I hope you see the parallel that military intelligence has with marketing intelligence.
Many small business owners have the attitude that they could care less about what their competitors are doing in the niche or with their businesses. Please, don't be that guy!
Showing you how to do competition analysis could fill several large volumes or a massive web training site - that's not my purpose here.
What I would like to do is simply ask a few questions to give you pause and hopefully open up your mind to the idea that being observant of your profitable and successful competitors could help you immensely in your own business venture. Realize that "being observant" sometimes requires some digging, spying, and detective work. Thankfully, the Internet has made this sleuthing much easier than in days past.
1- Do you subscribe to your competitor's email list, customer mailings, and newsletter? Do you have a copy of his catalog and price list?
2- Do you know where your competitor gets his traffic- both free and paid?
3- Do you understand his distribution channels?
4- Do you know the details of his affiliate program, what incentives and rates he gives, what platform(s) he uses, and which affiliates bring in the most sales?
5- Do you know what his sales funnel looks like? Have you ever purchased his product(s) so you can understand his sales process? What vendors does he use for financial transactions, communications, product shipping and delivery, etc?
6- What direct and secondary (indirect) marketing methods, strategies and "mix" does he use? What tactics has he used in the past that he no longer uses today?
7- Does he create his own products, have them outsourced, or does he have accounts with wholesalers? What is good and bad about what he offers? How do his products differ from what you're selling? How often does he update or launch new products?
8- What is his USP, his brand marketing, his mission statement, his motto, his tagline?
9- What is his customer service like? Is it handled in-house or outsourced? How often does he contact his customers other than when they contact him first about an issue?
10- What is his pricing structure and how often does he give discounts or run sales?
11- What would it mean to your business if you began accepting his coupons or matching his prices?
12- What is his financial transaction company and how many ways does he have for a customer to pay for a product?
13- What are his terms of service, guarantee, refund policy, shipping or delivery terms?
14- What are his new initiatives, directions or plans for the future? Does he share these with his customers and prospects?
15- "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Believe it or not, it would be smart for you to brainstorm how you might join your top competitor if he is securely established in your niche and you are wondering how you're going to compete against him. For example, could you become his supplier for quality niche products? Could you handle his marketing if he sees that as a chore or headache? Could you produce and mail his newsletter or take care of his customer service needs?
There will be times when your own niche business is lagging or headed for the dumpster because the competition is so powerful and so entrenched. Rather than admit total defeat, it may pay you (financially and emotionally) to figure out ways to help a competitor fix problem spots in his business.
There you have it, a few questions (and there are many more) that might get you strategically thinking about doing some competitor marketing intelligence.
The best to all of you,