Spying on the Competition
In the movie Wall Street, the character Gordon Gecko emphasized that "information is the most precious commodity." The smart entrepreneur will take heed of this advice. According to Jay Conrad Levinson and Mitch Meyerson, leading advocates of the guerilla marketing approach, entrepreneurs should try these easy-to-do information-gathering measures:
Order something. Buy something from yourself and from some of your competitors. Purchase by phone, mail or in person. Note the smooth and the rough edges of the entire process. Check on their follow-up, and go beat the competition.
Visit your competitors. Get a trusted friend to visit your place as a customer, and then visit your competitors. Visit their web sites too. Take note of each single details that's better than yours and the little details that can make them lose prospects.
Phone your competitors. Observe keenly. Focus on the personality and attitude of the person who takes the call. If it's warmer and friendlier than the person who answers your phone, teach your team how to do it.
Request something by phone, email or in person, like a price list or a brochure. See how your request is fulfilled, concentrating on speed and follow-up. Handle requests as professionally as your competitor.
Compare everything. Customer service, pricing, packaging, people, selection, follow-up, signs, quality, delivery and attitude. Making an honest comparison of yourself against your competitors can provide feedback on how you're doing. Be prepared to learn some awful truths about your company.
Buy something. It always helps you to own the product or use the service of your competitors. It gives you a hands-on understanding of what you're up against.
Practice these on a regular basis, the more often the better. The sooner you spot those deficits in your product and performance, or the details your competitors missed, the more room there is for you to maneuver and build your winning business.
Source: Business Line Vol. 2 No. 3 2004