On Checking Out the Competition

Somebody emailed me a blog post with a title I simply couldn't ignore:

(Legal) Espionage: 20 Creative Ways to Research your Industry Competitors

It's actually a pretty decent list of ways to gather market intelligence about your competition. There's nothing illegal or even shady about them. The intelligence gathering methods range from such techniques as "visit your competitors' websites" to "attend trade shows" to "watch your competitors' advertisements."

Some of the methods may seem obvious. Still, most companies don't do a very good job even on the low-hanging fruit of obvious market intelligence gathering. I'd be surprised if most businesses use more than one-third of the methods on the list to monitor their competitors.

(Heck, I know businesses where the execs only visit their own websites once in a blue moon, so why would they do something crazy like visit their competitors' websites?)

But, even with a long list, there is one crucial tool missing that I'd like to add. And that tool is available online, right from the computer on your desk.

It's Google Alerts. Google will email you alerts anytime news items or blog posts appear in the Google search results that mention your company, your executives, your products or your industry --whatever words you choose to monitor.

Think of it as the modern-day version of a clipping service. You'll receive email alerts whenever the words you've chosen to be notified about, get indexed in the search engines.

And not only can you monitor your own business, but you can monitor competitors. Just set up alerts for their company name, key industry terminology, their products -- whatever you wish.

In fact, the Google Alerts website mentions "keeping current on a competitor or industry" as one of the recommended uses.

So check out Google Alerts.

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Anita writes about small business issues, including: the realities of running a business; finance and operations; technology for businesses; marketing; developments in the marketplace. There more on her site, Small Business Trends.

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