Every organisation has competitors, whether they’re internal competitors – fighting for limited resources and budgets, or market place competitors fighting for their share of the market.
Why should you understand your competitors?
In order to make the best possible decisions for your business, you must understand the market you are in – where it’s headed, and what your competitors are up to. In my experience, however, most businesses tend to track what their main competitors are currently doing – or have done in the past.
We all know that the way we operate today is not the same as how we operated a year ago – so why should any competitor be any different?
We need to uncover where existing competitors plan to go in the future and where potential competitors might disrupt an industry. Ask yourself – 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 a competitor’s real intentions, you need to delve a little more deeply.
Here are seven tips to help you better monitor your competitors:
Buy your competitors product or service
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. Knowledge is power – and you’ll gain by finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it. By purchasing their product you’ll also experience what being a customer of theirs is like – and you can judge their product, service, and operations against your own. Just reflect on how the Chinese have been able to enter so many markets.
Audit their website
You probably know the websites of your main competitors, but there’s an even better way to identify sites in the same niche that you may not even know about. This will help you understand the market share in your internal audit report. You can use a site called Similar Sites to find sites like yours.
Another part of competitive auditing is identifying competitors who are ranking higher in search engines for your primary keywords. There are many sites you can use to help with this – however, one that I use is called Moz SEO toolbar (MozBar). It will give you immediate access to a range of many on-page SEO factors such as Domain Authority and Page Authority.
The other search that you may find useful is to simply put your primary keyword phrase into Google search, and find out what comes up.
Often you will uncover other companies you’d never heard of, 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. The free program can monitor 10 Web pages. If your competitors have large sites, you may want to buy the commercial version.
Get the gossip from Colleagues, Vendors, Friends and Discussion Groups.
There are so many ways to find out what people are talking about online. Online discussion groups are the pubs and clubs of the internet – where individuals meet with like-minded people. One of the popular ways to hunt through newsgroups is with Facebook Groups or 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 customers, distributors, suppliers, industry consultants, industry associations, journalists – to name just a few. All these people are a fountain of competitor information and may provide new insights into market intentions.
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. The listings can tell you more than what your competitor is planning. You can also check salaries being offered. Through the use of search engines, you can also tell whether a company is experiencing tough times. Rumours of a layoff? Ask an information broker/librarian to help you delve deeply into a competitor’s online profile. They have the training.
Read up on Plans and Finances
Drop by your industry association’s website. It won’t cost you a cent. If you’re lucky, you may find additional information about a member who is your competitor. Perhaps they were interviewed for the association’s website or publication. You can also learn a lot by reading what people say are their future plans. 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 has an influence on the share price).
Set up a Google Alert
These days you don’t need to pay for expensive online monitoring services to keep track of activity by your competitors. Google Alerts allows you to track information on the internet such as simple keyword monitoring – which might include blogs, forums, news sites – and information on the wider web. It will also track You Tube. Google Alerts will send you an email every time one of the chosen keywords is mentioned. You can also choose the frequency at which you’ll receive the information. One option is to get the information, as it happens – or alternatively, you could choose to receive the information once per day, once per week, etc.
What you won’t receive are social media results. If you want to know what’s said on social, you’ll need a social listening tool such as Keyhole.
For more comprehensive print, online, TV, radio and social monitoring and insights, platforms such as Streem can help you track, measure and respond to competitor news as it happens.
Hire a ‘Big Gun’
With so much information available, strategic specialists can help a company define what information will genuinely assist you in making better decisions. They can provide strategies to help a company collect, monitor and, most importantly, analyse information to deliver the necessary insights for better decision making. Look for a company that has a strong ethics policy. This represents a clear signal that the consultancy is credible, has considerable experience and is aware of the boundaries concerning responsible corporate behaviour.
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, however when you compare that cost to potential market share loss, sales lost and customer shrinkage – it’s worth the investment.
To help you get underway, here is a free download to help you build a better intelligence system for your business.
For more information about how you can improve your competitive intelligence capabilities get in touch!