Every business has at least a competitor. In fact, you can think of an industry as a collection of businesses competing for a higher share of the market. So, whether you are the first in your industry or the latest market entrant, you will always have competitors.
Knowing that you have competitors, one of your biggest concern is to stay ahead of them. You want to do to your industry what Apple is doing in the smartphone industry or Facebook in the social media space.
Lilach Bullock, a Forbes Magazine contributor noted that “starting a business is now easier than ever…”. While this is great news for entrepreneurs, it also means there are now more competitors in every industry/niche than ever.
Unlike in the past though, when competition inspired fear, businesses are now emboldened by their competitors. Having others wanting a share of your market validates the fact that there is a market for what you do. In fact, some investors won’t invest in your business until they see a list of your competitors.
Nevertheless, you still want to stay ahead of your competitors and get a larger share of the market.
Your competitors may be better at something than you. And spying might just be the only way to learn from them (well, without their consent).
Techniques and Tools to Help You Spy on Your Competitors
Track Their Brands
This is an advanced way of spying. Most form of spying involves monitoring what your competitors are doing. However, this right here is about what customers are saying about your competitors.
It’s social media age and most customer complaints, appreciations and enquiries go on social media. All these allow you to know what customers think of your competitors’ brands.
For instance, if most of your competitors have a reputation for being rude to customers, that’s something you can capitalize on in your campaigns.
So, how do you monitor public opinion of your competitors? Yes, you can check on social media but do you keep looking through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day for what people are saying about your competitors?
Some tools have made this quite easy. One of such tools is Google Alerts. A product of Google, Google Alert lets you receive notifications whenever there is a mention of a brand.
However, for advanced features, Brand24 might just be a better option. Among other functionalities, this tool allows you to segment by positive, negative and neutral mentions.
Know the Technologies They Use
Like we stated earlier, sometimes your competitors are just better than you at something and to beat them, you have to learn from them. For instance, you visit their website once and from that moment you see their ads everywhere. “How are they even doing this?” you always wondered?
They may just have found a hack, a tool you have no idea exists. You are about to find out what this tool is, using another tool.
Builtwith is a competitor website analysis tool that can help you track all the tools and technologies your competitors are using. Just visit the website, type your competitors’ URL and allow it to do the rest.
Spy on SEO Strategy
How fast you rise to dominate on the search engine for relevant keywords depend a lot on your competitors and the strength of their SEO. In other words, whatever your competitors are doing on SEO, you have to be better to beat them in ranking on the search engine.
Your SEO competitor analysis in two-phase – you want to know which sites your competitors are linked to and then the relevant keywords they rank for.
To check your competitors’ backlinks, Monitor Backlinks is a great tool to use. This tool monitors your competitors’ backlinks and sends you a report of activities every 10 days. These data will help you find new link building opportunities and determine links value.
Positionly is an amazing tool that will help you check your competitors’ keyword rankings. At a glance, this tool allows you to see your site performance as compared to that of your competitors. You get access to real-time data and you can see just how much distance you need to cover between you and your competitors.
Blog and Social Media
This probably goes without saying – follow all your competitors on social media. This is because most businesses (including you) make most of their announcements on social media and blogs – new features, latest partnership, product updates among others.
All this information gives you an idea of what they are doing and plan to do. If you are not following your competitors, you may want to pause reading this and go and do that immediately.
By the way, you can automate this using social searcher. This tool gives you information about all social media activities of any account entered.
But what do you do with the information you find? Make use of it for your good. Find weaknesses you can take advantage of, copy intelligently when you have to.
PS: Bear in mind that your competitors are following you too.
Check Their Popularity
Businesses make the mistake of using social media likes and engagements to judge popularity. That a business has a good social media presence does not always translate to popularity or customers’ acceptance.
The type of data that will give you an idea of popularity is website traffic. And some tools help you check how much traffic a website is getting.
By the way, while it’s okay to look at your competitors’ current numbers, don’t forget to study trends. As in, how fast are they growing? What was their traffic like last month and what’s it like today? All these give you an idea of what to expect and how you can also do better.
Alexa is a great tool for checking website traffic and even compare their data to yours. Similarweb is another cool tool, especially considering the fact it goes further to show you the traffic sources.
Now that you’ve learnt techniques and tools for spying on your competitors, go ahead and become the James Bond of business. Start spying today.
But don’t just stop at spying, do what James Bond would do – take action. Spying on your competitors gives you data and more data. But data is useless without action.