Over the years, it's become much easier to get information on the competition.
If you are new to competitive analysis and are looking for ways to get information on competitors, here are a few good sources of competitive intelligence:
- Competitor Web Sites - Look at every page on your competitors' websites and you'll be amazed what you can find out. To see all of the pages on a website, search for "site:www.domain.com" in your favorite search engine, substituting in your competitor's domain name.
- Shopping the Competition - If possible, visit your competitors' locations or call them up and ask about their offerings. If you visit the competitor's location, observe how employees interact with customers. What do their premises look like? How are their products displayed? Priced?
- Talk to Your Competition's Customers - Your sales staff is in regular contact with customers and prospects. Your competition is also in contact with these people. Learn what your customers and prospects are saying about your competitors-and about you, too!
- Competitors' Ads - Analyze competitors' ads to gain information about their target audience, market position, product features and benefits, prices, etc.
- Competitor Speeches or Presentations - Attend speeches or presentations made by representatives of your competitors.
- Competitor Trade Show Displays - View your competitor's trade show display with a critical eye and from a potential customer's point of view. What does their display "say" about the company? Even observing which trade shows or industry events competitors attend provides information on their marketing strategy and target market.
- Written Materials - Review general business publications, marketing and advertising publications, local newspapers and business journals, industry and trade association publications, industry research and surveys, computer databases (available at many public libraries and on the Web), annual reports, and Yellow Pages
- Talk with Former Employees of the Competition - If somebody used to work at a competitor and has left, they may be willing to discuss what it was like to work at the competitive business. You'd be amazed at how much you can learn from a discussion with a competitor's former employee.
It's a good idea to treat competitive analysis as an ongoing activity, not a one-time "one and done" task. Start by creating a file for each competitor. As you run across things like their marketing literature, tips from sales people or customers about them or articles that mention them, place it in their file.
Then, when you're ready to conduct or update your competitor analysis, you will already have some relevant competitive intelligence information and resources.