Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall in your competitor's office? Or, better yet, that you knew someone in your competitors' companies who could feed you information about their annual sales, new products they're planning to launch or new markets they're planning to target?
Well, the good news is you don't have to be that fly to get information about what your competitors are up to. With a little creativity and a willingness to ask questions, you can gather a lot of useful information about your competitors' businesses and their marketing strategies. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Get to know your competitors and/or their employees. Meet them at trade shows, industry events or local business events. The more you get out of your office, the more chances you'll get to meet your competitors and others in the industry who know them.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. If a prospect lets you know they've gotten lower bids from one of your competitors, ask who it was and what they bid to get the contract. If you ask, they may tell you. If you don't ask, you'll never know.
Ask your competitors what they are up to. If they like to brag about their accomplishments or show off, they may volunteer a lot of information you can use to build your own business.
Ask your competitors' customers what made them choose your competitor over you and whether they are completely satisfied with the competitor.
If a customer tells you they've received sales literature from one of your competitors, ask them if they'd mind sending you a copy.
Ask your competitors' suppliers for information. The answers to simple questions like "What's hot?" or "How's business this month?" might give you important clues about what your competition is doing.
Ask your competitors' employees for information if and when the opportunity arises. They may be willing to talk about working conditions, overtime, salary, or new projects in the works.
Remember (and remind your employees) to be careful about what information you divulge about your company to outsiders. Chances are your competitors are just as eager to get inside information about your company as you are in getting information about them.