Following the instructions of Sun Zi, the author of The Art of War, we argued in Part I of this two-part blog post that businesses should “keep their friends close, but their enemies (competitors) closer.” In the post, we included five ways that businesses can learn from their competitors:

1. Digital Engagement

2. Website Traffic

3. Search

4. Content Marketing

5. Social Media

Understanding what your competitors are doing—including pro and con—can help businesses gain valuable insights into market dynamics and trends as well as what they should and shouldn’t be doing. The following are the final 6 of 10 things businesses can learn from their competitors:

6. Customer Service

In today’s digital age, customer service has taken on much greater meaning and importance. Businesses should find out what their competitors are doing on the customer service front and leverage that intelligence to their advantage. Here are three areas for consideration:

Human component. How are your competitors using humans to differentiate their customer service experiences? Are they elevating live human interactions at the right moments that optimize their resources while delivering great customer experiences?

Omnichannel engagement.
Customers want the option to interact with brands through multiple channels. Are your competitors forcing their customers to use one or two channels rather than giving them options?

Customer service experience.
Where do your competitors engage with customers for service? Is their website the sole destination or are they meeting them on third-party communities and forums? If the latter, then you need to get there.

In each of these instances, businesses can learn what is effective with their customers based on what competitors are doing or not doing. They also can capture a competitive advantage by providing experiences customers want but are not getting from competitors.

7. Email Marketing

Despite prognostications that the end of email marketing is fast approaching, it still is one of the most effective campaign tools today. Understanding how your competitors leverage email marketing gives you valuable information as to what is effective and if any one competitor has an advantage over you because of what they are doing when it comes to email. Some of the competitive areas to explore include:

1. Use of customized emails to personalize touches with buyers and customers

2. Leverage of email campaign automation (efficiencies)

3. Links to content and events within emails

4. Connections in other marketing channels to sign up for email communications (where, when)—including third-party sites

5. Frequency of email communications to buyers and customers based on personas and journey stage

8. Advertising

Finding out where your competitors locate their online ads, what types of banners and text they employ, and how much they spend is valuable business intelligence. A starting point in the process is to launch your own display advertising campaign. The following are some of the tools that you can use; these will give you intelligence on your rivals at the same time.

SEMrush enables users to determine which type of ads (both text and image) competitors are running.

Whatrunswhere pinpoints where competitors are running ads and what metrics are being generated for both desktop and mobile views.

Adbeat reveals where competitors are spending money and the profitability of each ad channels.

9. Trade Shows

Trade shows are expensive expenditures and optimizing your attendance is critical. Understanding how your competitors approach trade shows and then execute at them will uncover what works and doesn’t work as well as opportunities where competitors have gaps. The following are some areas to investigate:

What trade shows are they attending? Which ones are they sponsoring?

How do rivals communicate with buyers and customers in advance, at, and after trade shows?

How do they employ social networks as part of their larger event strategy?

Are they promoting their business in a special manner—sponsorship levels, booth space, presentation spots, etc.?

How do they engage with customers at the trade shows—in their booths, in sessions, outside of sessions, etc.?

What offers do they make available at trade shows and the response they generate?

Is there something you can offer that rivals cannot at tradeshows?

10. Talent Management

For certain skill sets, there is a talent war in many markets today. Organizations able to attract and recruit the best talent—full time and contingent—perform better than those who struggle to do so. Businesses—big and small—need to understand what their competitors are doing when it comes to talent management. Consider the following:

1. First impressions with a brand matter. Are your competitors doing something special with their online job ads (videos, images, content in job postings, etc.)? Do they showcase a particular element of their brand that differentiates them from other brands?

2. Frequency of impressions matter. How often do job ads appear and are they aligned with the right audiences? For example, if Millennials are a targeted talent pool for a business, then they need to have job postings on the social networks where Millennials go.

3. Interview experience. Do your competitors do something special or different during the interview process? Candidate experiences do matter…look at Glassdoor if you don’t believe this to be the case.

4. Employee and candidate feedback. Do workers like working at rival companies? Do job candidates like the recruiting and interview processes? Check out their reviews on Glassdoor.

We’re interested to find out how you keep your “enemies” close. Post your ideas in the comments section below.

Competing as a small business is never an easy undertaking. Davinci Virtual has worked with thousands of small businesses to help them compete like big businesses by leveraging our broad portfolio of services. For help in tackling your business needs, call us, email us, or chat with us today.