As a marketer for a small business, competitor tracking can seem superfluous. With many resource constraints, many small business marketing operations neglect researching and following their competitors because they believe it to be a time-consuming, expensive, and overall daunting task with little ROI. However, the reality is that as a small business, competitor tracking is exceptionally important. Small businesses may even have more to gain in competitor tracking than bigger companies, especially if they are looking to expand their reach or corner a niche market. Competitor tracking helps you gather knowledge that can help to formulate marketing strategies that take advantage of your competitors’ weaknesses, as well as assess threats to your customer base. Don’t stick your head in the sand and throw your hands in the air—start keeping tabs on your competition now.
The goal of competitor tracking is to understand the marketing elements of a competitor’s brand experience and use this information to ensure that yours are superior. Simple, right? Yes, it is!
The first step in competitor tracking is identifying your competition. Knowing who your competitors are can greatly enhance your marketing efforts. It will enable you to set your prices competitively and help you respond to rival marketing campaigns. Keep an eye on brands that offer the same products and services as you, but don’t forget to also follow indirect, or secondary, competitors—those who can draw attention and revenue away from you. This broad view of your competition will only better serve your overall goal of understanding your customer base and catering to their needs better than other brands.
The next step is to set up a tracking structure that allows your small business to watch your competitors. As with most elements of marketing, consistency is key. Some easy and inexpensive ways you can track your competition include:
Google Alerts—Setting up Google Alerts to track your competitors’ online activity is easy and totally free. Google has an easy-to-follow “How To” guide available that walks you through the setup and management of these alerts. Google Alerts are based on keywords, and triggered each time Google gets news related to your selected keywords. Notifications are then sent to you via email, and delivery is customizable (real-time, daily, or weekly).
Connecting via Social Media—“Like” and “follow” your competition, both the brand and the brand’s leadership and spokespeople, wherever they are on social media. By tracking individuals who speak on behalf of the brand, as well as the brand itself, you will get a more detailed snapshot of their social media marketing operations and of their brand as a whole.
Website Reconnaissance—This is probably the most time-consuming of the three tracking tactics discussed in this post, but can yield the most information if done thoroughly. Website recon, of course, includes noting product pricing and checking out new site functionalities that are successful for them, as well as their design and information architecture… but this research can go much deeper into the brand experience. To enhance your competitor website reconnaissance efforts, sign up for their e-mail campaigns to see what kind of content they are distributing and marketing campaigns they are running and gauge how these compare to yours. You may also want to conduct an online shopping experience to really see what the process feels like from a customer’s perspective, then use this information to make adjustments to your own company’s buyer experience.
Free guide: Don’t neglect your pre-campaign audience research. Download our free guide, The Pre-Targeting Advantage, and learn the best ways to reach your key audience.