Believe it or not, your competitors are actually an asset. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s competition that inspires innovation, and keeps small business owners on their toes. Your competitors nip at your heels, driving you to anticipate potential problems, surmount obstacles, and provide superior service for your customers.
In the ordinary course of business, you will occasionally brush up against your competitors; as you bid for contracts, woo potential clients, or bring new products and services to market, a competitor might suddenly turn up to undermine your efforts.
In order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation, and to maintain a competitive advantage, it helps to keep tabs on your direct competitors. Keeping tabs on the “other guys” can help you identify their strengths and weaknesses, neutralize potential threats to your business, and uncover new opportunities.
Here are three simple ways to use the Internet and readily available applications to track your competition.
Subscribe to Competitor Newsletters
Do any of your direct competitors offer an email newsletter or promotional materials to subscribers, followers, or fans? Then why haven’t you signed up! Receiving regular updates from your competitors can help you see things from the perspective of a customer.
Beware: some savvy companies blacklist email addresses connected to businesses in their industry, so sign up using a personal email account.
Utilize Google Alerts
Google Alerts notifies you every time a competitor is mentioned online, including news articles, blog posts, discussions, and videos. You can choose what to monitor, and how often you wish to be notified. Best of all, it’s totally free.
Monitor a Competitor’s Credit Scores and Ratings
Contact Dun & Bradstreet to request a copy of your competitor’s credit report. In addition to the company’s PAYDEX® score (a simple numerical indicator of creditworthiness on a scale from 1 to 100), you will receive a brief financial summary and payment profile.
By reviewing a competitor’s credit file, you can ascertain their payment habits, the strength of their relationships with vendor and suppliers, and their overall financial health.
Photo Credit: Ahmed Sinan, Flickr.