identified this company as a top competitor.
They have the same hours as you; they’re close to you; and they sell sandwiches at the same price point.
But it’s clear this business is trying to appeal to a certain crowd.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying you need to adopt this strategy and look for a niche market to focus your marketing strategy on.
All I’m saying is you need to identify the target market of your top competitors.
After further analysis, you may determine you want to make some adjustments, but we’re not quite there yet.
Here are some things to consider when you’re identifying your competition’s target audience:
- Marital status
Your results won’t be perfect, but try to come up with an accurate customer profile based on their advertising campaigns.
Your Google ranking is essential
How can you be better than your competitors?
You both have the same type of content on your website.
You’re targeting the same customers.
They even update their site, services, and products as frequently as you do.
Why are they ranked so much higher on a Google search than you are?
You need to understand the components of Google’s ranking algorithm:
Visit your competitors’ websites.
Evaluate their SEO.
Determine how they are using keywords to boost their search ranking.
Look for keywords and phrases in the following places on their sites:
- Title pages
- H1 headings
- H2 headings
- Internal links
- URL structure
Do you notice a pattern?
See what words are getting used the most in these places.
It may have an impact on their rankings.
Compare their content to the keywords on your site.
Are you using long-tail keywords?
You should be.
Incorporating a long-tail strategy into your content creation will improve your ranking because it’s more specific.
Ecommerce sites use this tactic all the time to get more hits.
If you’re selling a pillow, adding the word “pillow” all throughout your content isn’t as effective as using terms like “down pillow for side sleepers.”
Is your competition using this strategy?
If so, that’s probably why they’re outranking you in related search results.
Analyze competitor content
Take your analysis one step further.
Getting customers to your platform is only half the battle.
But what do these people see once they arrive?
Here are some other things to look for on your competitor’s page:
- Case studies
- Buying guides
- FAQ pages
- Guest posts
Compare these to your own website.
They may have certain features you’ve omitted from your site.
I’m not saying you should automatically mimic the structure of their pages, but see what’s working for them.
For example, let’s say you discover your top three competitors have a blog. And all three outrank you on Google.
You should consider adding a blog to your site.
This data about the benefits of blogging speaks for itself.
Adding a blog to your website will help you:
- Generate more leads
- Increase conversions
- Get more inbound links
- Have more indexed pages
- Gain trust from consumers
And that will lead to increased profits.
Something else to keep an eye on while you’re analyzing their website is their calls to action.
How is your competition adding subscribers, generating leads, or converting sales?
Look at their sales pitches.
See what benefits they are offering.
How do their top features compare to yours?
You may realize your product and service are significantly better than those of your competition.
But that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t relay that information to your customers.
Look at how marketers are failing to use CTAs:
Reviewing the CTA on your competition’s website could be an eye-opening experience for your marketing department.
Your competitors may excel in areas where you’re lacking.
That’s okay for now. But it needs to be fixed before you fall too far behind.
Look at their social media presence
All businesses should have a presence on social media platforms.
For now, I’m going to assume your company is active on at least some of the most popular platforms:
If not, you need to follow my social media guide.
For those of you who already have profiles set up, navigate to your competitors’ pages.
How active are they?
What are they posting?
Are their customers engaged with their posts, photos, videos, and comments?
Here’s an idea.
Start adding their followers.
These people are obviously interested in your industry if they are following your competitors.
Maybe they don’t know your company exists.
Don’t be selective. Add all of them.
The more people you add, the greater your chances of getting customers to follow you back will be.
Understand why consumers follow brands on social media:
Once they start following you, it’s essential you keep them engaged.
Keep in mind, some of these people may have already established a brand loyalty with your competition.
You really need to blow them away to convince them your brand is better.
See what kind of promotions your competitors are running on social media.
Try to run one that’s more appealing.
How do they incorporate videos into their social media marketing strategy?
Video content makes up more than 90% of Internet traffic.
You should be using live video to engage with your customers.
Even if that’s something your competition isn’t doing, it’s a great way to stay ahead of them.
Recognize areas needing improvement
Now that you’ve analyzed your competitors’ customers, websites, marketing strategies, and social platforms, it’s time to adjust your business.
Based on your research, what areas of your business need improvement?
Where do your competitors excel while you struggle?
There’s always room for improvement. Don’t be biased.
It’s okay to recognize your competitors are doing well.
Run a SWOT analysis:
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- What are you doing well?
- How have you separated yourself from the competition?
- What makes your company unique?
- What do you need to improve to compete with your top competitors?
- What resources or tools do you need to achieve that?
- Do you need to change your location or conversion method?
- What is the current public perception of your company?
- How can you target new customers based on your competition’s strategy?
- Are there any new changes in the industry or market?
- Which competitors are directly impacting your revenue?
- What’s preventing you from improving your business?
- How are you leaving yourself vulnerable to losing customers?
These questions are just a starting point.
You can take this SWOT analysis much further to make the necessary changes and improvements.
If you want to increase profits, start by analyzing your competition.
Competitor analysis is an effective strategy for businesses in all industries, whether your company is large, small, or somewhere in the middle.
The first thing you need to do is identify your top competitors.
Narrow this list down to 5 or 10 at the most.
Only look for direct competitors—not just any business similar yours.
Once you’ve identified these companies, you need to focus on their customers.
What’s their target market?
How are they appealing to these customers?
Focus on your Google ranking:
Analyze your competition’s website to see what kind of SEO tactics they’re using.
Review their content, and compare it to your own.
What pages on their site generate the most user engagement?
Consider adding a blog to your website if you don’t have one already.
Check out the social media profiles of your top competitors.
Start adding their followers in an attempt to draw more customers to your business.
Use the SWOT analysis to recognize and implement any necessary changes.
Making these changes can help improve your business and increase profits.
Which online tools will you use to identify the top 5 direct competitors in your industry?
How to Increase Profits by Analyzing Your Competition
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In an age of fiscal uncertainty, US cities and states must optimize capital allocation to improve infrastructure planning.
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Freek Vermeulen, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, argues that too many companies are following so-called best practices that are actually holding them back. They do it because of deep-seated industry tradition—and because it’s hard to know how seemingly successful business models will hold up over the long term. That’s why, he says, organizations should avoid benchmarking and instead routinely test their business practices before there’s a problem. Vermeulen is the author of “Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business.”
603: When ‘Best Practices’ Backfire
Microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus explains how making everyone an entrepreneur could eliminate poverty, unemployment and environmental devastation.
Source: Knowledge @ Wharton
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Source: Knowledge @ Wharton
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Until very recently, it seemed that telecommunications giant AT&T’s $85 billion deal to purchase Time Warner would be completed by the end of December.
Source: Knowledge @ Wharton
Why Has the AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gotten Tangled?
Vanilla and fruit are an undeniable combination in desserts. As far as beer goes, it’s gained new popularity in Milkshake IPAs. But it isn’t a new combination for sour beer, going back at least the original Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus (and more recently Zwanze 2016). I decided to try adding a vanilla bean to a quick sour with white peaches and nectarines to provide depth and balance.
My concept was similar to the “Pop” series from Grimm Artisanal Ales – although I was unaware of them until after brewing. I sampled the Pineapple variant while mine was carbonating and wasn’t disappointed by the bold flavors! My base beer and process shared more than a few similarities with previous batches (including Rhubarb Berliner, Atomic Apricot). Simple pale grist including oats for mouthfeel, no-boil to retain fresh malt aromatics, and no hops in the kettle.
For souring, I turned to GoodBelly probiotics for the first time. While I could have selected a complimentary fruit flavor, I added two “Straight Shots.” Lacto grows remarkably quickly, so no need to make a starter if they are fresh. I only chilled the wort to 85F with my Therminator plate-chiller. There is no need to maintain a high temperature or worry too much about oxygen contact when souring with a pure culture, so I allowed it to slowly cool to my target pitching temperature of the ale yeast to follow. I boiled the remainder of the wort and it continued on to become Nelson Thyme Saison.
After a day of souring I pitched Safale S-04, and shortly after added a split vanilla bean – which incidentally have doubled in price over the last year! The following weekend I visited the local farmer’s market and bought a total of 10 lbs of white peaches and nectarines (two of my favorite fruits for sour beer). The nectarines were perfectly juicy and aromatic a couple days later, peaches were a little dry and mealy but still usable. The beer was actually pretty good even before adding the fruit, with the vanilla playing with the doughy malt.
This recipe would be a good candidate for lactose to taste, to reinforce the perceived sweetness that vanilla and fruit contribute, but considering that I’m about to open a vegan brewery… I thought better of it. Instead to replace that “creaminess” I planned to serve the beer on beer gas through my stout faucet. The problem with sour beers (especially quick sours) is that their head retention is often lacking. To combat that, I lowered the pH of the wort pre-souring to inhibit proteolysis by the Lactobacillus.
I wanted more insurance than that though. Reduced isomerized alpha acids can be terrifically foam-positive, but I couldn’t find a reasonably sized/priced homebrew-scale source (e.g., Head Master). I so emailed a couple producers and Kalsec obliged with samples of their Tetralone and Hexalone (tetrahydro- and hexahydro-iso-alpha-acids). These are already isomerized – so no need to boil them to impart bitterness like the typical CO2 hop extracts. I added 1 g of the Tetra at kegging for 5 gallons, enough for 6 IBUs. Incidentally Tetra-hop extract used by Miller to allow them to sell beer in clear bottles with no risk of skunking. Could be eye-catching to serve a fruited sour from a clear bottles…
Creamsicle Weisse: Stonefruit
Smell – Nice fresh white-stonefruit aroma, especially as it warms. Some doughiness (like uncooked pie crust). Vanilla adds depth, but isn’t immediately recognizable. Pleasant aroma, but doesn’t jump out of the glass – partly due to low carbonation.
Appearance – Not a spectacular head in terms of volume or retention, but pretty good considering it is a no-boil fruited quick sour! Tetra seems to have done a pretty good job. The creamy nitro-head doesn’t last to the last sip like some of the stouts I’ve run through the tap, but it is solid. The base itself is hazy and pale yellow.
Taste – Flavor has a nice tartness, sort of citric in the finish. Bright and quick. GoodBelly’s L. plantarum did an admirable job, no weird Lacto-gaminess. Solid fruit, but not the intensity I was hoping from such good nectarines. In some previous no-boil’s the doughy flavor has played well with the fruit, but in this case it muddies the fruit and vanilla. I don’t taste a contribution from the hop extract, so it likely could be increased. Nice lingering white peach aroma.
Mouthfeel – While the head survives it adds creaminess to the palate. Other than the low carbonation, a pretty typical light-sour thin body.
Drinkability & Notes – It’s a really pleasant, sort of weird/unique sour fruit beer. A good first try at something new, but I probably wouldn’t order a second pour of it at a bar with other things to sample.
Changes for Next Time – Maybe a little light crystal malt to add some perceived sweetness. Boil before souring. Double to hop extract to see if that improves the head retention. More fruit (or better peaches) and maybe even another vanilla bean if it needs it. Half a pound of lactose would be a nice addition if you want it to add a little sweetness. 1/2 tsp dissolved in warm water in the bottom of the glass cuts through the acidity, make it more like dessert.
Mash In – 45 min @ 152F
1 g Kalsec Tetralone (Iso Extract) @ Kegging
1 Vanilla Bean @ Primary Day 5
Mash pH initially 5.50 at mash temp with .5 tsp. 5.38… 5.27… 5.12 (~5.37 at room temp). .5 tsp Lactic mixed in with cold sparge water.
Heated to 170F, ran off ~6 gallons of 1.044 runnings through the plate chiller at 85F. Pitched 2 Goodbelly Straight Shots and added 2 tsp of lactic: pH 4.67. 1 tsp more and got it to 4.45. Left at 68F to sour and cool for the brewer’s yeast. Pitched S-04 without rehydration 30 hours after pitching the Lacto. Left at 68F ambient.
8/30/17 Added one vanilla bean, split length-wise.
8/31/17 Down to pH 3.33, but doesn’t taste that acidic.
9/02/17 Added 6 lbs of White Nectarines and 4 lbs of White Peaches (weight before pitting and slicing). Bagged in new nylon knee-highs to contain the pulp.
9/17/17 Kegged, squeezing out the fruit bags. Added 1 g of Tetra hop extract to the keg first mixed with 50 g of beer.
Source: The Mad Fermentationist
Stonefruit Vanilla Nitro Sour!
Scrutiny of retail banking sales practices is at a high pitch—banking leaders should also see this as an opportunity to reset and strengthen relationships with their customers.
A consumer-centric approach to retail banking sales