10 Ways to Find out What Your Competitors Are Doing

Author: Julie Petersen

Julie Petersen

Julie Petersen

6 min. read

Updated October 29, 2023

Competitive analysis has become an essential part of business marketing activity and has made it possible to perform qualitative strategic planning. While analyzing your competitors, you should know what you are looking for and how it can help your business.

It is not about stealing your competitor’s ideas; it’s about revealing their strengths and weaknesses, and finding your own company’s competitive advantages. Only unique brand positioning will eventually bring your company customer loyalty and business success.

If you’ve wondered what your competitors are up to, that shows you’re thinking strategically and want to have confidence in your own company’s approach. There are plenty of ways to check on your competition that are totally above-board.

10 tips for an effective competitor analysis

1. Attend professional conferences

A great way to learn about who your competitors are and what they offer is by attending professional conferences and trade shows. You need to go to these types of conventions and visit your competitor’s booths and see how they interact with customers, have a look at their product quality offerings, and how customers pick up literature and information from them.

2. Analyze industry reports

Companies that are publicly held will need to file reports with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission or the equivalent in your country. It is also a good idea to have a look at Environmental Protection Agency files, the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as local planning commissions. These industry files will be able to tell you quite a bit of information about your competitors like their new products and building expansions.

3. Analyze your competitor’s website and SEO strategy

You are able to reveal hidden pages by doing a simple Google search through a “file type: doc site; company name.” You are able to find data presentations by changing the file type and you will be surprised at how much information you will be able to find.

You should also visit your competitor’s actual website, but you can take this a step further through tools that are supplied by Google or relate to Google and AdWords campaigns.

You can use:

  • SpyFu: This will give you an insight into keywords and AdWords that competitors are buying
  • Google Trends: You can stay on top of trends in the industry, and compare your company to others.
  • Google Alerts: You can set alerts for your company to find out who is talking about you and set up alerts on your competitors.

SEO is one of the easiest areas of competitive marketing analysis as you are able to use many tools to examine your website and where it falls with others.

You will need to look at in terms of your site and your competitors:

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4. Define competitor’s social media marketing strengths and weaknesses

Nowadays, it is a company’s ability to track, monitor, and engage on various social media platforms which will help determine success. You need to use both measurable and written marketing analysis to be informed about key areas of your competition.

  1. Platforms: Have a look to see if your competition only uses the social media standbys of  Facebook and Twitter, or if they use other slightly more niche social media platforms. For example: LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, and others. Also, see if they engage more often or more effectively on one platform in particular.
  2. Frequency: How often do your competitors share posts? What kinds of posts (videos, images, text only)? What time of day are the posting?
  3. Following: You want to look at the overall number of followers for your top competitors, and it’s not a bad idea to check back over time, to give you more insight into your competitor’s strategy, how well it works, and if their audience is growing. You can use the tools Tweepi and Follower Wonk to analyze your competitors on Twitter in more depth.
  4. Content: Notice if your competitors are promoting their own content offers and articles or if they are giving equal play to other content creators that are in the industry. Also see if they are aiming content to the personalities of buyers or if they are sharing items that don’t really fit their profile; this will help better position your own content to be as relevant as possible for your user base.
  5. Share a voice: Is your business a thought leader in conversations that relate to your product or services, or do you find that your competitors take control of the public discussion? You can calculate this manually by mechanizing streams of keywords in the industry through HootSuite, that way you can track mentions of the brands that are in your niche.
  6. Response time: How are your competitors responding to customer questions or concerns on social media?  Quick responses are important to consumers, so a company that halts responding after 5pm isn’t in the best position. Aim to provide better customer service than your competitors on social.

5. Analyze competitor’s content marketing strategy

The value that your company provides through content marketing can be its differentiator if you do it well. It can be difficult to accurately measure the value of content marketing, but by taking into account a few factors you can glean some insight into how well your content and that of your competitors is performing:

  1. Content type: Website copy, blogs, forums, eBooks, downloadable assets, and so on. What is popular with your market?
  2. Publication frequency: Similarly to social media, it’s a good idea to look at how often your competitors publish content, create free resources, and so on. You may subscribe to their newsletter to find out their schedule. Strategic publishing is always a good call.
  3. Quality: Have a look to see if the content is sloppy and rushed or if it is well-researched and thought-out.
  4. Relevance: If your competitors create content that is industry related and is trending, you’ll know that you have to step up your game.
  5. Audience: You may find that their subscriber base is freely shared. This can be vital to competitive marketing analysis, as you share an audience and you want to position yourself to have the most popular and relevant content.

6. Analyze competitor’s email marketing strategy

Sign up on your competitor’s website for their newsletter or email list, so that you are able to receive communications from them. You can inspect their emails with these factors in mind:

  • Frequency of emails
  • Content
  • Mobile optimisation
  • Sender score, meaning if their emails ever wind up in your spam folder

7. Conduct a survey among your competitor’s customers, suppliers, and employees

If you want to gain a comprehensive report of the players in your industry, then conduct a survey. You can hire someone to email the competitor’s customers, suppliers, employers, or partners with questions about their services. You will then be able to find out how you can differentiate your service from the competition.

8. Hire your competitor

You could hire employees from competing firms and team up with competitor’s partners. You are then able to find out how these companies operate and what they will be doing next.

9. Analyze who your competitors hire and what they want from candidates

You can learn a lot by looking at the type of jobs openings your competitors have and the requirements they are looking for. This will probably tell you a lot about their company structure, and its projects.

10. Ask your competitor whatever you want to know, directly

It sounds like a long shot, but once you have done all the research, you can actually just call your competitors and ask your questions. You’d be surprised at how many companies will tell you at least some of what you want to know.

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Content Author: Julie Petersen

Julie Petersen is a language tutor, blogger and writer, who features the latest marketing trends in her articles. She works as a writing expert and a blog editor at Essaymama writing agency.