Why you should understand your competition
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be put at risk even in a hundred battles.” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)
The concept of ‘knowing your enemy’ is generally considered to be popularised by Sun Tzu. It is not usually associated with having anything to do with computers … probably because the text was published in the 5th century BC—or just a few years before computers were invented.
But while it may have been devoted to military strategies, its lessons are far more reaching than that—even into the world of computers.
More specifically, the concept of ‘knowing your enemy’ can be applied to online strategy, SEO, SEM, business intelligence—and your overall business success.
Now, don’t worry, just because we’re quoting The Art of War, we’re not going to go all ‘pretentious, first-year university student’ on you—but the classics are classics for a reason, so just humour us.
There are many aspects that go into an online strategy. But one of the first things you need to do is your research, and part of that is learning what your competitors are doing.
You Are Not Alone
You will think your business is unique and amazing—and it probably is. But there will undoubtedly be plenty of others doing exactly the same thing, and they will all think they’re just as unique and amazing.
By thoroughly researching what your competitors are doing, you can try to stay one step ahead—or hopefully more (businesses can move pretty fast these days, what with Segways and all).
Staying relevant means staying in front.
The Research Bar
Now, when we say ‘research,’ we don’t mean just a quick peek on Google. We mean examining the online presence of your competition inside and out.
You need to know what they do, how they do it, what they charge, how their customers see them, what they’ve got in the pipeline—and pretty much anything else you can get your hands on.
There are all kinds of questions you need to ask: How do they rank in searches? How frequently do they publish content? What’s their social media presence? What’s their favourite movie? Okay, that might be too much. Unless it’s the same as yours; in that case … cute!
But you need to know as much as possible—and once you do, you need to do all of it better than them.
“…when we say ‘research,’ we don’t mean just a quick peek on Google. We mean examining the online presence of your competition inside and out.”
The Vicious Cycle
Alas, knowing your enemy is not a task with a finite ending point. Just as you should be evolving and reinventing yourself, so too should any serious rivals. You need to be constantly researching in an endless cycle of espionage.
There is no way around it, it’s plenty of toil for few immediate results—but we tried to sweeten the deal by making it sound like cool spy-work.
We know! Just think of yourself as James Bond.
And with that said…
I Spy With My Little iPad
Hopefully we have you thinking that research is as cool as fast cars, gadgets, and drinking a martini “shaken, not stirred.” But we do need to clarify something:
No matter how much you think you know the others, the sheer nature of online means nothing is certain. No amount of preparation can guarantee security, insights can be wrong, and success can be fickle.
In the ruthless online world, you can never afford to ‘set and forget.’ Complacency is the biggest mistake you can make.
But if you ensure you know your enemies then you should win plenty of battles … or even be as cool as Bond. James Bond.
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Could your brand use a little 007 insight?
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