Key indicators for identifying competitors’ new business activity
One of the main purposes and uses of web intelligence is to study and monitor our competitors closely. To gain a competitive advantage and to concur with new emerging markets, we must be aware, in time, of any new business activity or strategic direction our competitors are taking.
The obvious way for on-going tracking of our competitor’s activity is through monitoring their press releases and announcements, using Google News Alerts, or tools such as Feedly. Unfortunately, learning about new business activities, only after their press release might be too late for us to respond, or maintain our competitive advantage.
In this post, we will suggest a few methods to identify the activities of competitors in advance by monitoring more specific perspectives.
The indicators that we will be investigating are:
- Offices – new offices in new locations.
- Employment – new kind of roles, new technologies & products.
- LinkedIn Activity – new connections, tagging in other companies’ posts.
- Meeting & Events – shared events, new topics & crowds.
- Marketing – new ad copy, new distribution channels.
- Domain Research – new sub-domains, external server requests.
- Github & Stackoverflow – shared branches, new mentions of competitor’s code.
- Code Snippets search – products using our competitor, collaborations.
By closely monitoring these indicators, we will be able to get exclusive insights regarding our competitors and gain a real edge.
- New offices of a company can suggest a new market and crowd that our competitor is trying to achieve.
- To monitor new offices of a company, we can use website – monitor tools, where you can define a website and the place on the page you would like to monitor, then the tools will take snapshots of this place every hour/day/week, etc. and will notify you on any change. Recommended tools for this task are:
- Sometimes, companies will list their new office in some maps services such as google maps, even before officially announcing the new office. Looking for the competitor’s name on google maps or other maps could be insightful.
- Another way to discover new planned offices in advance is by monitoring the company’s recruitments. A lot of times, before officially opening an office, the company will look for new employees to populate the office. In some cases, it will be months in advance, and we would learn about the new office (and market) by simply exploring the latest vacancies of the company.
- As we saw with the new offices, monitoring the recruitment of a company can provide us with some significant clues on the competitor activity, sometimes a few months in advance.
- Another thing we can reveal by closely monitoring our competitor recruitments is the use of new technologies & products. In most R&D vacancies, the company mentions the tech stack required for the position, and sometimes even mentions its a new product or tech to be used by the company.
- By monitoring the Sales & Business open positions, we can learn about new markets or even some key clients who require a dedicated customer success employee.
- Using the same logic, in reverse, we can also look for our competitor’s service or product name in other companies’ vacancies to find who is using them.
- It’s recommended to manage a database of the open positions by the company, after a few months, we’ll be able to analyze job title trends, amount of recruitments per office, key customers, tech stack, and much more. In some cases, with the help of some other data, we would be able to understand the strategic direction of the company.
- LinkedIn is the leading platform for business connections and networking. Monitoring our competitor’s key officials’ new connections can suggest new business relations with those people or companies.
- While less indicative than new connections, on-going monitoring of relevant official’s likes and comments on LinkedIn can also provide some clues. Especially when we’ll discover a trend of liking or commenting on a specific company or topic. It might suggest an uprising interest of the company in this field (it’s essential to validate that this interest is not an outcome of personal connection or other Innocent motives)
- Rather than monitoring key personas’ activity, we can also look for our competitor’s name on Linkedin’s content search (after searching the company name on the search bar, click on ‘More’ on the filter bar and choose ‘Content’).
- That way, we would be able to explore other companies or people interacting with the company, their customer relations, shared events, and other content related to the company all over the world. We can also filter the results by date, or by the post’s author industry or company for a more specific investigation.
Meeting & Events
- Meeting & Events became a key marketing strategy for companies. Monitoring competitors’ events, can provide us with insights regarding new crowds they’re targeting, or topics they’re trying to explore.
- Additionally, we might see from time to time, shared events of our competitor with other companies in the field. It can suggest new or heating business relations with those companies.
- We can also follow events that have speakers from our competitors, and it might suggest their intention to grow their influence on the event’s crowd or market.
- An excellent source for monitoring events is Meetup.com, just search for the company’s name, and choose the location preferences. Another option is to use the LinkedIn content search (as mentioned above) or to monitor key personas of the competitor on LinkedIn.
- The Marketing strategy of a company can show us a lot about its intentions. Both the ads copy & targeting and the distribution channels can provide us with insights regarding new products, markets, or even the AB tests the company is using.
- We can use multiple sources for exploring our competitors’ marketing strategy:
- Another option is to look for the company directly on the Facebook Ad Library.
- To quickly search for your competitor’s ads strategy in multiple sources, automatically, use WebintMaster’s Market Researcher chrome-extension. Right-click on your competitor name or domain > hover the reSearcher icon > Company > Social and Marketing. The results will pop up in a new window.
- Locating new sub-domains – companies tend to create sub-domains to new products or sections in their websites, much before officially releasing the new feature/product. We have lots of tools for exploring sub-domains:
- Locating new pages – using tools like Hacker-Target’s ‘Extract Links’ tool, we can easily explore all pages of a website and find new offerings, languages, and sections.
- New data-centers – using the above tools, we can also find new data centers of a company that may suggest an expansion to the data center area.
- Web- products monitoring – using tools like BuiltWith or Urlscan.io we can explore which products are used in our competitor’s websites. New products can provide us with insights into the company’s doings.
- You can also use WebintMaster’s ‘Cyber-Researcher’ chrome-extension to easily scan the domain in multiple sources at once.
Github & Stackoverflow
- GitHub is a fantastic source for gathering information about a company’s products and tech stack. Skilled users can use several searching methods to exploit the data from the site fully:
- Search your competitor’s user (E.g. Microsoft) https://github.com/search?q=org%3Amicrosoft+type%3Ausers&type=Users
- When exploring your competitor’s repository, clicking the ‘Blame’ button will show us the code changes history. It can provide us with insights about new features added to the code, or new collaborations – https://docs.github.com/en/github/managing-files-in-a-repository/tracking-changes-in-a-file.
- Cool hack to gather more information on a user is adding ‘.patch’ at the end of the user’s commit URL. for example – https://github.com/tensorflow/docs/commit/commitID.patch will provide us with all the details of the TensorFlow user.
- Another great source to monitor on GitHub is the company’s developers. We have several methods for finding their users:
- By username- https://github.com/jquery/jquery/commits/master?author=username
- By email – https://firstname.lastname@example.org
- By personal name (E.g ‘Bolton’) – https://github.com/search?q=bolton+in%3Afullname&type=Users
- We can also exploit GitHub’s API, and find all the users and emails behind a company’s user – https://api.github.com/users/microsoft/events/public. Change the word ‘Microsoft’ to your competitor’s name and see which emails operating it. You can search ‘@’ on the page to quickly find the users (ctrl+F – ‘@’).
- GitHub provides more ways to find developers by other criteria, which are not related to this post. Please find all the methods in our GitHub exploit How-to.
- After finding the company’s developers (from GitHub or LinkedIn), looking for their questions on Stackoverflow can suggest the topics the company is dealing with, and their products phases and tech.
Code Snippets Search
- There are several code snippets search engines we can use. Searching our competitor’s name, domain, or products can show us other product or companies using it, and give us a heads up on new collaboration or clients:
Exploring and monitoring our competitors is crucial for maintaining our edge and achieving business goals. There are plenty of methods and tools for this task, but every sector and company type requires a bit different approach.
In this post, we’ve suggested a few of the best techniques and tools from our experience, and by following these steps, we can assure you’ll get a deeper understanding of your competitors.
As mentioned, the value of the research is maximized while we keep monitoring our competitors for a long time, and can identify trends, and changes. This way we might be able to identify the strategic direction of the company which is usually much harder to guess.