- Who are their best customers?
A quick check of a client list or testimonials on a competitor’s website can be very revealing. First, it lets you know who is – and who isn’t – being served. Second, it identifies what elements customers value.
- What’s in their inventory?
You don’t have to be a corporate sleuth: simply read your competitors’ websites, media releases and Twitter and other social media feeds and blogs; and gather intelligence at industry and networking events to stay on top of their product lines and trends. This knowledge can then be used to differentiate your offering.
- How does their reputation stack up?
Listen to what others are saying about your rivals at events, in the media or online. Are they better or faster than you? Is their pricing competitive? What do customers like or dislike? Is their corporate culture attractive to top industry talent? Learn from this analysis to incorporate changes into your own business.
- What are their ‘tells’?
Just as Agassi knew what Becker was about to do with his serve, it is important to foresee your rivals’ next move. Sign up to their online newsletter or subscribe to their blog’s RSS feed; follow their comments and announcements on social media; and set up Google alerts to let you know when they appear in the news. This can provide an insight into current and pending actions.
- How are they using social media?
Use social media to your advantage. Sophisticated media-monitoring services are a smart way to track and analyse your competitors’ presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter – and you can get an insight into what customers love or hate about their products and services at the same time.
- What technology tools are giving them an edge?
The right technology can give businesses a clear market advantage. If a rival is, for example, embracing artificial intelligence, cloud services or the latest mobile business apps, your executive team needs to be up to speed on what is available and whether it is relevant for your enterprise.
Of course, when Agassi did crack the secret of Becker’s serve, he deliberately kept this knowledge secret from his rival. Like a high-stakes game of poker, or indeed a Wimbledon final, the trick is to see into the mind of your opponent while never revealing to them how you managed to gain the advantage.