There are, in fact, a number of ways you can find out, some of which are listed below. The majority are free except for the time involved but it’s worth it!
With the knowledge of how your competitors position and market themselves, what they’re strengths and weaknesses are and what that means to you, you’ll be better informed to exploit the opportunities available and arm yourself against any potential threats that you’re exposed to.
What Does Their Website Say?
You can learn a lot about a company by simply going through their website.
1. Product/Service Offering & Prices
You’ll get a clear insight into the full range of products and services they offer and at what price. You’ll also find out how, if at all, they package certain products and services together and what pricing strategies they are using.
- Free consultation worth £x
- Free review and in-depth report of all your finances worth £x
- Buy x and get a year’s supply of y
- Multiple purchase discounts
- Percentage discounts – 10% off when you spend £x
2. Communication Style
Their tone of voice and writing style will give you an idea of whether they take a very friendly and personal or more formal, corporate approach to their customer communications.
3. Company Structure
If they have an About Us section you’re likely to find information on, for example, the history of the company, its vision and mission, how big they are, who the senior management team is and what their background is.
If there isn’t an About Us section or the information in it doesn’t give you much to go on, try the Contact Us section. If you can’t find it at all – that tells you something too!
4. Marketing Activity
How up-to-date is their website? How frequently do they add news items or blog articles? What type of news items and blog articles do they publish on their site?
What events are they holding? Do they have a link to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Slideshare and/or other social media and networking sites?
Is their online social presence a seamless extension of their website or completely disjointed from it (and possibly even each other)? Do they have dedicated contact details for customer services, press enquiries or specific personnel?
Do they have downloads from their site and for what? What calls to action do they have on their site? By answering these and other such questions you’ll be able to build a picture of their marketing activity.
Search the Web
Search Google, Yahoo, Bing and social networking sites using your competitors’ name as well as keywords associated with your industry and see who comes up, where and for what in the organic search results.
Are the links direct to your competitor’s website and if so, to which page? The home page or another page within the site? Or, are the links direct to a listing on an online directory like Yell or FreeIndex? Are you listed there too?
Have a look at the top sponsored link area or the right hand side of the search results page on Google to see who is using PPC (pay per click advertising).
Use a platform like Hootsuite to monitor your competitors social media presence and activity. If you set it up and use it correctly, you can very easily and quickly keep on top of how, why, when, with what content and on what social media sites your competitors interact with their target audience.
It’s also a great tool to manage your own social media activity too!
Social Mention is another useful free tool. It can help you measure and compare your company’s brand mentions to those of your competitors.
Look through relevant printed media such as trade journals, local newspapers, industry magazines, online news portals or apps. Are your competitors and/or their products mentioned? Do they use any of these media channels to advertise?
Set up Google Alerts, one alert for each of your competitors and one for each of your core keyword(s). You can dictate whether you want to receive the alerts daily or weekly and whether you want them to incorporate blogs, video, news, etc.
A word of warning, don’t set up too many alerts all at once or you’ll be inundated with emails that, in fact, are not relevant and cause more stress than they’re worth.
Google alerts is also not an exact science; some say it’s a service that may not be around for much longer for that exact reason. It’s certainly a way, for now at least, to monitor what’s going on in your industry.
By law, all public and private companies must file an annual report with Companies House. Public companies often have their Annual Report & Accounts available on their website.
Even though private companies aren’t obliged to file much more than financial and ownership details, that alone can help build a picture of your competitors and their financial stability, right down to what accountants they use!
Networking and Trade Associations
It’s amazing what you can learn from just talking to others and asking the right questions in the right way.
Attending events organised by professional industry bodies and trade associations will not only help you broaden your own network, you’ll also be able to see who’s exhibiting, what they’re offering and gleam insight and information from them and any co-attendees you meet.
Strategically and Operationally Important
Gathering and analysing competitor intelligence is a vital part of your marketing strategy and planning both on a strategic and a day-to-day level.
It’s not something that you do just once either. If you don’t keep an eye on what your competitors are doing on an ongoing basis, you’ll soon be left behind.
Whilst it might seem time consuming at first, if you incorporate finding out something new about your competitors once a week (at the very least) using any of the above methods, you’ll stay ahead of the game. Happy intelligence gathering!
How do you find out and keep track of what your competitors are up to?