The capabilities of the internet have been a boon to small businesses looking to effectively and inexpensively promote their services to a global audience. The net has also changed the way that start-ups and long-term businesses collect and use market research in a bid to stay ahead of the competition.
Social media, blogs and websites have all been used by businesses to promote their company and are an also an excellent virtual shop window. But the smart business owner knows that advertising can be more effective if the initial competitor research has been undertaken. Competitive intelligence is the best way to view gaps in the market, target specific audiences, update pricing and create new business strategies. Fortunately there are plenty of free to use web-based tools available to simplify the information gathering process.
Social media monitoring
Almost every business uses social media and it’s one of the most effective ways to reach a global customer base. Monitoring and following your competitor’s social media presence can help you to find out how interactive your rivals are with their customers and who their target audience is. Monitoring can also include feedback from the general public including positive or negative customer reviews. Social media monitoring tools are widely available online and include Trackur, HowSociable and SocialClout; try out a few of these platforms on a trial basis to obtain more detailed results from a wider audience base.
Keeping an eye on the competition
If you’re looking to find out who your long-term business competition is and how they are doing financially you should undertake a director search. This is one of the easiest ways to obtain a wealth of vital information including the financial performance of your rivals. The financial reports are important in understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses over the long-term as well as keeping updated on their progress. Data available using company checks can include net worth, liabilities and stock, risk scores, cash at bank and county court judgement.
Tracking your customers
With the internet it’s very easy to find out specifics on your internet presence including those visiting your business website. Tools such as Google Analytics can generate reports including the location of your visitors, number of times they visit and whether they have arrived at your site from another website. If your business utilizes a website to sell and promote products this demographic information is vital towards understanding who your customers are and helps conversion. Businesses can pay for very detailed tracking information services but basic packages are free to use.
Compare your stats
There are a number of online tools that allow you to compare your traffic with competitors or to simply monitor your business rival’s websites. Platforms such as Copernic Tracker can notify you when changes are made to a rival website including when new products are introduced or changes in pricing. Compete is another online service that allows you to track your online competition, set performance benchmarks and can help you to identify new business opportunities. If you’re skeptical about using new online tracking systems then use the free trial period before purchasing.
Gathering competitive intelligence and monitoring your competitors should be a vital part of your ongoing business strategy. Using these online tools can help to increase your customer base, create successful strategies and give you an edge over your rivals.
Michael Taylor is a marketing director who gives seminars and writes freelance. He is a big Game of Thrones fan and lover of all Thai food.
Image by Glenn Zucman,