Keeping Tabs On Competitors

It’s not enough in business to just do your own thing, even if you do it exceptionally well. You must also keep tabs on what your competitors are doing because their activities can directly and suddenly impact your bottom line. Here’s how to see what the other guys are up to, and profit from it…

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

“We’re hiring!” signs in a competitor’s window means you may lose some valuable employees soon, if you don’t take immediate steps to make your employees want to remain. A new executive hired by a competitor means things are soon going to change over there, and all of your comfortable assumptions about your competitive advantage over them could fly apart.
Do you know what your biggest competitors are charging for the products that account for the bulk of your profits? You need to know; more importantly, you need to know instantly when their prices change! And are you aware of how and where your competition is advertising online? You need to be there, also, if you want to sell profitably in the same niches.
Monitor the Competition
Online merchants have the world as their marketplace; also, they have competition all over the world. Selling online makes it more difficult to remain competitive; fortunately, the online environment also makes it easier to keep tabs on competitors.
Google News alerts can deliver news about competitors right to your inbox. Just add competitors’ names to receive everything Google indexes about them from all of its news sources. You can also tweak alerts if you get too many.
Following competitors’ Facebook pages, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts isn’t stalking, legally. Neither is subscribing to competitors’ email newsletters. But be advised that many companies blacklist the domains of their competitors, so you may want to use a secret “competitive intelligence” email address to sign up for newsletters. This could be as easy as creating a Gmail account that forwards to your business email address.

Ch Ch Ch Changes = Cha-Ching!

WatchThatPage is a donation-supported service that monitors user-specified Web pages for changes, compiles the new info in a newsletter-style format, and emails it all to the user at specified times. You can specify keywords to narrow the number of changes reported. This service can alert you when a specific page in a competitor’s product catalog has changed, so you can go see what may affect your sales of same or similar products.
Taking it one step further… if you have programming skills, and your competitor publishes an RSS or XML feed with product and pricing data, a relatively simple bit of code can be created to send you a report with newly added or deleted items, or price changes. Or you could hire a freelance programmer to do this for you on eLance or similar sites.
Comparing your Web site’s analytics with those of competitors can help you see how your Web marketing efforts are doing. Comparisons many also alert you to new price reductions or new, popular products that competitors have. Any significant change in Web traffic can signal a significant change in your competitive position vis a vis a competitor.
Compete.com provides free insight into basic analytics about your site and those of competitors whose site URLs you enter. You can view any site’s unique visitors per month; sources of traffic (email, search engines, and “miscellaneous”); and compare its stats with other sites. You also search for sites similar to the one whose URL you enter, a potentially useful way to find competitors.
Alexa also finds sites similar to yours. It will give you traffic stats and other analytics, like Compete.com. SpyFu is a service that can tell what other companies in your category are spending on cost-per-click advertising, and more importantly, what Google Adwords keywords they’re bidding on. Finding the right mix of keywords for your online advertising can make or break your advertising budget.
Do you have any clever ideas to keep track of what your competition is doing? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…


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