Hate your competitors?

Want to take them down and make them cry in pain?

Good… You’ll like this blog post. ;)

I’m going to show you a simple 3-step formula for entering a new market using pay per click (PPC) advertising, so you can dominate your competitors, all while minimizing your risk of failure and financial loss.

The strategy is incredibly simple: copy what’s already working in your market by studying what your competitors are doing, and then use that information to out-market them.

So let’s dive in…

Step 1. Identify Your Top Advertising Competitors

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you should know who your main competitors are, but in case you don’t, then you’ll want to identify them. Do Google searches for the main keywords you imagine your customers would search for.

Specifically, you want to identify which of your main competitors are advertising in Google. And you’re looking for “direct” competitors, not “indirect” competitors. In other words, you want to focus on companies who sell very similar products/services.

You’ll want to create a list of 5 or so direct competitors, and keep that list handy.

Step 2. Spy on Them – And Discover What’s Working

Now, you’re going to find out what keywords your competitors are already advertising on in Google.

You really can “spy” on your competitors using tools like SpyFu, SEMRush, and Keyword Spy.

Just enter your competitors’ websites into these tools, and you’ll discover what keywords your competitors are advertising on. It’s brilliant.

Plus, these tools have metrics that give you an idea for how profitable different keywords likely are for your competitors. For example, Keyword Spy tells you how many days a competitor has been advertising on a particular keyword – which is a pretty good indicator of a keyword’s likely profitability.

Mail-order marketers used similar techniques decades ago when trying to find out which magazines they should advertise in. If they saw competitors advertising in particular magazines month-after-month, they assumed their competitors were making money on their ads — otherwise they would’ve stopped running the ads. And so, these marketers would copy their competitors and compete head-to-head by running ads in the same magazines.

That’s exactly what keyword “spying” tools allow you to do – but even faster and easier.  You’ll identify what keywords your competitors are advertising on, and then use those keywords as the starting point for your PPC campaigns.

Here’s an extra tip: Export all the keywords that all of your competitors are advertising on, and find which keywords your competitors have in common. If 2, 3 or more of your competitors are all advertising on particular keywords, there’s an even greater chance that those are going to be profitable for you, too.

Of the 3 tools I mentioned, Keyword Spy is my favorite. I’ve used them for years. If you want to try them out, sign up for a free trial here.

(Required notice: If you sign up with Keyword Spy as a result of my recommendation, I may receive a commission).

After performing this research, you’ll probably have a big list of hundreds of potential keywords, but you’re going to want to narrow that list down to 5 to 25 core keywords, which will form the basis for Google AdWords campaigns and ad groups.

I recommend keeping these keyword organized in a spreadsheet for future reference.

3. Find and Communicate Your Unique Hook

OK, so now you know what keywords your competitors are advertising on.

That’s good… but it’s not enough.

You don’t just want to run “me-too” ads alongside your competitors, because that won’t have much impact. You want customers to see your ads and say “Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I want!”  To put it bluntly, you want to out-market your competitors, so you steal customers away from them.

Here’s how to do that – with kudos to Jerry West at SEO Revolution for teaching me this concept (which he calls “Kitchen Table Copy”).

Go back to Google and enter some of the keywords you’ll plan to advertise on.

Look at your competitors’ ads, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is their target customer?
  • What are the features/benefits?
  • What offer are they making (if any)?

Keep these notes organized in a spreadsheet, too, so it’s easy to compare your competitors.

Next, look at all of your competitors’ landing pages, and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is this competitors’ unique selling proposition (USP) – e.g. why choose them?
  • What are the features/benefits?
  • What is their call-to-action?
  • What types of social proof are they using?
  • What types of risk reversal are they using?

And note anything else that catches your eye as a potential customer.

What did you find most convincing? What are the elements in common among competitors?

Again, I recommend keeping these notes organized in a spreadsheet so it’s easy to see what’s going on and compare.

Next, start drafting your own ads and landing pages.

In writing your own ads, you’re going to borrow the elements that you think are most persuasive.

However, you’re not just going to copy your competitors. If you want to dominate your market, you’ll also want to identify a unique hook that will stand out to your prospective customer.

Here’s the big question you need to answer: What promise can you make that your competitors aren’t making?

To help you think through that, let me introduce you to a concept I learned from David Bullock that will help you solidify your hook and help you draft more effective advertising and landing page copy.

Think of your ad campaign as a conversation with a single prospective customer. The keyword is a question your customer is asking. Your ad is making a promise to that customer. And your landing page is fulfilling on that promise. And imagine actually having a conversation with your prospect.

As an example, let’s say you were selling an online course about barefoot running. Imagine your prospective customer coming up to you and saying “Hey, I want to start running barefoot – how can you help me?” (This is like your prospective customer searching in Google for the keyword phrase “how to start running barefoot”).

You might say something like “Well, I’ve put together an online video course that’ll show you how to get started with barefoot running the right way, so you’ll avoid injury.” (This is like your prospective customer seeing your Google ad).

Then the person might say, “Hmm that sounds kind of interesting – tell me more about that.” (This is like your prospective customer clicking on your Google ad)

You’d say something like, “My online video course is an A-Z guide to barefoot running – the most comprehensive guide available anywhere.  You’ll learn everything from how to start running barefoot to how to run your first barefoot marathon, and everything in between.   I explain why I started running barefoot, and how it’s improved my form and helped me stay injury free. You’ll learn what kind of barefoot running shoes to buy, and which to avoid. I’ll give you expert video demonstrations showing you how to avoid common mistakes in your barefoot running form that can lead to injury. You’ll get step-by-step training guides for running 5K and 10K races, half marathons, and even marathons.” (This is like your landing page, or “sales page”)

Want to improve your odds of a bulls-eye even further? Don’t just imagine having these conversations with prospective customers – go out and have some face-to-face conversations with real-actual prospective customers. Test out your unique hook and features/benefits and see if they find them compelling or convincing.

Use This Formula – It Works!

If you go follow these 3 steps…

1. Identify Your Competitors

2. Spy on Them – And Discover What’s Working

3. Find and Communicate Your Unique Hook

…you’ll gain new insights into the reality of your market place. You’ll see the marketplace from your prospective customers’ eyes. You’ll minimize your chances of failure. And you’ll and maximize your ability to enter a new market profitably.

For better or worse, the vast majority of entrepreneurs and business owners I know do NOT follow these steps. I’m not sure whether it’s because they’re lazy or whether it’s because they don’t know it’s even possible. That’s too bad for them, but it’s potentially very good news for you.

As the old saying goes, you should spend 50% of your time studying your competition and 50% figuring out how to beat them.  If you do that, you’ll improve your odds of success.  Use this 3-step formula, and let me know how it works for you.


P.S. I’m currently developing a new course that will lay-out our entire methodology for launching and scaling profitable PPC campaigns. If you have any questions about starting a PPC campaign or scaling one up, please post your comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback!