Investigating what’s going on with your competition can not only give you invaluable insight into what your rivals are up to, but it can also give you information about your own company and how to position yourself better. Legal commercial espionage is simply using all of your available resources to make the best business decisions possible. Here are some tips on how to discover what the other guy’s up to:
1. Figure out their revenue. The way to get a rough estimate of how much revenue your competition’s bringing in is to multiply the number of employees by $150,000. Now it’s a rough estimate, to be sure, but having an idea of revenue keys you in to the number and the size of clients your competition has, and it can help you assess their threat level to your company. If they’re much larger than you are, then you can safely focus on some small fish that they may be ignoring. If they’re much smaller than you, then you’ll know that they’re not able to handle some of the bigger clients you’re targeting, which makes them less of a threat.
2. Find their best sales guy (or girl.) One reliable way to get this information is by interviewing one of your competition’s sales people. You may not have their top person, but if you ask for the sales rank file, you’ll get access to all sorts of useful information, from client names to actual sales figures. Knowing who drives the most business for your competition can help you identify attractive new hires, or it can help you identify opportunities for teaching your sales staff how to improve their sales strategies.
3. Find their best customer. One of the best ways to determine who the best customers are is to look to the testimonials on a company’s website. Businesses are most likely to solicit rave reviews from the clients they’re proudest of. Knowing who your competition is selling to can give you an idea of the scope of their business, and it can also clue you in to clients who aren’t yet being served.
4. Keep an eye out for new products and offerings. Go to trade shows in your industry so you can stay on top of what’s new and exciting. Whether you use the information you gather to develop an improved version of your own product, or you scope a new product out to research its weaknesses, being at a trade show puts you in contact with clients you can win, and it keeps you abreast of trends and developments in your biz. You can learn a lot even if you don’t have a booth at a show yourself. Simply attending can give you access to all sorts of inside information.
5. Monitor social media. Socialmention.com is an astounding resource that lets you track your competition’s social media presence and can let you see when there’s a problem or a new development. A flurry of customer complaints on social media can present you with a great opportunity to scoop your competition and win over their clients. You can pick up tactics and techniques that are effective for your competition and incorporate those strategies into your own social media campaign, or you can take advantage of problems that crop up with other companies.
6. Monitor the web and news. Whether it’s a formal press release or an article about your competition, staying current with what’s going on in the news can yield productive results. Set up a Google alert to let you know each time your competition appears in the news. Whether there’s a corporate shakeup or an incredibly successful product launch, knowing what’s going on lets you situate your business to take your piece of the pie.
7. Find their strongest keywords. As more consumers use the web to search for information about companies and the services they provide, knowing what keywords consumers use is increasingly vital. Alexa.com will give you keyword information that consumers use to get to your competitor’s domain. Co-opting your competition’s keywords can help you attract their clients to your site, giving you the opportunity to get their business.
There’s nothing underhanded about any of these tactics. In fact, if you’re not constantly working to acquire information about your competition, then you’re missing opportunities to come out on top.