How to spy on your competitors

Time to spy on your competitors?

Your competitors could be plotting a game changer in your industry, so it's important to keep up-to-date with their business activities and plans. 

Just a little bit of inside information could be extremely valuable, especially if your competitors are:

  • Trying to gain a competitive advantage over you.
  • Setting their discount and value-add.
  • Or approaching the market in a way that is different or unique.

It's also helpful to find out how your competitors are messaging their potential customers, specifically:

  • What they are telling your customers in an attempt to lure them away.
  • And what promises they are making to your customers that could result in you losing sales.

Being aware of what your competitors are doing enables you to adapt your approach and stay ahead of the game.

How to spy on your competitors | Time to spy on your competitors?

Competitor analysis tools

In an article, Neil Patel recommends a number of digital tools you can use to spy on your competitors. Some of these include:

  • Google alerts. This tool sends reports directly to your inbox detailing every time your competitors are mentioned online. It allows you to monitor keyword and company mentions across social media and other websites. It can also help you find out what backlinks you competitors have.
  • SocialMention. This tool allows you to monitor how many times and how often a search term (i.e. your competitor's name or a relevant keyword) is mention on social media. You can cross-analyse what is being said on various platforms, and track keyword and company mentions.
  • Ubsersuggest. This all-in-one SEO tool can help you find and target keywords, discover your competitors' top performing content and keywords, get inspiration for new content and determine new competitors.
  • Owletter. This tool allows you to track any emails your competitor sends to their mailing list. Find out how often your competitors send email, track emails based on keywords, and discover trends over time.
  • Social Blade. This tool provides real-time stats for your competitors' social media accounts, including their follower counts and number of uploads.
  • Google Keyword Planner. This tool helps you find your competitors' keyword data. You can also monitor your competitors' websites, plus your own.
  • Instapaper. This tool allows you to save web pages to read later on your computer, mobile or Kindle. It also allows you to keep any content you download well organised.
  • Monitor Backlinks. This tool allows you to follow your competitors' backlinks and have them sent directly to your inbox. It also provides information regarding which backlinks have the highest vs. lowest domain score, and whether they are dofollow or nofollow.
  • Semrush. This tool specialises in competitor data. It allows you to gather information regarding your competitors' organic keywords and rank, Google Ads keywords and site traffic.
  • Spyfu. This tool tells you which keywords your competitors are targeting for both organic search and Google Ads.

In addition to this, Hubspot provides a competitive analysis kit. They provide the following 12-step process to perform a complete and effective analysis.

  • Determine who your competitors are.
  • Determine what products are offered by your competitors.
  • Research your competitors' sales tactics and the results of these tactice.
  • Examine our competitors' pricing, plus any perks or benefits they offer.
  • If you're selling a physical product, make sure your shipping costs are competitive.
  • Analyse how your competitors market their products.
  • Take note of your competitors' content strategies.
  • Establish what technology stack your competitors are using.
  • Analyse the level of engagement your competitors' content receives.
  • Observe how they promote marketing content.
  • Examine their social media presence, strategies and primary platforms.
  • Perform a SWOT analysis to establish your competitors' internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats.
How to spy on your competitors | Competitor analysis tools

A true story

When I finished my Master of Science in Denmark I took on my first management job. In this role, I quickly learned that I needed to know my competitors’ financial positions, as well as their sales, marketing and pricing strategies.

My job was to buy health clubs - I scouted out competitors and offered to buy them.

To do my job effectively, I needed inside information and I couldn’t just walk in and ask the owner of a business for it.

Strategically, this information aided the company's decision making process when trying to decide whether we should:

  • Buy another (competing) business.
  • Attack the market with a "low price - high volume" model or a "high price - low volume" model.
  • Or exit the market completely due to our competitor's business plans.

Whichever way the decision went, inside information was required.

However, I struggled to obtain this information from private companies, so  I instead began targeting and approaching their employees. I sounded out employees regarding:

  • Their career and what they have learned in their current role.
  • How they use what they have learned.
  • And how they see their employer's competitive situation.

From this, I quickly obtained valuable information that often changed our business approach, as I discovered new ways of doing business that we had not previously considered.

So, if you want information, it's all about asking the right people!

Today, after having opened about 10 business and having been recruiting for more than 25 years, I see every recruitment drive as an opportunity to obtain competitor information.

How to spy on your competitors | A true story

Christian Madsen | Managing Director
Christian Madsen
Managing Director
11 Recruitment

Recruitment tips & advice

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