The internet has made it much easier to keep on top of your competitors’ activities with the spread of social media. Even if your competitors don't use social media, you can bet their customers and suppliers do.
Services for tracking mentions of a company or personal name are available for many social media sites. Tweetbeep monitors Twitter and will tell you when a customer has had a good or bad experience with your rival. You can also follow your competitors’ Twitter account by signing up to it with your personal account or setting up a search column in Twitter for each topic, company or person that interests you.
Google has a service called Google Alerts that uses its search engine to find all instances of a name in its daily trawling of blogs, videos, groups and news articles. Sign up to Google alerts online and enter your competitors’ business names as keywords. Another great tool is LinkedIn, the professional social media website. LinkedIn will show you when people join or leave a company and where they go afterwards. It shows when an employee has been promoted and when new roles have been created. LinkedIn is also useful for snaring competitive talent and studying changes in strategy.
Popular searches on Google, known as keywords or key phrases, are a good indicator of activity. You can see how much a competitor is spending on particular keywords using a service such as SpyFu, or you can track which keywords are sending traffic to their site with Compete. Keywords, whether organic or paid, are essential to driving traffic to websites. Keeping tabs on the most popular words for your customer base is a great strategy to improving your online revenues.
Another good way to compare your performance with your competitors’ is to try buying something from their website. While the temptation to check their price and try to beat it is always strong, there are other ways of competing without sacrificing margins.
First, take a look at their site and see how well it draws a visitor into making a purchase. Is it more logical or inviting than your site? Does your site need a redesign to emphasise new products or services?
Another marketable difference is making it easier to pay. Do your competitors offer better payment terms or options? A competitor might take payment from a wider range of credit cards.
When comparing pricing, use it as a barometer to see where you fit in the marketplace. Are you pitching at the high end or looking to entice the budget conscious? Price can tell you a lot about the kind of customers you would like to target. If your competitors’ prices are different, perhaps it’s worth investigating their choice of suppliers. They may have found a larger manufacturer that can produce items at a lower cost.