SupportBiz lists 10 ways to help you research your competitors.
As much as social networking is useful in spreading the word about your business and products/services, it can be extremely handy in tracking your competition. Closely monitoring the Facebook, Twitter and other social media interactions of your competitors will tell you what they are up to and how their activities are being perceived by customers and the industry at large.
Your customers are one of the best means to learn more about your competitors. If any of your customers switches to your competitor, you should talk to him/her and try to determine the reason behind the shift. This will help you understand what is lacking in your products/services that is provided by the competitor. Similarly, whenever you learn of a customer switching over to you after using the products/services of a competitor, try to figure out what prompted the shift.
Googling your industry will help you find valuable information about the prevailing trends, as well as the names of your competitors. Google will take you to the websites of your competitors, which will help you learn a lot about their products/services, processes and team. Similarly, subscribing to Google Alerts about your industry will help you learn what is going on in your competitors’ businesses.
Market research firms
Market research firms can help you obtain significant information about the products/services of your customers, how their customers are finding them, the marketing efforts undertaken by them and their plans for the future.
Conferences and trade shows
Attending business conferences will give you a fair idea of what your competitors are up to, and how they are responding to various industry trends. Similarly, attending trade shows gives you the opportunity to visit the stalls of your competitors and study their products/services, marketing techniques and customer response. Joining an industry association will also provide you information about your competitors.
Hiring your competitors’ employees
An age-old technique of researching your competition is hiring their employees and then tapping them for information. You can lure your competitors’ employees to your firm by offering them a better salary package or working conditions. These employees can provide you valuable information on how your competitors operate, their products/services, technology used by them and expansion plans, among other things.
Watching who your competitors are hiring
Keeping track of the employees your competitors are hiring will give you a fair idea of the activities they plan to indulge in in the near future. For instance, if one of your competitors is hiring several HR executives, this could mean that they are in for a major expansion. Similarly, if a competitor of yours is hiring a lawyer, they could be considering new inventions or foraying into new geographical regions. An advertisement by your competitor for a programmer will mention the technologies the candidates would need to know, information which could be of great significance to you.
Suppliers and vendors
You could also consider tapping the suppliers and vendors that your competitors use for information about them. This will help you learn about the types of raw materials that your competitors use, the sources of raw material, their distribution channels and relevant strategies adopted by them.
A time-tested way of researching your competition is to call them up and ask them the questions you need to, pretending to be a party interested in them. This will give you a first-hand glimpse into the working of your competitors’ businesses.