“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” -Sun-Tzu, Chinese general
Knowing about your competition has always been important in the world of business. With the Internet, this marketing intelligence has never been easier to find out, but it does take discipline and planning. By doing this type of research, you can find where your competitors are strong (so you can copy it) or weak (so you can exploit it).
Here are actions that can be done today:
- Follow them. Sign up for their company newsletter or mailing list. Like and follow their company pages and their personal executive profiles on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, create a special group for your competitors on these tools so it will be easier to identify what they are posting.
- Mystery shop. The best way to understand what your competitor sells and the customer experience they provide is to actually buy their product or service. An actual buying experience will show how good their communication is with their customers. Analyze what their product looks like when it is delivered. Explore their post-sales support to see if there are things that can be adapted for your company.
- Ask a question. Do this through many different communication channels like email, Twitter, Facebook, phone and their web site. Examine their quickness of response and how complete their knowledge is when answering customer inquiries.
- Call with a complaint. How do they respond? Do they follow up to completion or do you need to keep explaining the issues over and over again?
Here are online tools that can help:
- Explore ad monitoring tools. Find out where your competitors are advertising and which keywords they are targeting. Tools like AdBeat, AdGooRoo and Moat will help find out what ads and keywords competitors are using.
- Find their backlinks. Backlinks are still an important element in organic search engine ranking. Use tools like Moz’s Onsite Explorer and Majestic Site Explorer to find the backlinks that your competitors have on their site. There may be an opportunity to link your site to the same backlink or use them for customer referral sources.
- Track their website traffic. Your competitor’s sources of traffic can be an important comparison. Use tools like Alexa or Similarweb to get the information you need.
- Find out what customers are saying. While, it is critical to find out what customers are talking about on the web, it is equally as important to understand what they are saying about your competitors. Put your competitors name in tools like Google Alerts and Talkwalker and it will send you an email anytime a new comment about them gets posted on the web. Social Mention and Topsy can also be used for one time searches about competitors overall positive or negative sentiment analysis.
- Determine their social media presence. See how your competitor is doing on Facebook. Use tools like Fan Page Karma to find out their reach. A similar process can be done on Twitter with Follower Wonk.
- Track their technology. Determine what platform and add ins your competitor uses and where they can be vulnerable. Use Builtwith to find this out.
- Explore web site content changes. Want to know if when your competitor changes their website? Use Copernic to track updates or particular keywords.
Remember, assume everything is public these days. Whatever spying you are doing on your competitors, they are probably doing the same on you!