So you own a pizza joint – the only one in town. It’s a small-town kind of place, homey, filled with regulars… But suddenly, you find your business has dropped by 25%! Then 40%! Looks like one of those larger chains has opened up shop one mile down the road – and their cheaper prices are driving traffic away from your door.
How could this tragedy have been avoided? Why, with a little old-fashioned snooping, that’s how!
It’s no secret that being well-informed helps you make wiser business decisions. And being well-informed about the actions of your competitors helps you prepare for their next move – making sure you’ll come out on top.
Data-gathering is easy in these days of social media. Track their online moves – blog posts, Facebook status updates, e-mail blasts (go ahead and sign up for their newsletter! you’ll see what messages they’re sending into the market), Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, website updates… Action on any of these platforms can give you insight into what’s going on. What is the tone of these posts? What are they saying? Usually these social media promotions foreshadow bigger things.
Employees can be a great source of information too! Stay informed and up-to-date on your employees’ networks outside your office – they might know someone who works for a rival company, or they might attend more industry events than you do. Encourage your employees to be a positive representation of your company (and to report back any juicy info they might happen to hear).
People who are involved in your company, but not employees, can generally provide “competitive intelligence”. Think consultants, suppliers, customers, and industry/trade organization representatives. These people talk to all sorts of companies in your industry, and are often assigned to a specific geographic area. They’ve probably been on your competitor’s turf and might mention something in casual conversation that could be helpful to you.
Now I’m not advocating going through anyone’s trash or interrogating their former office manager! Don’t be aggressive about your information collecting – just find open and subtle ways of finding out what is going on in your industry. The internet can be a great resource, and generally people share tons of information in casual conversations.
Think of this snooping as an early-warning system.
Is the big box store opening another franchise near your mom-and-pop-shop? Get a jump on the marketing and highlight your local ties, while showcasing some of the products you carry that they don’t! When you’re well-informed, you’re at an advantage, and you can make strategic decisions to benefit your business.