“Spying” has a bad connotation, but in business, everyone does it!
When we talk about spying on your competitors, it is completely “legal” (to a certain extent). In fact, if you aren’t doing it, you’re not going to be able to compete keep up with your competitors who are doing it.
In this article, we cover the top tips to make sure you stay within limitations know the best strategies:
Why you should Spy on your Competitors
1. Stay one “Leg up”
Your competitors could be making new merchandise, progressing to enter into new markets etc
Obviously, you don’t want to miss out on any big moves.
2. Find Valuable Data
Sometimes your competitors unknowingly reveal precisely what is working for them.
For example: When you see an ad from a highly competitive market that your competitors are continuing to spend money on, you can find out a lot about who they are targeting.
Sometimes businesses have already done the “heavy lifting” and have split-tested the image, verbiage, and audience. Thousands and thousands of dollars go into marketing (in all industries). Spying on your competitors allows you to cut your cost for split testing.
How to Spy on Competitors Legally
Uncovering competitive info does not mean that you need to hire a laptop hacker.
Modern Day Spying
With advanced technology, nothing prevents you from legally prying into your competitor’s profiles and strategies. Here are a few ways you can legally spy on your competitors online.
One note of warning: Not everything you read online is real. There are a lot of half-truths, gossip, and ways to falsely “stimulate growth” on an online platform- so we cover offline (old-school) later on in the article.
1. Website Research
Find their website and see how it is designed.
Are they Optimized for leads? Can you do better through ClickfunnelsTM? Are they paying for traffic?
Study their Backlinks and Keywords
Use paid tools like SEM Rush and AHREFS to see what keywords their company are ranking for and which ones they are going after. You can get great SEO insights from “following their backlinks” to the source.
2. Sign up for their Online Newsletter
I know, I know, another spammy email a day, but trust me. If you follow their sales funnel and make notes along the way, you can learn how to implement new strategies and upsells to the products and services you already provide.
3. “Social Media Stalk” them
Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. are all very effective ways to find insights on your competitors.
Social media profiles are relatively simple to make and if you don’t want to use your own make a new one or get a colleague to follow the page. “Troll” Twitter and Facebook chatter. See what is important to your customer/client.
Copy similar hash-tags that pertain to your industry.
4. Notice Competitors’ Job Ads
Job portals may be an excellent place for spying on competitors.
Watch the talent an organization is hiring and look at what their needs are. This reveals a lot about their weaknesses and strengths as a company.
Old School (Better for SOME Industries)
Here are some tested strategies that predate the net and are surprisingly still useful:
1. Scan Locally/Publically Available Documents
Sit down with different state and federal agencies for signs of weakness or annoyances they are dealing with (tax liens, legal filings, disclosures, etc.). In public control, firms should file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Anything registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Patent and Trademark workplace, etc. will be “free game.”
You can find a lot about if they are doing any building expansions or adding new merchandise to their inventory.
On a more fundamental level, watch the daily newspaper and business weekly within the cities they operate.
I cannot begin to explain the amount of knowledge we’ve gotten from something as simple as a neighborhood newspaper.
2. Chat up known partners or associates
If you have a common “sourcer” of provider that has worked with your competitors, talk with them.
Try to get them to “spill the beans” about business inside secrets *without being pushy.
3. Attend Trade shows, Auctions, or Events
You’ll stand close to competitors’ booths and listen to their overly-chatty sales team. Typically they’ll brag about any new merchandise, hires and growth plans.
They could reveal details pertinent to your company. If you think that you will be recognized, get a friend to do it for you.
4. Pretend you are their potential buyer/shopper/investor
Go in their stores, etc. and see how it “feels” to shop or deal with them.
In the case of a physical store or office, scan their aisles and see if everything is clean and organized. Observe whether or not the staff is responsive and friendly.
Whatever you do, Don’t cross the line (Here’s how)
Never steal or copy any of their content EXACTLY
Never copy word for word your competitor’s ads, headlines, website, newsletter, images, etc.
Copyright laws will slap you down and apart from that, you’re asking for someone to call you out and possibly sue you.
Never Hack or pay a Hacker or Spy
It may be tempting, especially if you’re neck and neck to hack your competitor’s databases or make direct/indirect attacks to their company but it is never worth it.
Everything will eventually be traced to you, and no one wants to go to jail over a little competition.
Never Pretend to be Someone you’re not
I know I said before that you could make different profiles and writer aliases, for social media. But, for example, don’t start attacking your competitors outright or wear a fake beard or disguise to extract info from people who might recognize you.
If anything, ask a buddy to take part in the physical tasks.
Seek Legal Help
If you are unsure about a specific practice, seek legal help.
Nothing beats crossing your “Ts” and dotting your “I’s” when it comes to spying on competitors.
There are plenty of ways to spy on your competitors legally. There is no need to do anything crazy or illegal. Do it, but in moderation.
While reading this article, some of you may have probably been wondering if your competitors have used these tactics themselves. Chances are YES. But there are ways to cover your tracks so that others don’t exploit your company by using these same tactics.
Remember that the bigger your company is, the more exposure (good and bad) you’ll have.
As always, if you need help with digital marketing or need professional consultation, contact me here.