Call it intelligence gathering, competitor analysis or niche market research, whatever makes you feel better. You simply must pay attention to what’s going on in the market where you operate. Spying on the business competition is simply smart business if you’ve given some thought to what you want to learn, who you want it from and what you’re going to do with it. An hour or two a week should be all you need for this.
Lean, efficient competitors don’t do indiscriminate data collection, so begin with a little cold self-analysis. What market are you in? What do the numbers say about how are you’re doing in that market? Who are your three most important business competitors? In what ways would you like to be more like them? In what ways would you like to distinguish yourself?
Spy on Successful Businesses –but Who Are They?
It hardly seems like spying when so much information is publicly available on business websites or through blogs or social media. The problem with spying on the business competition is more likely to be information overload rather than scarcity. The first step in making intelligence out of this may be to decide who you want to watch. As a first step, watch successful companies in the same market niche. You may be able to learn a lot by watching activity on social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Take a look at their Google ranking and the Alexa page rank of their website. Other Web monitoring tools include SimilarWeb or Compete. You can stay updated on industry news through a Google alert, which you can set for individual companies or for an industry as a whole. Take a look at Google ads to see who is hiring or taking out paid advertising. The quantity of activity may be a rough indicator of general success.
Decide What You Need to Know
Once you've narrowed the general universe of businesses you want to watch, decide what data you want to collect. Prices tend to be publicly available. You may be able to get at customer service information by looking at customer questions or comments on a website or blog. You could pose as a mystery shopper. Perhaps you want to know about your competitors' advertising or SEO campaigns. Ad monitoring tools like Adbeat and AdGooroo are fairly popular, You can also use keyword monitoring tools like KeywordCompetitor, iSpionage and KeywordSpy, as well as SEMrush SpyFu.
What Are You Going to Do with What You Learned?
Now you need to change something about the way you do business. It may be nothing more than deciding that you need to join industry groups or subscribe to industry newsletters, so that you have a ready source of competitor information. Perhaps you have decided to invest in a more user-friendly web design, since that seems to be a weakness of your major competitor. If pricing is relatively inflexible, customer service may be a more productive focus.