How to Spy on Your Competitors (Without Them Knowing It)

by Kathryn Hawkins

1 min read

If you want to stay at the top of your field, it’s important to keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing. But how do you track their business strategy without them finding out?

Here are a few tips for keeping your market research on the down-low:

Sign up for Google Alerts. Interviews and blog posts often contain rich detail about a company’s upcoming plans. One of the easiest ways to track your competitors’ activities is to set up Google Alerts for the names of their companies and any associated products. You’ll receive messages whenever related content appears online, so you’ll know when a particular rival is featured in a newspaper article or its CEO writes a new blog post.

Use keyword tools to determine online marketing tactics. Trying to decide how much to invest in keyword advertising? It can be helpful to see what your competitors are doing. Tools such as KeywordSpy can help you to identify which words your competitors are using for paid advertising and which organic terms are sending traffic to their websites. This knowledge can help you plan your own paid search and content marketing strategies.

Search public records. If a rival company plans to launch a new product, it’s probably filed for patent or copyright protection. Companies don’t always move forward with their plans, of course, but examining their documents can help you track their progress. Additionally, if a competitor plans to build, it will need to file documents with the local planning office. Keep an eye on public-hearing notices and planning commission appeals to see whether businesses in your community have expansion or renovation plans.

Go shopping. When it comes to gauging a competitor’s customer service and studying its inventory, nothing beats in-person shopping. Tour your rival’s store and pay attention to what’s in stock, how you’re treated, and how well its employees handle customer complaints and special requests. Check out the merchandise displays and décor to see how your store compares, and make mental notes that you can write up when you get back to your office. Worried that you’ll be recognized? Send an trusted employee in your place, or hire a mystery shopper. Use the insights you gain to come up with strategies for boosting your market share.

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