Do you know what products or services your competitors are selling, how they are promoting them, what prices they are asking, how customers or clients are relating to them, and what they have planned for the future?
Staying informed about your competitors is crucial if you are not to be wrong footed and suddenly find them making inroads into your market share. The internet can prove to be a valuable tool in this respect.
Valuable competitor information
In the old days it was not always easy to acquire such information but today, with the rapid growth of the internet, anyone with a computer and an internet connection has vast amounts of valuable competitor information literally at their fingertips.
The burgeoning growth of e-business, the relative ease and low cost of electronic publishing, and the underlying ethic of full disclosure on the internet have led many companies to publish much more about themselves electronically than they previously did by more conventional means.
The obvious place to start is your competitors' own websites. If you do not already know their addresses you can find them in their printed publications, or in online search engines and directories. In fact, a frequent search of www.yahoo.co.uk, www.scoot.co.uk and www.ukdirectory.co.uk, for example, might even unearth actual or potential competitors you did not know you had!
Most companies disclose reams of product and strategy information on their sites. Don't just visit the mainstream pages - pay regular calls also to their 'backend' pages such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), online instruction manuals, troubleshooting guides, and customer service sections.
Other online sources
Alco check out newspapers in your competitors' locality (especially the job ads), patent databases, and company information sites, as well as relevant newsgroups - especially those where your competitors' employees discuss technical issues.
If you have not already done so, consider assigning someone to conduct regular online research on your competitors. Chances are they have someone watching you!