Image credit: by Steven Depolo via flickr.
As marketers, part of our role is maintaining insights on key competitors and the industry. Known as “competitive intelligence”, this involves not only tracking information about competitive products, customers, and marketing tactics, but also interpreting this data to develop a cohesive marketing – as well as business – strategy that differentiates you from your competitors.
Here are my top seven tips for getting the upper hand on competitors, in no particular order:
Search Google’s Patent Library
Want to know what might be coming down the pipe for a competitor? Google’s patent library is a great, free resource to add to your toolkit. Like regular Google, type in any a company name or keyword to view results on filed, awarded or rejected patents – from anywhere in the world. Since it can take years to receive a patent the filing provides valuable insight on the product direction for the company.
Reference United States Patent and Trademark Office
The same applies for trademark or design patents. The USPTO allows you to conduct a free trademark search online. This provides more insight into the marketing and positioning the company is taking.
Speak to Prospects and Customers
As part of your sales cycle, stay attuned to prospects using competitive products in your funnel. These individuals are actively seeking alternatives and can provide insights into your competitors’ product roadmap, current products, services and more. This will help you refine your key differentiators and benefits against competitors.
Ok. Glassdoor can be compared to a digital venting water cooler; however it provides interesting insight on morale, leadership and in some cases, product and financial direction. To gain insight on product development, compile information from current or recently departed employees with IT, development, software or product-related titles. In cases where there are hundreds of reviews, leverage the filtering options to focus on current, full-time employees and review only reviews within the past 12 months.
Subscribe to Corporate Newsletters
Most companies have corporate newsletters touting recent developments, teasers on upcoming news, and other company marketing activities (such as events, webinars and white papers). Since the purpose of these newsletters are twofold – retaining and up selling existing customers and selling to prospects – you can gain insights on your competitor’s marketing objectives and key messages.
Set up a Google alert
Want to check out all the latest on your competitors? Google’s alert functionality provides an easy way to receive updates in your inbox about recent news from your competitors. Though rare, some companies will unwittingly post internal documents to a location open to search engines, such as research, buyer personas and more. Setting up an alert is easy (see image).
- Search for the company’s name in the search engine
- Click on “news” on the results page
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to “create alert”
Review Earnings Reports
If a competitor is a public company, then their quarterly results are a treasure trove of financial data. Every quarter, a company will issue financial results (SEC filings), hold an a call with investors, and typically issue a press release. Unlike private companies, these announcement provide more detailed insight into the companie’s financial performance, revenue projections, corporate expenditures, strategic direction and market share.
Conclusion – Standing Out From the Crowd
While these tips are useful for keeping an eye on competitors they’re also useful for monitoring information that leaks from your organization. Train people on these common ways and ensure that root old are followed for maintaining documents. Once you’re competitive intelligence program is up and running, you’ll be able to nimbly adjust your messaging and programs to ensure you’re standing out from your competitive crowd.
What other tips do you have?