Being a small business owner, we know you have your hands full with planning finances and budget, recruitment, creating new marketing strategies and keeping customers satisfied. In addition to these activities, you need to keep a close eye on your competitors as small businesses often feel the impact of competition more immediately and deeply than larger businesses. Also, understanding their goals, target market, approach and how they market products/services can give you insights into their strategies. This research does not necessarily take much time or money, rather it just a dedicated effort. Here are a few ways you can find out about your competitor’s strategies:
Identify your Competitors
Firstly, identify who your competitors are; what they stand for, what do other people think about them and how the consumers find them. Then make a list of them and track them on a regular basis. Gathering data on all your competitors can prove to be a tedious job; hence, you should divide your competition into categories and prioritize them, asking yourself who pose the biggest threat.
Spy through Technology
Technology can be a big asset for you when it comes to knowing what your competitors are doing, planning to do and also what they are not doing.
Set up Google Alerts – Google Alerts (a free software) notifies you every time your competitors are mentioned online, including their news articles, press releases, blog posts, discussions, and/or videos. You can also choose what to monitor and how often you want the email alerts – once a day/week.
Monitor through Social Media – By liking/following your rivals on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter; you can get regular updates on their products, special deals etc. You can see how their social media strategy works to get their followers interact with them. There are several social media management platforms or monitoring tools (Tweepi, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc) too that you can use for monitoring.
Subscribe to their Email Newsletters – If your competitors have an email newsletter sign-up form on their website and/or Facebook page, subscribe to them. You’ll get to know what types of information they’re communicating to customers and prospects. Don’t forget to use your personal email id for such correspondences.
Gather intelligence through Customers & Staff Your customers and staff can prove to be a big minefield of information.
- Customer feedback can be a cheap and invaluable tool in creating a competitive edge. Check in with them on a random basis from time to time just to see how you are doing vis-à-vis your competitors.
- You can ask your staff to pitch in too. Some of them might have friends/acquaintances at your competitors through which you may get some important information.
Other possible ways Apart from the ones mentioned above, you can also collect information regarding your competitors through:
- Newspapers, magazines and trade publications
- Suppliers and distributors
- Stock market analysis, in case your completion is big and listed
- Analytical models such as via SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Gathering competitive intelligence is part of the day-to-day operation and a continuous process. Hence, create a repository of collected information e.g. folders on the server. Keep adding to the already gathered data at regular intervals. Finally, you or someone from your staff should review and analyze the data that are collected periodically, say, once a quarter. And see if you can take advantage of the findings with counter-strategies or marketing ideas.