Five easy and free ways to see what your competition is doing

Whatever business you’re in, the chances are high that there are other businesses out there selling the same product or service as you. So how do you stand out from the crowd? To have a point of difference, first you need to know what your competitors are up to – and there are plenty of easy, free ways to keep an eye on them!

Start online

Your first port of call should be your competitors’ websites to get a good idea of what they’re offering, how they’re positioning it, and what they’re charging for it. Take note of the user experience – is their site easier to navigate than yours? Is your pricing competitive? Are they offering something that you don’t? Read their blog, if they have one.

Even better, sign up for their promotional emails to be notified of any new products or services they are launching, or when they are having a sale. It’s a great way to learn about their marketing strategy. If you order something, take note of how user-friendly their checkout process is, any special after-sale touches they add, like follow-up emails or handwritten notes with your delivery.

Get social

Following your competitors’ social media accounts will provide you with a wealth of information, not just about what they are doing but also about how their customers perceive them. Scanning through the comments and visitor posts on their Facebook or Instagram will show you what those businesses are doing well, what didn’t work for them, and how they deal with their customers. What are their Facebook reviews saying? Are there any important learnings you can take from their negative and positive feedback and how they responded?

Use Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free tool that will monitor the internet on your behalf for any mention of certain keywords and report back to you in real-time, daily, or weekly. It’s great for finding out whenever your business, your competitors, or any of the products and services you sell appear online. Consider creating alerts for your business name and url, your tagline, the names of the items and brands you sell – and then do the same for your competitors. You can create as many alerts as you like.

Go undercover

A great way to find out what your competition is up to is to go to them. If they have a brick-and-mortar store, pop in, browse, ask questions, even buy something. There are plenty of mystery shopper checklists available online that will help you decide what to look for and compare against your own business. Similarly, you could try visiting their booths at trade shows, listening to their pitches, and picking up their promotional material.

Google My Business

If you Google your product or service, Google will normally return a results page with a couple of promoted sites at the top (identified by the bold “Ad” beside the url), a map, and then a section of Google My Business links. Clicking on any of these links will take you to the Google My Business page, where you’ll see their overall Google review rating, any promotions they’re running, a business summary, directions on a map, questions and answers, an image gallery, and a list of reviews. Down the left will be a list of other relevant results.

Not only is this a valuable source of information, but also an opportunity for you to make sure your listing stacks up against everyone else’s. Google My Business is completely free, and as well as managing your listing, you can also see analytics on things like url clicks, directions requests and bookings made.

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