March 1, 2018

Competitive Analysis: How to Spy on Your Competitors’ Customers

Written by
Stewart Dunlop

Perhaps one of the toughest things almost every fledgling entrepreneur has to wrestle with is the fact that, quite simply, their idea isn’t as unique as they initially thought it was.

Put into perspective, with over 125 million small businesses active all over the world, that “one in a million” idea has likely been replicated at least 100 times over.

The thing is, though, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel to be successful in the business world; you simply need to do something better than your competition does. In other words, you just need to provide your target customers with better value than anyone else in your industry.

Of course, now the question is: how do you go about doing this?

Your first step is to learn as much as you can about your competition and about the service they offer your target audience. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most effective methods of gathering this information.

How to Gather Insight Into Your Target Consumers’ Experiences Within Your Industry

As you surely know, we currently have access to more information than any human at any given time in history.

And, even if we don’t have immediate access to the information we’re looking for, we really don’t have to do all that much to bring it to the surface.

Whether passively taking in industry-related data that’s already “out there,” or actively working to uncover it, you have more than a few options at your disposal.

Let’s dive in.

Browse Public Records

If you’re looking for “insider info” about the way in which your competitors operate, you often don’t need to look any further than their own websites. Most major companies usually make some financial documents (such as quarterly reports) readily available on their website in order to provide transparency to their shareholders. Case in point, a simple Google search for “Konami quarterly reports” brought up a list of the electronics company’s reports dating back to 2012.

Similarly, companies also tend to archive their past press releases and similar announcements on their websites, as well.

Typically, these reports and press releases contain information such as:

  • The company’s recent performance metrics
  • Information regarding future initiatives and service improvements
  • Insight into the industry trends that made such initiatives and improvements necessary

In addition to checking out first-hand sources for company- and industry-related trends and information, you also want to dig into third-party websites and publications as well. For example, sites such as PRWeb curate press releases and other documents from a variety of industries on a daily basis – allowing you to collect insight from numerous sources in one convenient place.

By analyzing these documents, you can gain an in-depth understanding of your customers’ expectations – as well as your competitors’ ability (or lack thereof) to cater to their needs. In turn, you can then focus your energy on strengthening the necessary areas of your own service, and on filling the gaps in service your competitors have noted throughout their recent campaigns.

Peruse (and Use) Public Forums

While you stand to gain a decent amount of insight regarding your target audience by digging into data provided by your competitors, you can gain much more by looking directly to the source.

Your competitors almost certainly have some sort of presence on social media and similar platforms. Typically, these channels can be an absolute treasure trove of customer comments, product reviews, and other first-hand information that can help you better gauge your competitors’ ability to meet the needs of their customers.

competitive customer information

In the screenshot above, for example, a customer explains in crystal-clear terms what they loved about their experience with Intrepid Travel – as well as where they believe the company has room for improvement. For companies that offer similar services as Intrepid, there’s certainly a lot to take note of from this four-sentence comment left by a rather satisfied customer.

You’ll also want to check out third-party forums and platforms that relate to your industry as a whole, as well. For example, Reddit and Quora are full of posts, comments, questions, and complaints from consumers within almost any industry you can imagine. On these forums, you’ll likely be able to gain insight not just into the quality of the products your competitors offer, but also into the quality of the support they offer their customers throughout the buyer’s journey and beyond.

Use Tools and Technology

As with most other aspects of the entrepreneurial venture, technology makes conducting research on your competition, your target customers, and your industry incredibly easy to do.

To keep up to date with industry trends and current events, there are tools such as Google Alerts. Essentially, Alerts monitors the web for newly-published content that contains specific keywords, then shoots the user an alert via email prompting them to check out the new content. This allows you to be one of the first to know about the latest news and trends within your industry – whether posted by a competitor or a consumer in your niche.

For deeper insight into your target customers – who they are, what they value, and how they act as consumers – you can use tools such as Claritas’ MyBestSegments. This software combines your company’s data on your current customers with that of customers throughout your industry, and helps you determine the best way to reach consumers with a high potential for conversion.

Lastly, you can use survey software such as Fieldboom to develop questionnaires for potential customers who may currently be doing business with a competing company. Through this option, you can create tailored surveys that elicit information from respondents regarding their experiences and level of satisfaction while engaging with companies similar to yours. In turn, you’ll be able to tweak the services your company provides in order to meet the needs of these individuals more effectively than your competitors may have been able to.

Simply put:

The more you know about your target customers – especially with regard to their experiences with other brands within your industry – the better you’ll be able to serve them as you grow your business.

While you absolutely need to conduct this research when diving into a brand new industry, you should also continue to do so as time goes on, as well. Reason being: the needs of your customers – no matter what industry you’re in – will continue to evolve…and so will your competitors’ services.

By staying up to date – and even one step ahead – of trends within your industry, you’ll continue to be a go-to service provider for your target customers.

Stewart is the marketing & outreach manager at Fieldboom. With Fieldboom, you can create beautiful smart forms, quizzes & surveys in minutes.