Sherlock Holmes is a 19th-century detective and your marketing plan is a 21st-century organism. Neither have anything in common, right? Elementary, my dear reader – Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have a lot to teach businesses about, well, business.
The sleuth is one of the greatest detectives ever to have lived, fictionally or otherwise. And, you need his powers of deduction for one purpose: to research the competition. While you’re reading this post, they are out there, developing new ways to attract customers and steal your market share. Even worse, rivals are pretty good at turning on the charm.
Thankfully, you can have revenge by transforming into a marketing pro and studying their every move. There’s a fine line between research and plagiarism, and we’re about to walk it! Jokes aside, understanding how the industry conducts business is essential to success. After all, the best learn from the best. With that in mind, it’s time your company started doing its background checks. These are the seven excellent ways to go Benedict Cumberbatch on the competition.
To Google And Beyond
The year is 2018, and humanity is being ruled by damn, dirty apes! Sorry, I was channeling my inner Charlton Heston. In a cruel twist of fate, our furry cousins aren’t the biggest threat; that honor goes to technology. Nowadays, it’s impossible to move without logging in to a website or switching on a smartphone or mobile device. Technology – hardware and software – has become an everyday part of life, and it’s something to use to the firm’s advantage. When you think of researching the competition, what instantly springs to mind? The short answer is Google. All roads lead back to the search engine giant, and they should. However, the checks shouldn’t stop at a glance of a rival’s Wikipedia page and a quick scan of their website. Instead, go one step further by setting up Google Alerts for you and the rest of the sector. That way, you’ll know what they’re up to and gain an insight into their creative processes. Another cool tool is SpyFu which shows you what keywords and phrase are being used by the competition. Google Trends is also very helpful in this respect.
Here’s X With Her Report
Have you ever heard of the International Data Corporation? The odds are you haven’t as it’s a specialist company that deals with quite boring stuff. The same goes for Gartner, a rival firm. The thing is that the devil is in the details, and these corporations have access to as much info as you can want. Better yet, they publish their findings on regular dates for the whole world to see. Obviously, businesses are blind if they don’t know that these data dumps exist in the first place. So, take time to research companies such as IDC and Gartner before using them to study the competition. Try to focus on what they are saying about the way the industry is trending and then focus on how you can fill the gaps. On a more fun note, the Amazon Echo is another source of vetted information. Simply ask Alexa about her take on the pressing issues and listen to her monotone voice reveal the answers. Note you’ll need to be prepared to spend a couple of hundred of dollars for the privilege.
The Social Butterfly
Businesses don’t succeed without the help of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the rest. Sadly, there are too many to mention in one post. From your point of view, this is a gift and a curse. On the one hand, there is a vat of info that rivals spew out into the cyber-ether without giving it a second thought. They are intent on connecting with customers and will do and say anything to increase traffic and conversions. Flip that around, though, and it means sifting through reams of data over a variety of platforms. Hey, no one said being a Sherlock Esque super sleuth was going to be quick and easy! Before you break out in a sweat at the thought of all the hard work, remember that this is 2018 and there is an app or a piece of software for every job. So, let’s not forget about the likes of Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro and Streamview. Please note that each program may relate to a single social media platform. For example, the latter is Instagram-based. Use these tools to keep an eye on review sites such as Yelp, too. Customer feedback will reveal a hell of a lot about the way a rival company operates.
That Didn’t Spread Its Wings
Of course, everything in the last paragraph is doable without the need to outsource to a third party. Still, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Indeed, there are great arguments to suggest that using a social media marketing agency is imperative to success. To begin, let’s consider the complete lack of skill and experience that may exist within the business. Please don’t see this as a shot because it’s a simple observation – companies can’t be great at everything. In fact, there will be tasks within the business which are already in the hands of an external team. Second up are the savings. On the whole, outsourcers can save CEOs a fortune in money as the expenses are smaller than keeping the marketing plan in-house. However, it’s not just money but time, too, which is also essential. Because they have resources aimed at one thing, they can smash both financial and time constraints. And, last but not least is the fact that the industry is a small place. As such, it’s possible to hire the same agency your rivals used to revolutionize their marketing strategy and copy their methods.
“Excuse Me, Can I Have A Minute Of Your Time?”
Urgh, we all hate getting stopped on the street and being asked questions about brands, products, and services. “Excuse me, sir/madam, I’ve got things to do so can we hurry this up, please?!” Not giving the foot soldiers carte blanche to research customer preferences seems like a brilliant idea. Let’s face it – there isn’t much a company can’t milk out of them online. Plus, there’s no need to annoy them with boring and frivolous statements. Hooray, everyone’s a winner! Of course, this is a very short sighted attitude. Firstly, interacting on social media with a blank face is harder than it seems. Remember that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of others to speak to also. Secondly, it only works with regards to the customers and people who are happy. The loyal ones will tell you why they like the brand, but they are biased to a point. The real juicy gossip lies with those who have jumped ship. Why did they do it? What did they like and dislike about this company and the competition? Are they happy now? On the reverse, you can ask traitors absconders why they went the other way.
Competitor? You’re Hired!
Wait a minute – it’s possible to hire the competition to work for the firm? Yes, is the short answer, but it’s a lot more nuanced. The long explanation is too detailed to go into, and, quite simply, no one can be bothered. So, let’s do the Goldilocks thing and plump for the middle option. Going to a peer or a boss of a rival business and asking, “Do you want to work for us?” can go a variety of ways. They may get angry, the anger may turn into violence, or they could simply laugh you out of the premises. The moral of the story is that this tactic won’t work. So, it’s better to be smart and think of innovative ways to *circumvent their security. One fantastic, and totally above board trick is to target their staff. Employees are by no means loyal and will move if the deal is right. Although the wage bill may increase, the company will have access to the rival’s data and you can use it accordingly. Another alternative is to target their clients. Once they jump ship, all you have to do is debrief them and analyze the data. Even if their clients stay strong, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask suppliers non-invasive questions, such as “what type of products are you selling?”
*Not privacy or IT-related!
“I Don’t Like To Brag, But”
Any time you hear this sentence, be aware that the person loves to boast and needs a tiny push. It’s amazing how many bosses and managers are narcissistic enough to put their hard work in jeopardy. They can’t help themselves, especially when it seems that a “low-game player” wants to hear the ins and outs. Simply put, they will sing like a canary as long as you grease the wheels and act astounded by their sheer brilliance. Do you remember the last paragraph where it was implied speaking to a peer face-to-face may not be the best option? Well, it can work a treat if the person in question has a huge ego. A phone call works as well if you can’t stand being in the same!
Now you have the power of the great Sherlock Holmes, how you plan on using them?