When you’re running a small business it’s easy to get bogged down in the everyday details. However, it’s essential to keep an eye on your competitors – some companies even contract professionals to track their rivals and assess how they’re faring in the competitive landscape.
Most small businesses don’t have the means to hire people to do their competitive analysis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the tools at your disposal to do it yourself.
It doesn’t have to be an expensive, difficult or onerous process – thanks to the internet there is a wealth of data that is digitised and aggregated for ease of use, to help your company gather intelligence on your rivals, know how to place your brand, product and company in the marketplace and make competitive assessments in relation to your competitors.
Here’s a selection of free tools that is useful for competitive analysis:
You can look up Companies House info at Duedil.com. This is a huge collection of public records from the UK and Ireland that has been digitised and published online. You can search 20 years of financial history, find contact information, study companies’ corporate structures and directors’ timelines. The data is aggregated from sources that range from Companies House to LinkedIn.
Many start-ups can’t afford to outsource their search engine optimisation, but they can use tools to help them organise things like on-page optimisation, inbound links and keyword rankings. SEOMoz’s free Mozbar for Firefox and Chrome highlights no-followed, followed, internal, external links and keywords and can be incredibly useful for competitive research. There’s plenty of information available online as well for those who are new to SEO.
You will know that one of the most important parts of any business is the audience, which can be found in social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You can explore beyond these mediums to places like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, Buzzfeed – there are so many out there – to find the audience and environment that is suitable to your business, and you can use a variety of built-in and external platforms to understand the marketplace you’ve chosen. Hootsuite, socdir, Tweetdeck, Monitter and others are useful tools to track and measure these media.
The usefulness of these tools does depend whether your competitors are publically-traded or privately held, but they’re cheaper than contracting for market research reports that can be very costly. By no means an exhaustive list, they’re a small selection of free tools that can help you understand your competitors better and continue to monitor the marketplace on an ongoing basis.