Have you ever wanted to find out everything you can about your competition? There are some ways to go about this “intel gathering.” Some of us are better at it than others due to other things we’ve had to do to look into important matters. But you also have to remember that you must do it ethically so that you don’t invade the privacy of your competitors.
In this post, we’ll look at ways that you can look into what your competition is doing without breaking any laws or ethics. The goal is to use what you learn to plan your strategies without copying what they do.
Subtle but Legal Ways to Spy on Your Competition
There are some ways that you can look into what your competition is up to. It just takes a bit of brainstorming to come up with some ideas. We’ve included 11 ideas in this post to get you started.
1. Check their website.– What better way is there to find out what your competition is doing, selling, and promoting than to visit their website. Visiting your competitors’ website is similar to going up to the door of a real-world store and walking in. You’ll get an idea of what they have in their product line, how they do business, and whether they are connected to various vendors, social media, and business partners.
Depending upon how much information that put on their site, you can find out a great deal just by keeping up with their website and the changes they make.
2. Read their blog.– A blog is sometimes an even better way to keep up-to-date on what is going on with a business or online website. If the CEO or owner of the company writes their blog posts, you’ll be able to find out a great deal from the owner themselves on their thought processes and the plans that they may have for the future of their business.
3. Look at comments on their YouTube channel.– Most online eCommerce businesses have an active YouTube channel. This will tell you how much media they are putting out. It’s a good indication of how much they value video as a medium for online advertising. If your competitor has an active video with lots of views, you should too.
4. Join forums that your competitor is in.– If you want to have a safe environment to ask questions about your competitors, join one of the forums they are in. Chances are, it will involve relevant topics that both your brand and your competition is connected to. You may learn something valuable, and it will tell you what they are up too, also.
5. Use AdMonitoring, keyword, or web ranking tools.– There are several tools out there now that businesses can use to see what their competition is up to. Tools such as Alexa are tools that are perfectly legal that allows you to look up the rankings of your competitors. There are other tools such as iSpionage that allow you to find out how your competitors are using keywords and what advertising techniques they are using to convert their viewers.
6. Join their Facebook page.– There’s hardly a better way to see how your competition is doing with their customers than to join their Facebook page yourself! If the business owner has their page where you can “follow,” rather than “like” the page, you can do this. It allows you to watch what they are doing without having to see all of their posts.
If you “like” their page, you’ll be notified every time they post something new. This means that you will get notifications every time they post something new.
7. Follow them on Twitter.– If you follow your competition on Twitter, you’ll know whenever they post a new tweet. These are typically much shorter than Facebook posts due to the character requirements on Twitter. But it will still tell you in one tweet what they are doing.
8. Email them for information.– If you want to be a bit braver and play “James Bond” in their face, email them for information. You might refer to this as “posing as a customer, ” and it’s not the most straightforward approach. But which of us entrepreneurs have not acted like a client to find out what a competitor was charging for their products or services?
If you do email them, act casual and just state that you are interested in what they offer and how they do business. You could also be more specific about a particular product. However, you do it, be honest in your inquiry, even if your intentions are not as transparent.
9. Join their email list.– By joining their email list, you’ll know what the CEO considers to be the most important once per week or month. By joining their newsletter, you’ll get regular updates on your opposition company and get ideas as to how to compete with them.
10. Work for them.– Bill Gates once walked into Steve Jobs’ Apple company and applied for a job. He got it! He used this access to Steve’s products to get ideas on how Microsoft could proceed. He was particularly interested in the level of importance of hardware vs. software, and it was this knowledge that led him to develop his operating system.
This is a bit of a dishonest approach because Bill’s loyalty was to Microsoft, not Apple. Steve sensed this later and fired him. But that was not to be the end of their strange and interesting “partnership.” Gates later invested 33 million dollars when Apple hit a financial snag some years later. So in a way, he paid Jobs back for the insight he gained while at his competitor’s company.
11. Do a search for media.– If you want to find out if your competitor has videos, podcasts, and photos, try searching for their name in Google under “photos, videos,” etc. This can let you see what they have in media that they are using to draw customers.
Do it your own way
All of this research and “spy work” may prove helpful in figuring out what your competitors are doing. But in the end, you are not your competitor, and you should never try to be. Never copy anything they are doing. Just think about how to offer something better to the same audience.
Remember you are not trying to replace or put your competition out of business. What makes America so great is the fact that the competition is there in the first place. It inspires others to be better, think smarter, and shoot for the stars.
Instead of trying to put them out of business, think about how to get their customers to see you as a better alternative. Remember, it’s not their business you want: it’s their audience.
Speak to your audience in a way that most appeals to them, and they’ll come to you first. If they like their first experience with you, they’ll be back.
Integrity is important, too. Always try to do everything ethically. If you do, your customers will see this, and they will reward you with their loyalty.