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This article was published on December 9, 2016

6 discreet ways to (legally) spy on your competitors

6 discreet ways to (legally) spy on your competitors
Tamar Weinberg
Story by

Tamar Weinberg

Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler and author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on The Social Web. She blogs about all things tech Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler and author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on The Social Web. She blogs about all things tech, productivity, and social media customer success at Techipedia.

Trying to better understand your competitors has always had a negative stigma. “Isn’t spying on them considered corporate espionage?” someone recently asked me. But in today’s online and interconnected world, there are plenty of tools that allow you to legally gain important insights on industry players.

These platforms can help you better understand how your industry operates, who the relevant players are, how you can gather leads, and what the ecosystem comprises of. In today’s corporate climate, the usage of these tools is widely accepted and even encouraged within mainstream industries.

Let’s look into five strategies that will help you to better understand your competition and explain how you can gain a competitive edge.

Follow the traffic

Within the world analytics, there are plenty of tools to help you monitor traffic on any site or app, whether it belongs to you or someone else. These platforms allow you to delve deep into your competitors’ web analytics so that you can identify relevant information based on specific criteria. For example, you can narrow your search to specific geo-locations, demographics, or referrals if you’re looking for something in particular, or run general searches to examine the overall picture.

This is an ideal way to see where their traffic is coming from, learn what drove this traffic to their site, and see what they’re offering to their target audience (calls-to-action, special deals, new product launches, etc). With tools like SimilarWeb, you can even see what their visitors’ average TOC is, what their bounce rates are, and how many page views they get per visit. SimilarWeb offers a variety of widgets, browser plugins, and analytics dashboards that can help you gain critical insights and get you ahead of the competition.

Find the right leads

Traditional business data providers have recently received a lot of criticism due to their limited targeting capabilities, specifically in regards to industry, size, location and revenue. Luckily, there are now multiple tools that allow you to build hyper-targeted prospect lists and target the leads that are most likely to convert. When targeted leads are more relevant to your business, the entire sales funnel is more successful, driving better response rates, conversion rates, and bigger deals.

A powerful sales intelligence platform, Unomy is a great choice for sales and marketing teams that are looking to find the most relevant prospects, target them with powerful content, and discover relevant companies within the industry. Although Unomy is a startup, they were recently granted $2.4 million in their latest funding round. Due to their huge popularity within the business data industry, we can’t imagine that they’re going anywhere any time soon.


Accept the conference invitation

Attending industry conferences and joining relevant associations can be a great way to learn more about who your competitors are and what they’re offering. Since trade shows and conferences are filled with prospects, competitors, and industry experts, there’s a huge opportunity to network with relevant professionals and gain important insights.

Typically on the first day of tradeshows and conferences, attendees are excited to learn and share with fellow industry experts, so it can be fairly easy to gather information. On the second day, however, fatigue begins to kick in and you’ll notice that booths and lectures are less full. Although it might seem discourages, this is still a great opportunity that should be taken advantage of. When there are less people and it’s quieter, it’s easier to have relaxed, casual conversations without the concern of others interrupting.

Before entering the conference, however, it’s crucial to know what you’re specifically trying to learn and have a strategy for gathering that information. Building these relationships can have a huge impact on the future of your company, so it’s essential that you’re prepared.

Don’t let anonymous visitors sneak by

You’re not the only one keeping an eye on the competition. There’s a good chance that other industry players are observing your company as well, whether at conferences or online. Industry players can spy on your company by anonymously visiting your website, often with fake email addresses or identities.

However, tools like Leadfeeder provide high-level intelligence that uses their IP addresses to identify the companies they work for and providing logs for every page they load. This is the perfect way to easily track your competition’s behavior and identify what they’re looking to gather.

Find out what interests your competitors

It’s common for competitors to sign up for your mailing lists with illegitimate email addresses to “anonymously” learn more about your company’s activity. In the past, it was difficult to identify these potential spies within your mailing list, but today, there are highly sophisticated tools to help you gain insights into your email leads.

GetResponse, for example, an all-in-one email optimization platform that creates and monitors intuitive marketing automation workflows identifies the exact minute that a particular subscriber took action within an email, and then group those users based on their behaviors. With these highly advanced email optimization platforms, you can easily track your hidden competitors and identify what information was interesting to them.

Talk to your customers

Nothing beats good old-fashioned communication, right? Although this is often underrated, it can be hugely beneficial to reach out to your customers and prospects and ask what they’re looking within your product. You can ask a wide range of challenging yet meaningful questions, such as what their experiences have been with the product, how they feel about the industry and competitive products, and what they feel could be improved.

The best way to offer the ideal product to your customers is by asking them what they need and showing that you value their feedback. This will also allow you to deepen your brand loyalty with your customers since you’re showing that their thoughts are important to you. You can easily run polls and make free surveys with tools like SurveyMonkey, Qualaroo, and Twitter polls.

Start snooping – legitimately

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out these industry insights as long as you’re doing it legally. In today’s online-oriented world, there are dozens of tools that are built to help you gain important intel that can dramatically impact your business. Taking advantage of this opportunity is essential to understanding your market’s climate, and identifying where you can do better. With the right strategy and platforms in place, you can learn more about your competitors, their tactics, and success rates, than you ever could before.

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