Break out the ole binoculars because it’s high time you started spying on your competitors like a good small business owner should.
Yep, that’s right, I believe strongly that engaging in a little spying is essential to your business’ success.
Why? Because, if done right, you’ll find out all of the following about your competitors, and more!
- What their customer service is like
- How much they charge
- How they’re advertising
- If they offer warranties and what they entail
- How they treat followers on social media
- What their social media posts are like
- New products/services coming out
So get ready to become the ‘Peeping Tom’ of your industry (just way less creepy) by checking out the easy ways you can start spying on your competitors below!
Stay Alert to Their Every Move
It might sound illegal, but I assure you, it’s not. Keeping tabs on every move the competition makes is not only recommended, it’s damn smart.
And, don’t worry, you won’t have to hide in any bushes to get this info.
Here are some great bush-free options:
Twilert: This monitoring tool lets you keep track of any and all mentions your competitors have gotten on Twitter. The basic plan is $9 per month and comes with a free 15-day trial.
CompeteMonkey: CompeteMonkey alerts you to changes on your competitors’ websites, including any new services or apps they start/stop using.
Strategator: This monitoring tool allows you to gather quite a bit of competitive intelligence all in one place, including company location, online reputation, stock market news and indicators, blogs, social network information, internet links, corporate communications, and more. It can be used free or for $13.99 a month for more features.
Mention: Like Google+ but with more features, Mention lets you monitor alerts about your competitors from anywhere online, including social networks. The basic plan is free but paid memberships come with extras like analytics and a data export tool.
Do Your Dirty Work
Yes, spying takes time, but it can reveal crucial information that’ll keep your small business up to date on what your competitors are doing (and not doing) giving you a priceless advantage. So grab your computer and roll up your sleeves because it’s time to do a little dirty work!
Troll review sites like it’s your job. Yelp, Google Places, MerchantCircle, Trip Advisor, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List (or whatever the top review sites for your industry are), should all be trolled on a regular basis. Doing this will reveal actual consumer insight as to the good, bad, and seriously horrible experiences consumers have experienced at your competitors’ stores.
Peep their social media posts. Following all of your competitors on social media is a must — by doing this you’ll see what type of posts they’re putting out, if they’re getting any engagement, what consumers are saying, liking, and disliking, what your competitors’ response times are to any comments, and so on and so on. Hot tip: Facebook has now made it easy for you to keep track of pages you want to peep by implementing a ‘Pages to Watch’ feature on all fan pages. Simply click the ‘add pages’ link, search for your competitors, add their pages, and they’ll be easily accessible for your spying pleasure. All you can see at the moment from your dashboard is how many ‘likes’ each page receives per week (hopefully Facebook will add some additional analytics down the road) but it definitely simplifies the spying process, which is nice!
Check out their website. If you have a website, you are definitely going to want to know how it stands up to your competitors’ sites. User experience is huge, so take some time to carefully go through each page of their site and then evaluate your experience. Did the site feel intuitive? Was it user-friendly? Were you confused at any point? Could you find the shopping cart? Was it too slow? Did any pages come up with an error message? Take what you like — and what you don’t like — and use that information to make your website stronger.
Start subscribing. This step is so simple it’s strangely easy to overlook. Make sure you subscribe to every offering your competitors have, whether it’s a newsletter, blog, email update, or all three. You can find out a ton of valuable information on pricing, new product updates, company changes, etc., this way — all delivered right to your inbox — for free!
Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Old-School Spying
Not all competitive intelligence has to be gathered virtually. In fact, there’s a lot you find out the old-school way and you won’t even have to dress in all black to get it done.
Become a secret shopper. Want to know how your competitors treat their customers? How long customers wait in their stores without being helped? If their staff is knowledgeable about their products? How much they charge? Hit the road and start secret shopping their retail locations! If you’re afraid they’ll recognize you, send out one of your team members or hire someone specifically for this purpose. Use the information you gather, both the good and the bad, to make your business better.
Attend the same festivals/special events. Will your competition be selling their products at any festivals, tradeshows, or farmer’s markets coming up? If you can’t have a presence there as well, and even if you can, be sure to take notes on what their setup looks like, how their staff or they personally treat customers, how many people stop at their booth, etc. Keep in mind that the point of this, (and all competitive intelligence in general) is not for you to simply copy what your competitors are doing. Rather, it’s to help you get inspiration for how you can take things to next level with your business.
Go Forth and Spy
Now that you know the benefits of spying on your competitors and how to go about it, it’s time to incorporate it into your daily, weekly, or monthly routine.
Figure out a plan that works for you and stick to it to ensure you’re gathering this crucial information on a regular basis.
Knowing what your competition is up to, including where they excel, and where they fail, can only make your business grow stronger with each passing day. So get out there and become the savvy Peeping Tom we’ve always known you could be!
Will you be gathering competitive intelligence this year?