Competition is a good thing. Consider taking these first, very acceptable, steps to spy on your competition by joining their eMail lists and maybe even buying one of your competitor’s products.
- eMail Address … Whenever you “spy” on your competition, use a unique eMail address, not the one with your business’ domain name in it. Use a nondescript account at GMail.com, Yahoo.com or Hotmail.com. When you join a competitor’s list or buy a product from them, you don’t want your domain name showing up in their database so they can “spy” on you!
- Credit Cards … Should you make a purchase, use some another form of payment (such as a trusted credit card from a friend); not your own. Again, you don’t want your name coming up on the competitions’ database when you buy product from them.
Use your imagination when observing the competition. You need not disguise yourself by wearing glasses or a trench coat but, do be cautious, selective, and respectful. Competition can be friendly and should be healthy and constructive. It can take you far.
Here are some positive ways to go about “spying” on the competition:
1. Study & Monitor Their Website … Check out the competition’s website! (Trust me, they’ve seen yours!) What’s on it? Who designed it? How was it designed? Does it give you ideas? Study the website’s navigation menu, their web pages, color scheme, content, headers/footers/sidebars and more. Read their “about” page, “contact” page, product and services pages, and others. Do they have a Recommended Resource page? Whom are they recommending? Check out their links to see if they also have an affiliate program. Why not sign up to become an affiliate for those same recommended links and recommend them yourself.
2. Read Their Blog … What is your competition talking about today? Yesterday? Last week? Last month? Read their blog! Read everything they have to offer. What are they selling or recommending from their blog? What kind of ads are displayed on their blog? What ideas can you get from their blog’s design?
3. Subscribe To Their eZine … What better way to get insight into what your competition is selling, talking about, standing behind and promoting by subscribing to their eZine using a nondescript eMail address.
4. Listen To Their Podcast … Competition, today, have their own online radio and/or podcast shows. Listen to them! I recall wanting to be a guest on a podcast show and to prepare for it, I listened to several of their most recent podcast shows. I learned a lot from listening, how they dealt with guests, conduct their shows, how they break for commercials or sponsor ads, and listen for content. Download and listen to the archives of their podcast shows from their websites if they have them.
5. Listen To Their Tele-Seminars … Sign up for one or more of the competition’s tele-seminars and listen in. Learn how they conduct them, who their guests are, how they interview, how they get interviewed, how they interact with guest callers, how they sell on the call and a lot more. If you can’t make their tele-seminars, sign-up anyway so you can get the recorded audio version of the call if it’s offered. I have a huge collection of recorded tele-seminars from others. It’s fair competition as long as you don’t copy it.
6. Watch / Listen To Their Webinars … Does your competitor conduct webinars? Sign up to attend them and learn all you can. Study their format, sign-up procedures, how they interact with guests and experts during the webinar. What webinar company do they use? How’d they field questions and respond to them? Your goal should be to learn how to conduct your own webinars!
7. Join/Read Their Forums … You can learn a lot about your competition, their followers and topics they discuss by reading your competitor’s forum. What categories do you see listed in their forum? How are people reacting? With positive replies? Negative replies? What’s the tone of their forum? Satisfied? Unsatisfied? Read their replies throughout different forum categories and topics discussed to gather as much information as you can about the competition.
8. Study Their Website’s Meta Tags … It’s always a good idea to study the meta tags on your competitors’ websites. Just visit any website you want to spy on, click CTRL+U (in most browsers) and start looking for:
- Title Tags — What can you learn from studying the title tags of several of your competitors?
- Keywords — What keywords do your competitors use to describe their web pages? Can you use some of those keywords in your keyword meta-tag?
- Description — How does your competitor describe their website or certain web pages? What can you learn from the way they write their description meta-tag?
- WordPress Plugins — Learning what WordPress plugins a website uses can help you with your own website. If you see a certain function or feature on a website you like, chances are you can find out what plugin they used by looking at the source code on that particular page. Just search for a string of code that says, “/wp-content/plugins” … and you’ll find what plugins they might be using. Next look up those plugins online to find out if they’re free plugins or you have to pay for them. Learn a little bit about them, and then decide if you’d like to use those same plugins on your website.
- WordPress Theme — If you like the theme associated with a particular website, again, you can view their source code to find out what theme they used. Just search for a string of code that looks like this “/wp-content/themes” … Next look up that theme online to find out how much it is (if it’s not a free theme) and where you can buy it. Learn a little bit more it, view a few live demos using that theme, and then decide if you’d like to purchase that theme for your own use for your website.
9. Study Their Pricing … This is very important! How should you price your products/services? What is your competition charging for various marketing strategies and mediums.
10. Study Their Products … Do you create products? Would you like to? What ideas on the kinds of product ideas have you generated, for your books, audio programs, workbooks, and seminar recordings, from the products your competition creates?
11. Read / Contact Their Testimonials … Does your competition provide testimonials on their website regarding their products? Do those testimonials link to their own websites? Why not follow these testimonials to the respective websites and contact those who provided comments. Explain that you are calling about the competitor’s product and ask how long have they been using x-product and how satisfied are they today. Ask if they would recommend them? Why/why not? Then, I’d ask their line of business is and could you subscribe to what they do? Listen well and let them know that you are interested in what they do, as well. You can take it (your spying) over to their neck of the woods as well.
12. Join Their Social Network … Does your competition have a Facebook page? How about a Twitter account, or LinkedIn, Digg, and much, much more? Join them all to become friends, fans and followers of what they say and post.
- Twitter Search — Did you know that you can track important keywords, competitors’ Twitter user names and product names on Twitter? You can save these as RSS feeds or you can save these searches in a tool like TweetDeck.
- SocialMention – This is an online search tool that allows you to enter any search term into SocialMention. It will then track down what people are saying about the term you just entered across different blogs and social outlets.
13. Research Them Online … You can find out a lot about your competition if you know how and where to search for them online. Here are just a few ideas to perform research on your competition, online:
- Ad Spending — Would you like to know what keywords your competitors are targeting in search engines and how much money your competition is spending online to advertise what they’re selling? You can find out easily at SpyFu.com.
- Alexa Traffic Ranking — The Alexa Traffic Ranking will show how popular your competitor’s website is compared to yours and others, including reach, page views and so much more.
- Attention Meter — Attention Meter gives you a quick snapshot to compare prescribed websites that you want (traffic) using Alexa, Compete, and Quancast.
- BoardTracker — Want to know what people are saying about you and your competition? Perform searches across millions of forums posted around the globe.
- Copernic Tracker— This tool automatically looks for new content on your competitor web pages, as often as you like. When a change is detected, their tracking software will notify you by sending an eMail to you, including a copy of the web page with changes highlighted. This can be very helpful.
- Google Advanced Search — Useful when you can’t find solid information on your competition.
- Google Alerts — Google Alerts are eMail updates of the latest relevant Google results based on your query. Insert your competition, their website or anything else they do to receive eMail updates on their activity.
- Google Trends For Websites — Enter up to five different topics and see how often those topics are searched on Google over time.
- Link Popularity — How popular is your competitor’s website? Let’s check …
- Readability.info — Curious about how complex your documents or web pages are to read? You don’t need a team of experts to give you a readability score. You can refer to readability.info to analyze the characteristics of your writing and ascertain a multitude of readability scores. By comparing the readability score of different documents or web pages, you can fine-tune your writing skills to ensure that your writing is succinct, understandable, and well-received.
- SocialMention — Enter in a search term in SocialMention.com to track down what people are saying across different blogs and social outlets.
- StatBrain.com — Statbrain.com uses different resources on the Internet combined with mathematical and statistical methods to estimate how many visits your competitor’s website has. Just enter the URL of the website you would like to check.
- Twitter Search — Did you know you can track important keywords, competitors’ Twitter user names and product names on Twitter where your competition is concerned? You can save these as RSS feeds or you can just save these searches in a tool like TweetDeck.
- The Search Monitor — The Search Monitor tracks market share, page rank, ad copy, landing pages, budgets, day parts, and uncover new competitors on Paid & Organic Search.
- WayBackMachine — Go back in web history to see how your competitors’ site has changed through the years. Look for the things that have stayed consistent, because those might have been the most successful.
- Who Links To Your Competitor’s Website — Who links to your competitor’s website? That’s easy to find out. Just go to Google.com and enter “linkto: competitorsdomain.com” and see what comes up. Study the references regarding your competition on these websites.
- Xinu Returns — Xinu will run a report from multiple sites to tell you how well a site is doing in popular search engines, social bookmarking sites and other technical details.
14. Offer To Work For Them … How about working for the competition. Sound crazy? You don’t have to go into their office but, offer to assist them with web work, online administration, various consulting, seminar/tele-seminar support, or other. You’ll learn a lot working for them from the inside by performing services for them. This is your opportunity to see how the operation works. A word of caution: Don’t steal their ideas or rifle through their personal files. There are serious consequences for this kind of behavior. You can certainly acquire knowledge and ideas on how you can better run your business or improve your products/services just from observation. Many apprentices learn their trade from working for others and start their own businesses when they have acquired the expertise. Who knows, even a joint venture could be born by your working for them. Two heads are better than one ???
15. Get To Know Your Competition’s Business Associates … One way you can check on your competition is to network with their friends. While it might be a challenge to get close to your competition, sometimes their acquaintances are a more approachable. Once inside their circle, remain open to endless opportunities to learn.
16. Show Up At Networking Events … Show up where your competition networks, if possible. At networking events, your first impression of sincerity and professionalism might just be the ticket for an invite into their inner circle. Perhaps a joint-venture idea or interest in becoming an affiliate who promotes products/services to your list also will open the door for more conversation. Observe whom they network with (and don’t), what they say, what they don’t say, and whether they brought product to the event. Takes notes; listen; and, learn.
17. Call/Visit Their Office … Does your competition have a local office you can visit? Call for an appointment or just drop by the office to schedule one. Ask, “I read about you online and wanted to stop in for more information?” Look around the office. Look at the employees and observe their emotions. Do they look stressed, worried, happy at work? Establish that you are genuinely interested in the company and tell them that you’d welcome an opportunity to return to discuss mutual interests, such as doing some business together or becoming an affiliate.
18. Buy Their Products … If you really want to know how your competition is doing, buy their products. Study them. What can you add from your own knowledge bank to improve and/or create your own products and/or boost your business? If the product is poorly packaged or you genuinely don’t think that it meets your expectations, return it. You are probably entitled to a legitimate refund. On the other hand, don’t go around buying up your competitors’ products and then return them all once you’ve had a chance to analyze them. That’s just not ethical.
19. Pay For Their Services … Another way to use your competition is to hire someone from the company to (legitimately) perform a service for you. Hire a consultant, a coach, specialist, or service-provider and observe what they do for you. Learn as they assist you. Study their methods, billing practices and hands-on expertise. From this experience, you may be able to significantly make improvements in your business.
20. Attend Their Seminars & Workshops … These are ideal opportunities to mix and mingle — and why not with the competition? What are they teaching? How do they conduct their training events? What can you learn by watching their presentations? Who is their audience? How do they present their material — from a stage; training props and tools? How do they sell their products/services — from the stage during/after their presentation? Look around the room. Is there anything you can learn about from the room setup? What is their presentation style? We all learn from others. Don’t hesitate to use a good idea if it works.
21. Download Your Competitor’s Mobile App … Does your competition have a mobile app? Do you want to build one that functions like theirs, but with your own content? Download it to your phone and study it. Analyze the app logos of your competition. Read their titles and descriptions. Get ideas from all of these investigative activities so your app has the best of everything you spied on!
In the end … if you can’t beat ’em …
Join ‘Em … Don’t hesitate to contact a viable competitor to propose a joint-venture. Perhaps your product/company/services complements what the competitor is doing. The two of you might make a great team selling your products, together. You could certainly spy on your competition but, you might discover that if you can’t beat them at their business, you might want to join them!