Jory MacKay
Jory is a writer, content strategist and award-winning editor of the Unsplash Book. He contributes to Inc., Fast Company, Quartz, and more.
February 13, 2024 · 10 min read

How to create a competitive analysis (examples and free template)

🎁 Bonus Material: Free Competitive Analysis Template

How to create a competitive analysis (examples and free template): Illustration in blues and black showing the title and a graph with some bubbles scattered around.

Whether it’s projects, products, or even whole companies, initiatives fail if they don’t properly address users’ needs. Fully understanding customer demand, the broader market, and the competitor landscape is vital to ensure you don’t fail - and that’s where a competitive analysis can help.

A competitive analysis allows you to understand your entire market, including your customers and competitors, to ensure you have all the information you need to make the best strategic decisions.

In this guide, we’ll go deep into what a competitive analysis should include and then provide a step-by-step guide (including examples and templates) to help you create your own.

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If you’re a founder, product strategist, or team leader looking to beat the competition and deliver for your customers, this article is for you!

What is a competitive analysis?

A competitive analysis is a strategic market research activity undertaken to understand customers’ needs, competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for new products and growth in a particular market.

In the process of developing a competitive analysis, you’ll gather and analyze data on your ideal customer base, competition, distribution channels, and pricing and marketing strategies.

While a good competitive analysis first aims to understand the here and now, a great one also looks to the future.

By doing this, it uncovers any external factors that might change the market in the future, such as changes to legislation, new technologies, or socioeconomic and ethical attitudes.

Illustration in blues and blacks showing the whole text from the section

Most organizations complete a competitive analysis when forming their go-to-market strategy or writing a business case, but in truth, they can be used at any time.

You can use a competitive analysis to unlock a range of critical benefits, including:

What to include in your competitive analysis

To make a competitive analysis effective, it needs to provide insights that help you reliably improve your strategy, understand your users, and beat out your competition.

Here’s what you’ll want to include in a competitive analysis:

The target market

Every competitive analysis starts with a detailed view of the ideal customer, the problems they need solving, and what makes them tick. Many organizations break down their target market using customer personas or segments based on personal characteristics, demographics, and buying patterns.

The commercial metrics

No analysis is worth its weight without a detailed look at the numbers behind it all. While market share (often based on sales or revenue) is the leading metric, looking deeper into the volume of products sold, customer conversion rate, and retention period helps paint a richer commercial picture.

No competitive analysis is worth its weight without a detailed look at the numbers behind it all.

Your product’s unique selling proposition (USP)

Next, most competitive analysis exercises include a detailed view of your own product - specifically, what makes it unique? Your product’s benefits should fix the problem statements of your target market, otherwise, you’re at risk of a poor product-market fit.

Your competition

Now, the analysis begins as you compare your product against your competitors. While the exact points of comparison will vary, you should include information on product features, pricing points, strengths, weaknesses, and ancillaries (e.g., support packages, delivery options, warranties).

The sales vs. marketing landscape

Reviewing the sales and marketing landscape helps you understand how best to turn a potential customer into a paying customer. The customer persona, product type, and current market conditions will all determine whether a sales-led or marketing-led approach is better for driving conversions.

Existing customer insights

Too many companies focus their competitive analysis on attracting new customers and forget to consider how to retain their current clients. Good competitive analysis exercises should also focus on existing customer insights, including NPS, customer satisfaction, and current customer complaints.

Screenshot of a Planio Lessons Learned issue in which it is recommended to always update user stories before planning a sprint.

Go-to-market analysis

This part of the competitive analysis is essential if you’re looking to launch a new product or service. Consider the barriers of entry for your market, the typical costs involved, and the path to building brand awareness. To ensure you learn the lessons of previous initiatives, look back at how others entered the market, especially focusing on those who failed and what they did wrong.

Future market outlook

For all the areas covered above, also include a forecast of how they may change in the next 6-24 months. This may include projections on the financial markets changing, political/regulatory movements, the attitudes of customers, or new technologies available to the market. Launching a product can take months or even years, so don’t rely on what you know now when planning for the future.

A good competitive analysis first aims to understand the here and now. A great one also looks to the future.

A competitive analysis can range from a simple one-pager to a whole essay, depending on the level of detail. To help you decide how much detail to go into, consider these different factors:

How to write a competitive analysis in 8 steps

Even after understanding what to include in a competitive analysis, it can feel intimidating to start building out your own.

Below, we’ve outlined eight steps to take to create a competitive analysis for a new product or feature. By the end, you’ll have a document that helps you better understand your market, customers, and competition.

If you want to follow along, you can use our free competitive analysis template, which we have prepared for you to fill out and use for any future competitive analysis you do. Let’s get started:

Step 1: Define your target market & customer personas

A competitive analysis should always start by defining your target market. After all, these are the customers everyone is fighting over, so you need to clearly understand who they are, their needs, and what they want from a product or service.

Remember: No two customers are the same - especially if you’re operating in a B2C market. Don’t try and put everyone in one box, instead, create customer personas based on key themes, characteristics, and behaviors. This will help you effectively target your message.

Step 2: Understand where your product sits in the market landscape

Before you can shine a light on others, you must objectively examine where you currently sit in the market. This won’t just help you benchmark your own position but also help you understand what information you have to find out about your competitors further in the process.

Try these strategies to help you get an objective assessment of where you are right now:

Step 3: List your competitors and create an overview of each

There are only so many slices of the pie - so, once you understand what your customers want, it’s time to identify your competition. Competitors should include anyone with a similar product or service offering that is ideally already successfully operating in the market.

If you’re struggling to identify your competitors, try this:

There are only so many slices of the pie - so, once you understand what your customers want, it’s time to identify your competition.

Step 4: Conduct primary and secondary market research

With your list of competitors built, it’s time to start gathering some information on them. You’ll want to ensure you get a full picture of their current position and offering, and any plans or strategies for the future.

Aim for a mix of primary and secondary research. Here’s how they’re different:

Step 5: Compare your 4 Ps (Product, Price, Promotion, Place)

Once you’ve dived deep into each competitor, you need to organize your information to help you complete a fair and equal comparison. The 4 P’s marketing mix is a great way to do this, providing a structured way to review a competitor’s product, price, promotion, and place.

If you’re new to the 4 Ps method, here are some questions to ask for each category:

Illustration in blues and blacks showing the 4 Ps. Product with a box, Prices with a pricetag, Promotion with a loudspeaker and Place with a shop.





Step 6: Use a SWOT analysis to uncover opportunities and weaknesses

Now that you have a super clear picture of your customers and your competitors, it’s time to start thinking about your strategy. To do this, start by uncovering strengths and weaknesses in yourself and your competitors to understand where opportunities and threats exist.

Try these frameworks to help you out:

Step 7: Estimate the size of the prize

Any venture into a new market or a pivot in an existing one needs to create value. This is where data is essential to help you further analyze your opportunities and threats by putting a commercial value to them.

Here are some tips on how to estimate the size of the prize:

Step 8: Strategize and make your move

If the numbers stack up, it’s time to launch, re-launch, or update your product to the market. This is an exciting time, but you must execute your marketing strategy carefully to maximize the impact.

Here are some final tips to help you make your move:

Screenshot of Planio showing an Agile board used for keeping track of user interviews. The tiles show the name, interview date and personal background

Competitive analysis example: CRM System

To finish up, let’s bring a competitor analysis to life by simulating a real-life scenario.

This will help you understand the areas to focus on when completing your own and the common data points to capture to create a strategy-defining analysis.

The scenario:

On-The-Go CRM is a startup looking to enter the CRM market with a mobile-only CRM offering.

In a remote world, they know users are more mobile than ever and grow tired of CRM systems that don’t properly work on mobile. To better understand the competitive market, they complete a 4 Ps analysis versus their biggest competitor, TurboCRM.

On-The-Go CRM TurboCRM
Positioning / USP
  • Mobile-optimized CRM
  • High-speed cloud CRM
Core features
  • Sales cycle
  • Lead & opportunity management
  • Quoting, contracts, invoicing
  • All round sales cycle
  • Account management
  • Project management
Ideal customer personas
  • Sales Director
  • Finance Director
  • Sales Director
  • Customer Success Director
  • Project Director
Customer favorites
  • N/A - not launched
  • The speed and responsiveness of the CRM
Pricing model
  • $5 per user/per month
  • $100 per user/per annum
  • 5% to pay annually
  • 10% discount per user @ 50+ users
Pricing positioning
  • Mid-range
  • High-end - paying for speed
Sales channels
  • Direct - free trial available
  • Direct - no free trial
Marketing strategy
  • Content marketing and LinkedIn ads
  • Social only through organic LinkedIn
Brand image
  • Flexible & modern
  • Professional and reliable
  • Innovative idea
  • Influential founders
  • Cheaper price point
  • Established brand
  • High-performance
  • Broad feature set
  • No brand awareness
  • Niche use case (mobile only)
  • Slow to innovate
  • Jack of all trades
  • Disrupt the market
  • Leverage founder influence online
  • Continue their established sales strategy
  • Broaden to even more features
  • Some users need desktop/browser access
  • Less funds to compete in advertising
  • Recent drop in customer review scores

So what did they learn? At the end of the day, the On-The-Go CRM team discovered that, while they might not be able to take a huge chunk of the market share due to not having a desktop app, their mobile-first approach and founder’s online influence will be enough for them to succeed at the level they want to.

It’s time to get competitive – Let Planio help you!

Whether you’re looking to launch a new product, in a post-growth stage, or you just want to cement your status in an existing market, a competitive analysis is a great way to get under the skin of your market, customers, and competitors.

Like many things in project management, following a structured process for a competitive analysis is the best way to go with our 8-step process and free template there to support you every step of the way.

And, of course, whether it’s task management, communications, or storing documentation, bring your team together and execute a killer competitive analysis with Planio - the project management tool that’s seamless collaboration to any team!

Try Planio with your team - free for 30 days (no credit card needed)