Know and Monitor your Online Competitors
During our Local SEO Training Workshop last week, I received a few comments about a old photo from my undercover law enforcement days hanging in our office where I am posing in front of several millions of dollars of gold and silver bars along with a large cache of weapons seized from a top-level drug trafficker.
This and several other successful investigations from my law enforcement career taught me one important thing; learn everything about your target before you plan any operation to take them out.
Gathering Intel on Competitors
When my team and I decide to enter into a new market, one of the first things we do is print out the top level pages of our top ten competitors websites and put them into a large three ring binder and then go to work researching each of them.
- We identify each of our competitors unique selling proposition and then map our own unique position that we hope would be more attractive to our potential clients
- We identify other niche markets that our competitors maybe missing to capture the potential customers that they are ignoring
A good example of this was when I owned the Radarbusters website.
One of my biggest objections from customers who wanted one of our $300 radar detectors was “if my wife found out she would kill me if she knew I spent that much”.
Our competitors addressed this issue with a 15-day, 15% restocking fee, therefore I decided on having a 60-day no questions asked full refund policy.
Our competitors thought we were nuts and when we got telephone calls from clients (suspected competitors) asking about our returns and we would reply “you wouldn’t believe the amount of radar detectors we get returned to us each week, its overwhelming”
And I was telling the truth as overwhelming to see that we were only getting 2 detectors a week returned from the 1000’s we sold!
Avoid Being Caught off Guard
After launch it is still important to watch your competitors closely, are they selling or developing a new site or a product or service that could damage your sales?
If they are take immediate action to strengthen your position.
We knew what our competitors were planning because we became our competitor’s customer and learned how they operated and their sales pitch.
- We purchased products from our competitor and then either returned it to test out their refund policies or sold it on our site
- We subscribed to our competitors newsletters
- We sent them e-mails and called them on the phone asking questions
- We monitored their conversations/brands/staff using Google News and other social media channels
One of competitor’s daughters was very active on MySpace, posting messages and screen shots of new websites and/or products they were developing weeks before launch. We would then decide if there was something we could improve on and incorporate on our sites and frequently beat them to launch.
I met this competitor at an automotive show after we sold the company and he commented to me “I don’t know how you did it, but it seemed that you were always able to beat me on our new launches”
Monitor Your Name and Brand
It’s also very important to monitor your own name and brand on newsgroups, discussion boards, websites and search engines so if a competitor or upset customer decides to bad mouth you, you can be there within hours to defend yourself.
Remember bad news travels faster then good news; cause in point the social media disaster Domino’s Pizza was faced with last year when two employees filmed a prank and uploaded the video to YouTube. At first Domino’s executives decided to ignore the video and the issue all together, but within a few days the video went viral with over a million views and was in the first five results of Google for the Domino’s Pizza name.
There are several paid and free services that you can use to monitor your brand, name and your competitors but my favorite is subscribing to Google News and using the program Reeder for iPad.
What are your favorite tools and applications?
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