How to Gather Intelligence on Your Business Competition

How to Gather Competitive Intelligence on Your Competitors

Spying on the competition
•••

Troy Aossey / Getty Images

An important business strategy involves staying informed about your competition. Not knowing what your competition is doing can hamper your ability to make intelligent business decisions and hurt your efforts to retain current customers or attract new ones. As a small business, there are ways to gather intelligence to stay current about your competitors.

Check Out Competitor Advertisements

A competitor's advertisements can tell you a lot about the particular audience they're targeting and the products or services they're promoting. This information is useful for planning your own promotions and advertising campaigns. In addition, scouting competitors' ads is an ideal way to compare prices and view their sales and promotions.

The more you keep track of your competitors' promotional activities, the easier it is to spot weaknesses in their marketing and create your own campaigns that are more effective in promoting your products or services.

Visit Competitor Locations

The best competitive intelligence is current intelligence. Therefore, if your competitors have brick-and-mortar stores, be sure to visit them regularly. Look at what products or services are being promoted, and how they are priced and displayed. This information is useful in forming an effective sales strategy.

If your competition has a website, be sure you visit and read their blogs regularly. Websites can be particularly rich mines of information, telling you more about your competition’s plans, marketing strategy, and even their personnel than you could learn in a single visit to their facilities. 

If your competition uses social media, you should also routinely check their postings. The app Social-searcher is an efficient way to view this information, as it gathers company postings from social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The number of "likes," as well as customer comments, can give you an idea of a company's popularity in the marketplace.

Inquire About Your Competition

Look for opportunities to question colleagues and customers about the competition. For example, ask if they've heard of the company, or if there is any company news, to obtain useful feedback. Learning in advance about a competitor's plans such as a future sale, a personnel change, or a wish to sell the business, can help you formulate a better strategy.

In addition, don't hesitate to delve further with follow-up questions, such as asking why the customer was pleased with a particular product or service. These details can help you make improvements to existing products or services, or provide ideas for new offerings.

Become a Customer

Being a customer is a great way to stay current on a competitor's new products or services, as well as experience their customer service. For example, if you're a coffee shop owner and there's a coffee shop a few blocks away, it is a good idea to sample their products and check out their customer service either by visiting yourself or sending a friend or family member. Besides comparing prices, decor, products and customer service, you might gather additional tips to improve your own operations.

Sign Up for a Membership

Your competitor's business may offer customers a membership or customer loyalty program. Membership usually includes being notified of sales or events by email. Take advantage of what your competitor is offering its customers. If available, sign up for their newsletter, which is another easy way to gather competitive intelligence.

When it comes to your competition, staying informed is key to optimal decision-making for your own business. Incorporating these strategies into your business routine will ensure your business stays ahead of the competition.

Know Your Competition

Stay informed about your competition by incorporating the following into your business strategy:

  • Read their advertisements, postings, and blogs to determine their strategy and discover any weaknesses
  • Visit their stores regularly
  • Obtain feedback from customers and colleagues
  • Become a customer or member