Build a competitor specific listening station

How to Thoroughly Spy On Your Competition

How to Thoroughly Spy On Your Competition

By John Jantsch

Okay, maybe spy is a little strong but experience tells me that most small businesses don’t know much at all about what their greatest competitors are up to when it comes to marketing.

I know you don’t really have any competition because you provide such a superior product and experience, but setting up a competitor specific listening station can uncover some useful insights.

Why competitive research matters

  • In the first place, you might very well learn that your competitors are doing little and that simply upping your inbound marketing efforts could pay immediate dividends.
  • You might also learn, as I’ve seen countless times, everyone in your industry is doing and saying basically the same thing. Use this wake-up call to find and communicate something truly unique.
  • By thoroughly keeping tabs you could gain a valuable understanding of their weaknesses. Quite often these come through as customer service issues and complaints and can arm you with information that could help you determine messages that amplify your particular strengths as they relate to areas of your competitor’s weaknesses.
  • Lastly, you may actually pick up some tremendous ideas about how to make your business better by taking a tactic here and a tactic there and adding your secret sauce to them to improve your overall marketing effectiveness.

Your competitive research plan

Follow some or all of these items in an effort to build your competitive listening station.

  • Set-up alerts in services such as Mention or Talkwalker for the names of companies and individuals you compete with.
  • Create lists to monitor their social activity on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook spend a little time researching their brand on BrandMentions
  • Do a little research on what content is drawing shares and links using a tool such as SharedCount or Topsy
  • Subscribe to their blogs using tools like Feedly or Feedbin
  • Get on every one of their email lists. Use tools such as IFTTT.com to automate your research by doing things like storing competitors’ email campaigns to Dropbox or Evernote for easy retrieval and analysis.
  • Download all published ebooks, research, and white papers. Use advance Google search to find all the PDFs on their domain – do this search to find them – filetype: PDF [competitor domain]
  • Enroll in all content series, events, and webinars
  • Find and follow their YouTube channel
  • Find and follow their Slideshare decks
  • Subscribe to their Yelp RSS feed – this way you can monitor their reviews
  • Research their pay-per-click advertising using a tool such as SpyFu
  • Study their SEO efforts using tools like the MOZ opensiteexplorer or SEMRush to find out who links to their sites and what phrases they are optimized for in search.
  • Find out where their executives speak and what conferences they attend.

When you automate as much of the above list as possible you simply do an occasional deep-dive analysis and then semi-occasional check-ins to keep up to date on any new opportunities.

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