How to Learn More about your Competitors

The best sports people are always extremely well prepared

They turn up to an event knowing exactly what to expect. They know every inch of their course. They know exactly how they will react to potential scenarios. One of the most important things they will have researched is their competition.
In my last article, I covered:

  • The importance of competition
  • Who your competition are
  • What you should find out from them

This leaves one unanswered question:  How do you research your competition? Most people start by looking their websites. That’s certainly a useful starting point. However, many company websites leave a lot to be desired! Here are three more useful routes to use.

Use social media for research

Social media is a great way to find out a lot more about other companies. The best platform to use is LinkedIn. Twitter and Facebook can also be useful. There are two ways to use social media.
The first is to use it for basic company information. Many companies talk about themselves in more detail on social media than they do on their website or in their brochure. Companies will often have blogs, videos and posts about projects that they are currently working on. You may also be able to download case studies or white papers through social media.
Don’t restrict your search to the company. Look at the social media profiles for their key personnel as well. They can be very revealing.
The second way to use social media is to look at the conversations they are having. Who are they talking to on social media? Who is following their company page on LinkedIn? Who are key personnel connected to? Who likes or engages with the content that the company posts?
On Twitter and Facebook the conversations are often even more open, and you can follow exactly what they are saying and to whom. In addition, think about signing up for any webinars or other online content that a company offers.
There’s another very powerful way to find out more about a company.

Sell to a company’s customers

The point of this activity is not just to try and win new business – although that can be a very welcome additional benefit! The reason for opening this dialogue is because customers can be very open about their suppliers. This applies particularly when they do not know that you know who their current supplier is!
It is therefore very easy to ask open questions such as:

  • “What do you like most about your supplier?”
  • “What services do you like the most?”
  • “What one thing would you change about them?”
  • “What other services do you wish they offered?”

A dialogue such as this is a great way to start constructing a sales offering based on exactly what key prospects want. Naturally, you should be having the same conversation with you own customers.
You won’t be able to get in front of all your competitors’ customers. So here’s an alternative tactic.

Talk to your competitors

Companies are often proud about what they do. They are prepared to be open about what they have achieved and how they have achieved it. They may well be prepared to tell you an awful lot about their business.
At this point, the dialogue shouldn’t just be about finding out information. You may discover ways in which you can work together. I have even had my competitors recommending me to their customers.

It’s time to take action!

  • Highlight your competition
  • Decide the way you will research them and what information you want
  • Decide how you will use this information to improve your company

*Editor’s Note: This post is part of a larger series on scouting your competition, and becoming more successful in the process:
You should be preparing to the same standards as a top sports person.

PS If you’d like more practical ideas on how to engage with today’s buyers, download my free e-book “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them”. You’ll also receive my regular “Views from the print buyer” bulletin, full of ideas on how to sell print effectively.

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