Now, we’ve never done this, but it used to be that companies would have to go through competitors’ garbage or hack into their private networks to find out what they were up to. Today, with online “footprints in the sand” left all over the web, getting competitive intelligence is easier than ever, and is a must-include research step before developing any business or marketing strategy.
- Websites: Many companies post not only sales and product information, but things like employee lists, client lists, and supplier lists. Even the photographs used on websites allude to the type of work they prefer, or are targeting. By observing the page titles (grey bar at the very top of the web page), you can also see what types of keywords they are using to position the traffic they want coming into their websites.
- Employee Profiles: Whether or not employee names are listed on a website, employee names and profiles are often posted through LinkedIn, Twitter or other online social sites. This makes it easy to look closely at the resumes and backgrounds of key personnel to see indeed whether a company has depth of experience in a given area.
- Employee Blogging: Many people post notes about where they are, and what they are doing at work. If you choose to post updates about what you’re doing with specific clients, you could be risking your competitors finding it. On the other hand, why not follow your competitors online, like them on Facebook, etc., and be first to know about what they are up to? There is really no reason not to do so.
- Traffic Patterns: SEO online software today tracks traffic going in every direction from all over the web. By subscribing to various tools (such as SEO Moz and SEM Rush) you can find out how much traffic your competitors are getting, the keywords that they are ranking well on, and what is making them successful online. Other tools such as Active Conversion and Lead Life Solutions actually tell a company who is on its website, and how often they have visited, so that sales calls and emails can be carefully timed.
- Social Media Buzz: There are reputation monitoring and social media tracking tools today that allow you to stay abreast of what people are saying about you, and about your competitors. By tracking competitor brands, you can find out what promotions are running well, and generating positive interest.
- Buy from Them: One final technique. Rather than looking at what they do from afar, why not buy from them? This will give you an excellent feel for the customer experience, pricing, sales techniques and products. If you really want the full low-down, buy from them repeatedly, over time.
With so many tools available, you’ll be amazed how much better you can get at anticipating competitor activity. In fact, we strongly encourage you not to just track companies you compete with locally, but firms in other areas or other industries around the world who really set the bar…so that you can be inspired to continually improve and innovate. And be careful what footprints you leave yourself – every online activity is truly up for scrutiny!