The SaaS industry is worth $167.53 billion in the U.S. alone, and it’s estimated to grow to nearly 463 billion by 2028. That means that you’re likely to have a ton of competition no matter what space you’re in; even if you’ve created something truly unique and original, you can count on the fact that there will be copycats and direct competitors before too long.
Monitoring competitors, therefore, is a crucial part of keeping your own SaaS business successful, and in this post, we will go over everything you need to know about monitoring competitors as a SaaS brand. You can also learn more on how to build a Competitive Intelligence Program here.
Why Monitoring Competitors is so Important
Monitoring your competitors is essential as a SaaS brand because what they’re doing can and will directly impact you.
If you fail to monitor your competitors, you may not notice that they have:
- Offered promotions that are stronger than yours, potentially snagging customers away
- Rolled out new features that you may not offer
- Have begun encroaching on your ideal customer profile (ICP)
- Began bidding more on your highest value keywords (and potentially even branded keywords) to get more of your traffic
- Developed a strong brand with killer messaging that is likely to appeal to your target audience
- Lowered their pricing, making their packages more cost-effective than yours
If you fail to monitor what’s happening in the market, you could easily fall behind. Staying nimble as a SaaS brand isn’t important just on the tech side of things; you also need to maneuver around competitors to stand out and continue attracting high-value users.
Understanding Different Types of Competitors
There are three different types of competitors that you want to consider when monitoring your competition. These include:
- Direct competitors, which are competing for similar customers and that offer something similar to your products or services
- Indirect competitors, which may be targeting similar customers but that don’t offer something similar to yours
- Potential competitors which don’t serve similar customer needs but that may have similar company products or services
It’s common for brands to focus exclusively on direct competitors.
Tax preparation software, for example, may be laser-focused on other tax prep software that’s targeting the same audiences. They may also, however, want to keep an eye on CPAs that target the same audiences they do to ensure that they’re highlighting why clients should use their tool instead of a professional accountant.
Direct and indirect competition alike can pose a threat to your business, or require you to adapt as the market shifts. Monitoring competitors of all types, therefore, is important.
What Should You Be Monitoring With Your Competitors?
This isn’t a fun answer, but it’s the honest one: You should be monitoring everything you can about your competition.
Competitor analysis is most effective when it’s thorough, and unfortunately, none of your competitors are going to be stagnant; they’re going to release new products, test new offers, and release new pricing.
So, we recommend monitoring a few core aspects that impact where you stand in the market. Let’s take a look at each and some competitive analysis tools that can help.
1. Pricing & Pricing Structure
Pricing isn’t the only thing that customers consider when buying, but it is an important factor. It’s crucial to know what your competitors are charging and how they’re charging for it. The price and the pricing structure both matter here.
Let’s say that your product is virtual phone lines. You might find that:
- Competitor 1 offer a single free virtual phone line, but it only is a basic phone line with voice calls and voicemail
- Competitor 2 charges $20 per month per user, no matter what; they have features like call analytics, texting, call recording, and auto attendants.
- Competitor 3 charges $10 per month per user for a basic phone line and $500 per month for any additional features like texting, call analytics, and more
- Competitor 4 charges $5 per user per month, but you only get the first hour free for each user; after that, it’s $0.50 per minute.
These are all going to appeal to different audiences due to what features are available at what pricing structure, and it’s important to consider where your product fits in and which pricing structures and price points will make you competitive.
Pricing is complicated, but this pricing structure guide is a good place to start. And when it comes to analysis, manually research each business’s basic pricing structure and, if available, price points.
2. Branding & Messaging
Branding and messaging are related.
Branding is the process of creating a specific identity for your brand. It includes visuals like logos, your unique selling proposition (USP), and the messaging that you use to describe your business, your mission, and your products and services.
Branding is influenced by the audiences you want to reach and how you want to position yourself in the market. It can directly influence pricing, so it’s an important factor to consider when monitoring competitors.
ADP, however, has copy heavily promoting 1099 payroll software for small businesses. Their copy reads “fast, easy, and affordable small business payroll.” They also offer three months of free payroll when you sign up.
Gusto’s homepage, meanwhile, talks about managing growing teams. They do offer payroll software for small businesses (this is what I use), but they’re clearly focusing on growing businesses that have needs for managing not only payroll but attendant, onboarding, and employee benefits.
A manual review of different top competitors is your best bet here, because no tool can really show you this with accuracy. Their brand, the visuals, and the messaging they use are all important— especially since you need to determine how to stand out.
3. Targeted Audiences
If a business’s marketing team is doing its job well, it should be fairly easy to determine what audiences they’re targeting just by viewing the site.
It’s important to know which competitors are targeting the same audience segments (or overlapping audience segments). You can may have plenty of competitors, for example, who charge way less than you, but their tool isn’t actually a good fit for your target audience. Your only same-audience competitor charges an insane price point, giving you plenty of wiggle room.
It will be clear whether or not SaaS brands are targeting specific industries or company sizes based on the language they use.
If you see words like “scale,” “enterprise,” and “custom integrations” often indicate that the product is meant for enterprise-grade companies, while terms like “affordable,” “easy,” and “all sizes” may indicate that they’re targeting smaller businesses.
In some cases, tools will even have a “Who It’s For” or a “Usecases” heading in their navigation bar, where they’ll essentially list all of the audience segments they’re targeting.
4. Social Media
Monitoring competitors’ social media is an easy way to stay up to date with your competitors. You can learn:
- What their marketing strategies seem to be
- Who their target audiences are
- What current offers or promotions they’re running
- What products or services they’re pushing
- What their messaging looks like, and their overall brand voice
You can also see how customers are engaging with them. Are there a ton of comments about troubleshooting issues? Are people requesting new features? Do users engage with their content more than yours?
Social media analytics competition tools like Semrush’s Social Tracker can help you keep an eye on how you measure up against the competition in terms of performance. See how often your competition is posting, and how audiences are engaging.
You’ll also want to check in on these accounts regularly to keep an eye on what they’re doing. This can help you keep up with brands in real-time so you can be agile if needed.
5. PPC Campaigns
Pay-per-click campaigns can tell you a ton about your competition. You can see:
- Which products or services they’re promoting
- What offers they’re running, both in general and to first-time customers
- Which keywords they’re targeting
- How they’re positioning their brand, products, or services
There’s no better tool than the Meta Ad Library to keep an eye on your competitors’ Facebook Ads. You can look up individual competitors and see all of the ads they’re currently running, even if you aren’t in the target audience.
When it comes to Google campaigns, SpyFu is my go-to. You can view competitors, but you can also search for different keywords and discover who your top Google Ad competitors are.
On top of spying your competitors’ ads, it would also be a great idea to launch some competitive ads campaigns, especially if you’re not the market leader.
You always need to keep a close eye on what’s happening with your competition’s SEO. And this doesn’t just mean your sales competitors, but your keyword competitors, too.
It’s common for indirect competitors or even non-competing businesses to become search competitors.
Not only will you gain insight into what the competition is doing, but you can look for holes in your own strategy, too.
Fortunately, we’ve got an entire guide to SEO competitive analysis, so we make sure you check it out. It discusses the metrics that you need to track and what to focus on when conducting competitive analysis for SEO.
And when it comes to tools, SpyFu shares plenty of data about who is ranking organically for which keywords in addition to paid advertisements.
4 Competitor Monitoring Strategies to Use
You know what you should be aggressively monitoring in order to know what’s happening with your competition (at least in terms of what’s most likely to impact your customers, and thus, you).
Let’s look at four different monitoring strategies that can give you additional insight and ensure that you’re staying ahead of the competition.
1. Check Their Site Regularly
While we all love automation (and there’s a time and place for it— we’ll talk about that in the next section), nothing beats the manual review.
Reviewing your top competitor’s websites regularly, you’ll be able to keep the pulse on their:
- Pricing and pricing structure
- Brand and USP
- Messaging style
- Audience segments targeted
- New potential products or features
You can keep an Excel document to track any significant changes and to log any essential data about your top competitors.
And, here’s a nice bonus: Visualping can alert you when a webpage has been updated so you can know right away when key pages like landing pages or product pages change. That way you don’t have to check in regularly and still risk missing an update by a day.
2. Monitor Messaging & Marketing
Marketing can tell you a great deal about your competitor’s goals— and give you new ideas for how to beat them at their own game.
Monitor messaging and marketing campaigns aggressively. You can use some tools to automate this, including:
- Social media tracking tools like Semrush that allow you to “track” different competitors’ channels and see how your performance compares
- Tools like Owletter that will send brands’ emails to your inbox without you needing to subscribe
- SpyFu can tell you which keywords competitors are ranking well for (and which they’re investing in with paid search)
3. See What People Are Saying About Them
Most of the strategies we’ve discussed so far have focused on seeing what the brand is saying about themselves. You can learn just as much by listening to what other people are saying about them.
The following strategies can help with this:
- Go on software review sites and read the professionally written (though not sponsored) reviews of their tool
- Read customer reviews and testimonials, both on the brand’s page if available, and on third-party review sites (where the brand can’t filter out the negative)
- Implement social listening tools like Mention to see what people are saying about the competition or their products on social media, even if the brand is never tagged
- Use tools like Semrush to review the backlinks their site is receiving; this can tell you about potential authority, and you may be able to follow backlinks to see if they’re being quoted or their tools are being mentioned
4. Watch When They’re Hiring
Hiring won’t tell you much about a competitor’s marketing strategy or the audience they’re targeting, but it can give you some idea of where they’ll be putting new resources.
Are they hiring a content marketing manager full-time for the first time ever? They’re actively engaged in scaling and will be focusing on SEO; you’ll want to make sure that your high-value content is all optimized and refreshed so it can stay competitive.
And if they’re hiring a slew of new software engineers, it means that they may be getting ready to roll out a new product or develop new features— you’ll want to be ready to adapt when they do.
What do you do after you have monitoring in place?
Monitoring competitors is a critical part of every Competitive Intelligence program. It’s also just the first step.
To stay ahead of your competitors, you need all this information not to be siloed within your competitive intelligence team. You’ll need to set up proper reporting to align all the relevant stakeholders, usually marketing, sales, product, and executives.
Sales is probably the most important element here. If you have a sales-driven go-to-market, you’ll need to setup a good sales enablement program and make competitive intelligence easily available to sales reps when they need it. The best way to do it is usually through Competitive Battlecards.
Monitoring competitors is overwhelming, and unfortunately, it requires ongoing work indefinitely. Knowing what you should prioritize when monitoring the competition, however, and which tools and strategies to use are a good start.
And if you need more guidance on how to conduct an in-depth competitor analysis, we really do have you covered. We have multiple resources about different aspects of competitor analysis, but our ultimate guide is the best place to start.
Ready to get started? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Competitor Analysis!