It’s probably safe to say that the Internet has changed the way we advertise small businesses. Market research, as a result, has changed as well, and it expands beyond simply setting up a website and answering emails to making social media profiles, running blogs, setting Google Alerts, signing up to news feeds and so much more.
As a result, there are plenty of tools available to help you monitor what’s going on in your industry, and find out who is taking the lion’s share of your market, and why. There are of course plenty of ‘competitive intelligence solutions’ that come with a hefty price tag, but you can also use tools that are free online.
- Search for Companies House information at Duedil, which is the world’s largest database of free company financials. Collating and digitising public records, Duedil (short for “due diligence”) is searchable across 20 years of financial history and provides information ranging from corporate structures to director time-lines. The tool takes information directly from UK Companies House, meaning you can get financial records for limited companies across the UK and Northern Ireland from a completely verifiable source.
- Relevant for growing businesses, BrandVerity is a free tool that helps you track your trademark. It will alert you when ads are placed that meet the criteria you specify. Also a way of ensuring compliance with affiliate policies, BrandVerity maintains a watch list of affiliate offenders that can help you keep your business partners in check.
- One of the biggest components of any business is the customers – without them, all your efforts are for naught. Quantcast is a free measurement tool that helps you find out who is visiting your website and make accurate customer profiles across the web as well.
- Not exactly a tool, but Google Trends is fun to use to track search terms over time, particularly as it presents a large amount of data in easy-to-read graphs. You can also use it to compare the number of daily unique visitors for up to five websites, which is useful if you want to chart the visitor patterns of your competitors over time.
If you’re interested in search engine optimisation and competitive intelligence, have a look at SEOmoz Tools, which provides a toolkit to help you understand the makings of a healthy website. The SEO toolbar, for example, provides site information such as nofollow links on the sites you visit, and the Juice Link Finder can help you find links for your targeted keywords.
No matter how much you engage with your audience online, it’s important to do market research and know your competitors. You can use these tools to measure the trends that affect your business.
Image Credit: By Markvonrosing (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons