In my experience, most companies and organisations tend to track what their competitors are currently doing. However you can’t really make a sound business decision about the future intentions of a competitor based on what has occurred in the past or on what they are currently doing. We all know that the way we operate today is not the same as how we operated a year ago – so why should a competitor be any different?
We need to uncover where they plan to go in the future. Will you be taking sales from them or will they be taking sales from you – next quarter, next year or even two years from now?
To get a good grasp on your competitors’ real intentions, you need to delve a little more deeply.
SO HERE ARE SEVEN TIPS TO HELP YOU MONITOR YOUR COMPETITORS:
1. BUY THEIR PRODUCT
Always buy your competitor’s product, if possible, to determine their sales process and get on their mailing list to see future promotions. The relatively small price you pay for their product will pay for itself many times over in the knowledge you gain by finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it.
2. AUDIT THEIR WEBSITE
Drop by your competitors’ websites and compare their sites to your own. To go the extra mile, select Tools from the Microsoft Internet Explorer toolbar (if you are using Microsoft) and then “Show Related Links”. Here, you may uncover other companies, doing the same thing or in the same business. Changes to a website can also say a lot about a company. TimelyWeb, by EldoS (www.eldos.org), has several ways of notifying you when page changes occur, including via e-mail.
3. GET THEIR GOSSIP FROM YOUR SALES PEOPLE, DISCUSSION GROUPS, ETC.
Numerous discussion groups are the bars and pubs of the internet, where individuals meet online by sending emails to like-minded people. One of the popular ways to hunt through newsgroups is with Google Groups. Simply type in the subject you are interested in to sort through the web’s 20,000 Usenet discussion groups. LinkedIn is also pretty good. And remember to speak to your sales people, customers, distributors, suppliers, industry consultants, industry associations, journalists – to just name a few.
4. CHECK OUT THE CLASSIFIEDS
Is your competitor expanding? Is he or she going in a new direction? You might get a clue through help-wanted advertising. These listings can tell you more about what your competitor is planning.
5. READ UP ON PLANS AND FINANCES
Drop by your industry association’s Internet site. You may find additional information about a member who is your competitor. Perhaps they were interviewed for the association’s website or publication. If your competitor is a large publicly listed organisation, it is required under Australian law to file quarterly and annual financial reports and announce any activities that are likely to be of investor interest (that is have an influence on the share price).
6. ENGAGE A MONITORING SERVICE
By paying for an online monitoring service, such as eWatch, you can outsource the hassle of monitoring domain names, URLs, newsgroups, and websites for activity by your competitors. However, it will cost. Most online companies offer free trials so you can compare them before you commit. Clipping services, such as Media Monitors, provide a daily fax-stream of articles on chosen companies (or search terms).
7. HIRE A ‘BIG GUN’
With so much information available, competitive intelligence consultancies can help a company define what information will genuinely assist their business objectives. They can provide strategies to help a company collect, monitor and, most importantly, analyse information to deliver the necessary insights/intelligence.
Understanding what your competitors intend to do in your market is not hard. It may cost you time, effort and budget in the first instance…….or you could compare that cost to potential market share loss, sales lost and customer shrinkage. Can you afford not to understand your competitors?