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Apr 22, 201309:49 AMThe Web Chef's Cafe

with Paul Gibler

14 tips for ‘spying’ on the competition

(page 1 of 2)

Digital competitive intelligence is a growing strategic requirement for businesses seeking to monitor the business and marketing activities of competitors. Competitive intelligence should be part of a competitive benchmarking strategy that leads to enhancements of your own product, service, and operational strategies.

Many businesses are unwilling to pursue a competitive intelligence strategy in part because of a lack of resources, but also because of concerns about business ethics associated with the practice. But with social monitoring tools now readily available, the opportunities to track competitors have only grown.

A signal danger inherent in competitive intelligence-gathering is the potential for overload – acquiring too much data that fails to result in actionable information. To avoid this, be judicious with regard to the scope of competitors analyzed and select data sources that are the most revealing.

Another problem that some companies encounter is that while they have competitive intelligence programs in place, the analysis and distribution components of these programs aren’t complete. Without useful analytics as part of the intelligence-gathering process, few insights are gathered and few actionable tactics are planned and implemented. Without clearly defined recipients of relevant components of the intelligence in areas like customer support, product development, marketing communications, product management, etc., the opportunities to use the intelligence will be greatly diminished.

Here are some steps you can take in developing a competitive intelligence program:

1. Identify your competitors: Think beyond the obvious ones to emerging competitors or those in related fields.

2. Track their Web domain name ownership: This can give you hints about new products or services they might be considering.

3. Subscribe to their e-newsletters and track interesting content: If necessary to cloak your interest, consider using nonbusiness email addresses for this purpose.

4. Use keyword tracking: Create a Google alert for notifications about competitors. Track keywords that are associated with their brands, category, and customers using social media tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck.

5. Monitor their events: Attend and monitor their webinars and other virtual and live events.

6. Use content analysis: Track and download their white papers and other content.

7. Monitor social media: Follow them on all key social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram. On Twitter, some additional suggestions from a recent article are to follow their lists, follow their followers, create a secret list and track them, follow their event or other hashtags, and use the advanced Twitter search capabilities to dive deeper into tracking criteria.

8. Use search engine marketing analysis: Determine the scope of and track their pay-per-click advertising campaigns. Monitor their keyword ad purchases and ad copy on Bing, Google, or other search engines

9. Make a share-of-voice comparison: Determine their relative share of voice in comparison to yours over time by tracking social brand mentions. Competitive intelligence monitoring solutions are offered by companies like Brandify.

Employee intelligence

With the vast amount of information available on the Internet, you can also track what is happening with competitors’ employee satisfaction and recruiting activities. This can give you insights into new ventures they are pursuing.

10. Do an employee-attitudes review: For larger companies, track what employees are saying on sites like GlassDoor.

11. Conduct a job-opening analysis: Track their job openings to see new areas they are pursuing, internal discontent, or other employee-retention factors.

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