It’s a common pitfall: not doing competitor research until the day you go head to head with them at a sales pitch.
By keeping a closer eye on their day-to-day activity, you can give yourself a competitive edge. It needn’t take much time, and there are some easy things you can do right from your desk.
1. Track their social media conversations
Companies increasingly use social media as a way of nurturing leads, and thanks to the very public nature of the medium you can see exactly how they’re doing it. You can find out a lot about competitor connections and interactions by monitoring their online activity on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Here are two simple tricks to get you started:
- Join groups – examine your competitors’ profiles on social media sites and investigate the groups they belong to. Join these groups you'll be able to monitor their conversations, seeing how they respond to queries and how they promote themselves within the context of the industry.
- Monitor followers, friends and connections – look at your competitors’ profiles to see their connections. Connect with relevant people so you can see what they’re discussing.
2. Compare search engine rankings
It’s important to know how people search for your product or service. What terms do they use? What questions are they asking? Try searching for these keywords every so often, and see what the search results page looks like. Is there one company that constantly pips you to the top spot? Does another company spend a lot of money on sponsored links for a particular term?
Seeing search results from your customers’ perspective will tell you a lot about how your competitors are attracting people to their websites.
3. Keep an eye on their websites
It’s a cliché but it’s true: your website is your digital shop window. By browsing competitor websites you get a very good idea of how they are presenting themselves to customers. How do they describe themselves? How do they go about offering information about their products and services? Does your site look dated compared to theirs? How often do they update it?
Identify what they do better than you and learn from it.
4. Set up to news alerts
Google offers a free service where it will email you every time there’s a news article that includes your chosen search terms. Create alerts for your competitor company names so you can keep an eye on their media profiles. You can set the frequency and the number of articles you receive, so you’re not bombarded.
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