Keeping abreast of the competition is key in getting ahead. You don’t have to be in the dark about what your competitor’s plans are if you use a little legal recognizance. Here are a few tips to help you get an idea of what’s coming.
Most companies are using social media these days to announce marketing events and other significant changes or promotions in their companies, and by becoming a follower of their Tweets or a fan on their Facebook page, you’ll be in the know as soon as it’s announced. In addition, by getting a feel for what your competition’s customer’s experience is on those pages, you can analyze whether your business is keeping up. If your competitor hasn’t yet gone social, they likely issue newsletters or some other method of keeping in touch with their customers. Sign up for their mailing lists (under a different name and email address of course), and keep tabs on them that way. Finally, with the scores of customer-rated sites like Angie’s List, Yelp and Cityscape, you can see what your competitor’s customers are saying about them—both good and bad—and then use the information to better please your own customer base.
Talk to Insiders
Manufacturer’s representatives and suppliers are one of the best sources of information out there if you’re looking to learn about your competition. Most are honest and won’t tell you exactly what their other clients are up to, but if you develop a relationship with them, they may let some good information slip in during friendly conversation. You may be able to find out who is displaying at local trade shows by asking if they have a lot of display orders, or by talking to them about what products are hot in the area, you might find out who’s ordering a lot of what. Just keep in mind that your competitors very well may be using the same tactics, so don’t give them any information you don’t want passed on—whether it’s intentional or not.
Talk to Your Customers
Many people who do business with you today have done business with your competitors at some point in the past. What was it that made them choose to continue trading with your business? What was it that they didn’t like about the competition? Is there something that your competitor does that they wished you did? Or something that you do that they wish you didn’t? All of these questions are vital to a business’ success—if you don’t understand your customer’s wants, you’ll never be able to satisfy them. But in addition, if you can understand the competition’s weaknesses and strengths through a customer’s eyes, you’ll be way ahead of the game. Get this information by either asking them to complete a short survey, where you ask them indirectly about their experiences with other businesses, or simply hold friendly conversations with them. Either way, you’ll gather a wealth of information.