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Competitor analysis is not a new term in the wider marketing industry. For traditional businesses, competitor analysis is the basis of any good marketing strategy, and would be regularly monitored.

However, it’s somewhat different for the education industry. Most education institutions don’t view themselves as ‘businesses’ per say, or organisations with competitors, like a private company.

But actually that’s wrong, and for the purposes of this blog post we’ll use the example of the Further Education sector, which is booming at the moment. Is the FE sector not a competitive market place? Are there not many different offerings for post-16 students? Sixth-forms, sixth-form colleges, large campus based colleges, art colleges…and so on?

So then you have competitors, yes? And in that case you need to know what they are doing (both what they are doing well, and not so well) and ultimately work out what you do better, and how you can differentiate yourself in the FE marketplace (for this read, any education sector market place, secondary, HE, early-years etc).

There are two processes to go through then:

Number 1 – find your competitors and understand what they do

This isn’t necessarily a hard process, but perhaps a time-consuming one. You will need to look at your catchment area and then every FE sixth-form or college in that area. For each one gather details of their vital statistics (size, number of students, exam results etc), their USP (Unique Selling Point), perhaps they specialise in sport or they are a small ‘community feel’ college. Look at some of their marketing material; website, social media pages, prospectus, what does it say about them?

Further to this; competitors doesn’t just mean direct but also indirect competition, for instance apprenticeships, full-time work, and choosing not to go to college at all. On top of this, your brand will always be compared to other brands in the marketplace, not just colleges. Students will compare a college brand to Starbucks, for instance, for benchmarking of how ‘slick’ they are – young people are surrounded by brands today, all competing for their attention – your college is just another one. It’s not just a case of understanding direct competition but every possible comparator.


Number 2 – use the information to influence your marketing plan

There isn’t any point in going to the effort of researching your competitors if you don’t use the data you’ve collected to help inform your own marketing and brand planning. We don’t subscribe to ‘me-too’ marketing – by that we mean, just because someone else is doing it well, doesn’t mean you need to start copying. Instead the competitor research needs to be looked at in a context of what you want to achieve and help you identify gaps and opportunities out there. What does the marketplace WANT and how are your competitors responding to this – how could you respond to this?

Also, don’t be shy about looking at what you already do well. You may discover from your research that you have the widest variety of courses out of all FE colleges in the area – if this is the case you should be shouting about it! ‘The college with the widest variety of courses available in the whole of Gloucestershire’ for instance – instantly you’ve got a fantastic USP to catch students eye.


This may all seem a bit bewildering, believe us we know. Which is why we created a stand-alone package called the ‘Marketing and Business Development Review’ which helps you with the process outlined above, but also gets down to the nitty gritty of things like team communication and training requirements, identifying business opportunities, looking at possible barriers to success, expenditure and budgets, internal processes and much more.

What sets our review apart is the logical process; starting with goals, analysis of the marketplace, then competitor analysis – resulting in common-sense recommendations for your marketing going forward.

Find out more about our services on our brochures page.