This is one of the most famous quotes of Sun Tsu, the ancient Chinese military general and author of The Art of War. The statement was given more contemporary relevance in the 1974 film The Godfather Part II when spoken by Al Pacino’s character Michael Corleone, hence it’s often referred to as “The Godfather Strategy.”
The point? Know your enemies even better than your friends, because in battle, knowing your enemy’s strategies and next moves provides the ability to launch a preemptive strike or at least to plan counter strategies to their next move on the battlefield. We shoudn’t get carried away with the metaphor, but the advice can be very helpful for businesses. Here are 8 simple ways to monitor your competitors:
The time where you had to send spies off to the enemy camp is over. In their eager to communicate, most companies tend to share a lot of information on social media. Twitter one of the easiest way to keep up to speed on whats going in the “enemy camp.” If you want to take it one step further, why not follow a few of their key people on Twitter? There are plenty of great software solutions out there that allow you to monitor certain keywords and topics.
Google just merged Insights For Search into Google Trends, creating the “new Google Trends.“ This powerful tool shows you how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages. Google Trends also allows you to compare the volume of searches between two or more terms. This way you can monitor your products and services in comparison to your competitors. This brilliant competitor analysis tool also gives you valuable advice on rising trends in the market.
Google Alerts is another free service from Google that helps you monitor the Web for interesting new content. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries. Simply enter a search query you wish to monitor and Google will send you a daily update on the competitor or industry news. It’s understandable that most companies don’t want to invest in expensive competitor analysis tools, but this should be the absolute minimum for any company that is serious about its business.
A company’s visibility in search engines can tell you a lot about their future strategies. By monitoring your competitors ranking in search engines, you will be able to see how your company performs in the big picture. Understanding your competitors' SEO strategy helps you understand their businesses.
By using social monitoring tools like Sysomos and Radian6, you can monitor how your brand and products are perceived in social media. Used the right way, social media monitoring software can also help you understand the performance of the companies you admire. The market leaders often spend a lot of money mapping out the social media strategy that works. Why not benefit from their investment?
Most successful companies have their own LinkedIn company profile. By following you competitors company profile, you will learn more about their company dynamics and the key people behind their success. LinkedIn’s update function is much more robust than it used to be (it has been taking some tips from Facebook and Twitter). People can now “like” and “comment” on your updates, which helps to build relationships within LinkedIn. By using services like LinkedIn Signal, you can monitor your own brand, your competitor’s brand, your competitor’s key people, your industry, and potential clients.
If you are going to spend resources on competitor analysis, you better make sure that you are monitoring the right (and by that I mean the most profitable) companies. Most countries have their own governmental websites that will give you free access to financial information. If your competitor is publicly traded, you can perform a search via Google Finance, where you can review income statements, latest news stories and blog posts about your competitor. Google Finance offers a broad range of information about stocks, mutual funds, public and private companies.
In addition, Google Finance offers interactive charts, news and fundamental business data: http://finance.google.com
The best way to keep up with your customers is to know exactly what they want. Guesswork and gut-instinct won’t cut it, so business owners and marketers often turn to surveys to gather data about their target consumers. You can unlock the power of surveys to research a target market, understand buying habits, get product feedback, measure customer awareness and gain new customers. You can also find out what they think of your competitors.