Just like Jack Bauer wouldn’t go in the field without all the intelligence available to him, neither should you! Studying your competition is like going on a surveillance mission. It helps you identify your competitor’s weaknesses that you can exploit. By collecting information on your rivals, you’re able to craft a strategy and develop a unique selling proposition.

14 ways to get the latest information on your rivals

1. Clients

Talk to clients to get information about proposals or offers they’re being offered by your competitors. Getting in touch with customers also gives you a chance to receive feedback and find out what their needs are.

2. Annual reports

Browsing through annual reports gives you an idea of the direction your competition is heading towards.

3. Advertising materials

Marketing materials such brochures can give your technical staff an insight into the products of your competition.

4. Newsletters & press releases

Following your competition’s newsletters and press releases provides information on new product releases and data that might not yet have been made public.

5. Benchmarking

By comparing different business units of your competition, you’re able to identify their strengths and weaknesses more closely. Alternatively you can use the data gained from benchmarking to improve your own business operations.

6. Patents

Researching your competition’s patent portfolio gives you details of their technological abilities. And also help you determine what they’re planning for the future with the patents they are filing.

However according to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), patents will be made public 18 months after the patent application has been filed. Unless the patent holder decides to publish the patent earlier.

7. Trade shows

Trade shows are the perfect opportunity to take close up look at your competitors products and ask questions from their representatives.

8. Conferences

This is a chance to socialize with your competitors and learn more about them. It’s also a great way to build strong relationships with others that can open up the possibility of collaboration later down the road.

9. Partnerships

Partnering up with others on specific projects can make information travel faster and easier between companies. In some cases, this can can the sole reason for collaborating together.

10. Consulting firms

Companies like McKinsey and Gartner publish information about specific industries on their websites. You can get information on sales figures, financial data and details of the latest technology news.

11. Government institutions

Getting in touch with a regulator body can provide you with an overview of the industry. These institutions also publish reports presenting information on specific markets.

12. Blogs, Magazines, Newspapers, Journals

Reading publications is an efficient way to learn about trends in your own industry and also of your competition’s. You can usually find out technical, marketing, financial and industrial data on your rivals. While employment ads can provide a hint to your competitor’s strategy.

13. Internet tracking/Google Alerts

Google Alerts allows you to receive email notifications when new information about your competition appears on the web, such as:

  1. Press releases
  2. New product launches
  3. Trademark & patent application
  4. Website registrations
  5. Employment advertisements
  6. Press coverage

14. Distributors

Distributors tend to have more practical information on your competition. However they may not be allowed to talk due to confidentiality agreements. Nevertheless, if they are able to talk to you, suppliers will have a better understanding of your competitor.

Although there are other methods of collecting information on your competition that I haven’t mentioned. This list is a good starting point to start developing your marketing strategy.