Web Tools to Track Competitors 2.0

I found this cool article by Jessica Merritt called, 50 EdWeb Tools to Keep Tabs on Your Competitors and appreciate the many suggestions she provides.  As an additional layer, I thought I’d annotate the tools with some competitive analysis.

First, decide what you want to find out before you start your research.  Are you looking for new revenue streams?  Are you considering a new product or service offering?  Do you want to utilize your web presence for more business?  Do you need a new marketing approach?  Here are some ways to think about a few of Jessica’s tips.

#9 is to use Edgar to pull SEC filings on your competitors. 

My take: Edgar covers public companies, those that trade stock and if you are a small player you might say, these guys aren’t my competitors, they are too big.  First, its very likely that a few of your competitors are public companies as defined by SIC codes.  Use the SIC code you used when you filed for your local business license and run it through Edgars and see what companies show up. 

What should you look for?  These SEC documents are hard to read.  First you will get a list of filings that are written in code; 8-K, 10-Q, 10-K etc.  Start looking for a 10-K.  These are the easiest to read and contain the most comprehensive information as they are the annual report.  Check out information about the business sectors and locations in particular.  Are they in lines of businesses that might work for your business?  Could you take your existing products and services and adapt it for this market?  Location;  are they in your area?  Are they not?  Check out the list of subsidiaries.  Maybe they own smaller companies that are your competition.  Take all the company names and look up their website addresses. 

Then go to tips #17-20, where she talks about some great ways to analyze your competitor websites by looking at their source code, robot.txt and reading their blog(s).  All great stuff.  I would add some less stealthy and techie things to look for on their website as well.  First, how do they talk about themselves in the “About us” section?  Are they positioning themselves with their clients better than you are?  Can you take some of their ideas?  Next, look at their “media/press release” section.  What are they touting?  New products?  New hires?  Events?  Going green?  From this you might get new product or marketing ideas.  You also might see ways to partner with them.  Competitors often find areas where they are complimentary and can grow their business more effectively together than apart.  Finally, look at their product and services section.  Again, do they position themselves more effectively than you do?  Or less so?  Do they allow customers to purchase online?  Are they strictly a business to business operations while you are a business to consumer player?  If so, there maybe opportunities for you to help them with a market they are unfamiliar with.

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