It is important to understand what your competitors are doing, what their market share is, and how you stack up to them. But it can often be hard to get any real insight into their processes, marketing, or client base beyond what they intentionally publicize. Here are 3 ways to help you maintain a competitive advantage.
1. Hire a Former Employee – The best way to get insight into the culture, marketing, or overall direction of a competitor is to hire a key employee of that company. If your competitor parts way with a key employee, you should immediately reach out to that person. If they were fired for cause or performance, you may not want to hire them, but many times people leave for reasons that won’t necessarily be an issue with a different employer. And at the very least, you can gain some insights during the pre-hire conversations and interviews.
2. Use Technology – Whether searching in search engines, scouring file sharing sites, or simply looking at their website, there is a plethora of information readily available to anyone who wants to look. Search engines can be a great way to find content about the business, either written by the company on other websites or about them by others. File sharing sites can be a great way to find content your competitor shared with team members but did not mean to be seen publicly. If they left it on there, however, it can be free game for you and an easy way to get insights. And finally, using their website against them can be easy. Look at what they are doing, what they are working on, and what their corporate strategy is. A lot can be learned by reading through the whole website – especially things like “about us,” where they share their vision.
3. Use Your Network – This can be personal or professional relationships. This can be family, friends, suppliers, or clients. Reach out to people and ask – you would be surprised what people will tell you without thinking twice. If you are both using the same distributor, that person could have some great insights for you that you can uncover without that person realizing what you’re really asking. The same can go for customers, who will often gladly stack up your products and services to the competition. Your competitors are bound to have similar contacts to you – use them to get information.
Using these 3 techniques, it will be easy to always maintain a competitive advantage, which is becoming more and more important in an ever-connected world.