How well do you really know your competition?

When visiting client organizations, I’m often surprised at how little they really know about their top three or four competitors. I’ve always assumed my competitors are very smart businesspeople and, as such, wanted to know everything they were up to. I recommend putting into place programs that provide a steady stream of information on competitors.

You can accomplish this by appointing a marketing person in your company to be competitor X, making it his or her job to research all competitors and to begin thinking like those competitors. Then hold a group marketing/merchandising meeting where your competitor representative gives a presentation on what competitor X is doing. It’s a great exercise, particularly the questions and insights that come from your team after the presentation.

Here are a few things you should do as you collect competitive intelligence:

1. Establish a regular buying program from your competitors. Order something on the same day of each month. If it uses sequential order numbers, you’ll learn how many orders were processed in the elapsed time period.

2. Engage a customer service rep (CSR) in friendly conversation. You’d be stunned at what a CSR will tell you in an attempt to get a sale or please a customer.

3. Set up a rating system to evaluate the competitive ordering experience and review that with the marketing team as you open the competitor’s shipments.

4. Make sure the competitive orders are challenging. Include personalization, custom production or other more difficult options.

5. If the company has its rental list on the market, track its buyer file over time, looking for growth and retention trends.

6. Seek out a competitor’s exhibit at a trade show and engage it in conversation about what’s new and how things are going.

7. Never pass up an opportunity to interview an applicant who’s worked for your competitor.

8. Search the business networks, such as LinkedIn.com, by company to see who’s out there who’s worked for one of your competitors. They might be worthwhile candidates for positions at your company.

9. Have someone visit its location. You can learn a lot from just looking at the building, talking to the receptionist and even counting cars in the parking lot.

Remember, all’s fair in love, war and gathering competitive intelligence. Don’t forget, they may be researching you, too, so begin to take defensive measures.

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Have a comment? Please provide me with your feedback at tjukes@b2bdmi.com .

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes@b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221 (direct line).

Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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