It will come as no surprise that we believe it’s important to keep an eye on your competition. This article offers ten things you can start doing today. Many of your competitors want your customers. So, it seems pointless spending so much money on developing new business when your competitors are taking existing and potential customers off you. Of course, using Octopus Intelligence would be an excellent idea, but you can also look to do it yourself. And, either way, it need not cost you a fortune either. So here are 10 marketing tools to spy on your competitors:
1. Just Google it
Google search. Once you have defined what you are looking for, any research should begin with a simple Google search and then visiting your competitor’s website. However, there are other search engines which may give you a different set of results. Like Bing, Yahoo, Ask etc.
Then they are the metasearch engines like Dogpile, Yippy, Startpage, Carrot2 and Metacrawler. A meta search engine is a specialised search engine which aggregates results from data of other search engines. Meta search engines are either generalists or topic/industry specialised. Also, if you are searching overseas, use a local search engine but make sure you have a VPN switched on, so they think you are in that country. Another insider secret to remove Google’s search results personalisation is to add “pws=0” at the end of the search string.
So, rather than https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk012jc3 it’s https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk012jc3pws=0
Google and Bing provide several tools to help you with Competitor Insights and using tools like Spyfu, and the free and the excellent Ubersuggests enables you to see the keywords your competitors are using. It also reveals what they think is important to them when looking for new customers. And what they say about their own products or services.
Trends and patents
Google Trends allows you to keep on top of the latest industry movements and to compare yourself to others. Google alerts enables you to keep track of your competitors and their keywords. Creating Google Alerts on a number of your keywords will reveal how much interest there is in it. Also, are the keywords they are using different to yours? And why? Add an alert with your own company name, and you could be less surprised in the future. And, keep a track on your rival’s patents. That’s current, historical and new patents. Try Google Patents, Espace and WIPO.
2. Social networks
Your competitors should be all over social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and others. Marketing their wares, telling the world about the benefits of using them. Latest news and events. Interestingly, it’s not just what they are telling you, its what they are not telling you. Has an employee inadvertently revealed information? Or is telling you about something that connects to another bit of information you already have? There are many free tools to monitor and search Tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, review sites and videos. Social media will also reveal what paying customers think of their service – especially if it’s imperfect.
3. Qualitative market research
There are many inexpensive resources to check competitors online and offline. There is the Frost & Sullivan’s, Gartner’s, D&BHoovers, Compasses, as well as the Pitchbook’s of this world. They can be costly, but they also provide a summary of what’s happened in the past. And if they are researching aspects of your market, something must be going on within it. In the UK the British Library provides members free access to some of these databases. So, it can be worth a train ticket to London and a few hours browsing the databases. Take a look at what industry analyst firms are telling you. Subscribe to the various industry or share buying forums like VVFN.
4. Conferences and trade associations
Joining trade associations and playing an active role within them is an excellent use of your time. By going to relevant trade shows and conferences is a great way to learn more about competitors and what they are offering. Visit their booths and ask questions. Look at their literature and listen to what they are saying to other people. You can ask them questions, and you don’t even have to lie about who you are. Half the time they will not ask about you, especially if they seem really keen and you are asking excellent questions. Ethically you should not lie about your identity, and we find we don’t need to anyway. Bored salespeople love to talk.
5. Talk to your customers
Customers are a great source of authoritative competitor information. If you have a new customer, ask them who they used before and why. If you lose customers, ask them why they moved and to where. Once you have several insights, they will help you determine how well you are doing (and why) and how you can change what you do to get more and keep existing business.
6. Speak to your suppliers
Take time to get to know your suppliers. Treat them well as they could supply your competitors too. They may reveal problems they have; orders they are receiving, the numbers and the type. They still may not tell you directly. But in a conversation, it may become apparent if you put 2 and 2 together.
Outsourced surveys targeting your competitors, suppliers and customers can be beneficial. Ask about price, customer services levels, the future of the industry or anything else you need to know. It is essential to make time to define the questions. Remember, there is no such thing as stupid answers, just stupid questions.
8. Recruit them
Recruiting people from your competitors can reveal a significant amount of market intelligence. They have been inside their operations, seen the best and worst of your competitors. They will know what they are working on and whats their growth strategy. Disgruntled salespeople are the best sources of information, and you will find many have not signed non-disclosure agreements. Clearly, it’s wise to take their information in the context they find themselves.
9. Job boards
Job boards are great tools to spy on your competitors. Look at your competitor’s employees CVs to find juicy information. It gives you an understanding of what they are hiring, how many, for what positions and job locations. However, this is just the start of it when looking at job boards.
Job adverts will reveal the tech they are using, the skills they need, future growth areas, new products they are developing. The phrase “a good understanding of X would advantageous but not essential” could be revealing. Is there a new job in a location they do not have an office? What does that tell you? The number of open jobs also show their plans.
If there are no jobs and there has been many in the past, what does that tell you? Are their job been repeated month after month? Are they struggling to recruit or retain their staff? How does this compare to your situation? What is their recruitment telling you?
10. Speak to them
Call their service and sales teams up and ask the question you need answering. Focus on the most important question, be courteous and praise them and thank them for their help. Once you have the answer, keep quiet and see if they fill the silence with more information. Do you think this would never work? It does.
Finally, a warning – be careful out there
Firstly, search for market intelligence tools, competitor research tools, and you will see many SEO tool advertising, claiming to do market intelligence. Most are good at what they do – SEO and keywords, but none of them will provide forward-looking Intelligence. Also, there are many very expensive resources to waste your money on, so if a company, platform or software is offering something too good to be true, it probably is. We have seen most of them, and nothing beats real hard work and talking to the right people. And remember when conducting secondary research, verify the key pieces of information you have found, ideally with primary sources you trust.
Summary to 10 marketing tools to spy on your competitors
In this article entitled 10 marketing tools to spy on your competitors, we discussed several tools to keep an eye on your competition. Tools you can start doing today. Tools include Google, patent searches, surveys and attending conferences. Also, talking to your customers, suppliers and even your competitors themselves.