Yeah, the word "stalk" has a negative connotation when it is in regards to individuals, but when it comes to sales, it is just good business practice to know what you are up against. The more you know, the more you have the upper hand.
How can this help?
You need to know the factors contributing to customers purchasing/not purchasing your product/service due to competitors' prices, quality of product/service, customer service, other business practices, etc. Also, knowing how your competition is marketing and who they are marketing to can be a huge benefit for planning your own marketing strategies.
Have you ever been in love or had a crush on someone? What do you do when you are pursuing them? You do your best to study their likes, dislikes, how you are alike, different from you and all of the aspects that make them special, right? (This is why I say you should know your competition so well, you'd think you wanted to date them vs. knowing them so well you'd think you were married to them.) And just like a good marriage should be, yet most fail to do, you should continue to pursue an understanding of your competitors even when you feel like you are successful in business.
If you still aren't sure who your competition is then see, "Who Are Your Comps?"
Now that you see the need, how do you "stalk" your competition?
For starters, Facebook is a great way to get information from your competition on how they market and who their clients are. This doesn't work in every circumstance, but many times this can produce a great return.
We'll do two examples to help you get an idea of how to try this practice using your own competition.
Example 1: We'll pretend you offer gardening services.
Go to Facebook.com and in the search box type in the industry
This will populate a search for everything that could potentially pertain to the information you provided. Facebook seeks to provide information pertinent to you, so those options closest to your location should show first.
You should see something like this:
You can select "See All" to get additional information on other similar businesses. (Additionally, depending on the company, you may be able to get an idea of the price range that your competition is charging, as well as how far away they are from your current location.)
Click on the company name to be taken to their Facebook Business Page.
The main two locations that you'll want to pay attention to are the "Review" area at the top and the "Pages liked by this page."
From the "Review" area, you have a directory of potential local clients. You can go through their reviews to determine their likes/dislikes of the product/service/brand. This is a highly effective way to determine what you can do right from the start to set your company above the competition. Learn from their mistakes, improve on their strengths and start your company on the best path from the start. You can also click on their names and be directed to their personal pages. You can use this information to help you determine what types of people could be potential clients. Is there a trend of client types? (ie: mostly women, people in high-end neighborhoods, mostly elderly, etc.)
Also, depending on your business, you may be able to use the "Pages liked by this Page" area to acquire potential clients. Often times there are three reasons a company would like a page:
Things are a little different when you are selling a product/service for someone else. There are two ways to go about this next step. You could try searching for other consultants near you to see who their clients are. (This mostly would just help you determine if there is a client base for your product, and if so how big it is/how much competition you have in your area to compete against/what people are saying good/bad about the products/services you offer.) Most individuals, however, who already purchase these types of products are only likely to change who they purchase from in the event that they have a close friend or family member that starts selling the same thing.
In this instance, you'd want to determine what companies sell similar products. (You can search Google for "similar companies to (company you are working with)." We'll say that Avon would probably be a good choice for this search.
Now, let's perform the same style search to determine potential clients for your product. (This works even greater with newer companies that individuals haven't become accustomed to.)
Go to Facebook.com and in the search box type in the company
You may need to click on the "Review" area to see what clients are saying. Click on the "Stars" to open this section.
Now you'll see a list of reviews by individuals that are buying from your competitor. You can use this information to compare products/services, as well as to see who was unhappy with what they purchased.
If you happen to find a customer that states they are unhappy and as to why they did not like this product/service then you may have struck gold. Could your product/service be the answer to this customer's issues, or do they seem to be someone that can't be pleased? (You don't want negative reviews if you can help it.)
If you feel that you could help this individual then you could reach out to them directly and mention that you'd like to offer them a free sample of your product, as you'd heard they were unhappy with your competitor's product/service. (Free samples usually aren't something worth posting a negative review over.)
This general concept works the same for all Social Media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), but if Social Media is not your thing? Here's a direct way to get ideas - Visit their website!
Look to see what specials they offer, how your product/services are alike/different, how many locations they have, etc.
Use this information to tailor the way you promote your own products/services.
Want to know more in-depth information on the ins and outs of your competition? Do a job search!
Wait, you wanted to know about the company, not work for them?
Well, that is exactly what we are going to do!
For example, if you were a welding company in Arizona, you might start with CareerBuilder and search for "welder" in "Arizona."
From here you can see positions that pertain to welding jobs. You can also see how recent the post is and determine what qualifications the position requires and detailed company information. (We'll explain why you'd need this in a moment.)
You can click on the position title (blue font at the top of a listing in all caps) to learn more about that particular listing.
Here you see (left to right) a discription of the company and what they offer, information on the position and similar jobs in the area.
Here is a more detailed view of the job summary.
Here are specific abilities/knowledge that an applicant would need to know to be suitable for the available position.
You can do a similar search for most business types throughout all of these sites, as well as Google.
Now, how on earth does this information help you?
These 3 tools should help you get ahead of what your competition is planning and to market accordingly.
Set a plan in action to do regular checks on your competition! Things are always changing, more people are selling and starting businesses, and you should always strive to be the best in the industry. Never stop learning your competition... Know them so well that those around you would think you wanted to date them.
Mark you calendar once a month to either personally do a Comp Search, or to have an employee do one for you (if you have that luxury).
This will help you sell your product by both being able to market and strategize so that clients will know how your product/service is top in the industry, but also you'll be able to compare products/services when a client mentions that they are currently using your comp.
Let me know how these tools have helped you and be sure to subscribe for more tips on how to do business on a dime. Additionally, if you have other ideas of how to "Stalk Your Comps" (legally) then please feel free to share them in the comments below.
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