The game of marketing plays much like a professional sport in its wheelings and dealings. In any competition, especially between two equally matched parties, information becomes ultra valuable. No matter how wonderful your own offerings are, it pays to scout out the competition. This “counter-intelligence” gathering is just as important to forming a successful marketing strategy as creating eye-catching marketing collateral.
Lucky for all you fledgling James Bonds, the Internet has made the infiltration process easier than ever. Setting up Google Alerts on your top competitors’ company names, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter will allow you to keep tabs on how they are handling customer interaction. Pay attention to the responses and feedback by their fan base: this information may apply directly to you, too! Companies often give out teasers of upcoming innovations, promotions or product releases on social media. In this way, you can easily multiply the amount of feedback you receive and even counter their promotions with specials of your own.
Dig further into the competition’s operating style by becoming a “secret shopper.” If they have a physical store or display booth at a convention, visit them in person and discretely ask some questions. Put yourself through their online shopping experience. You will gain first hand experience of what is working for a competitor and what is hurting them. You may discover reasons to emulate them or go in another direction.
Finally, on a regular basis, visit your competitor’s websites. Set up robots to email you when crucial pages on their website has changed — ChangeDetection.com is one such tool. Many companies keep their websites freshly updated. They are typically the most accurate representation of how the company wants to be viewed. View it and take notes.
In the age of information technology, information is king. Inform yourself.
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