Firstly, you can buy your competitors‘ product to determine their sales process (and service) and get on their mailing list to see future promotions. The relatively small price you pay for their product will pay for itself many times over in the knowledge you gain by finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it.
If you use this strategy, do not use your own name because your competitors may recognize your name as their competition. Instead, use your spouse’s name, a fictitious name, an employee’s name, or an alternative company name (if you have another company) that will allow the mail to get to you without revealing who you are. Also, make sure you use an alternative address, email address and phone number.
By purchasing your competitors’ products, you can find out exactly what they are doing, who they are dealing with and how they are doing it – all by their email and snail mail correspondences. You will also be able to experience exactly what a regular customer would go through and you can then judge their product, service and operations against yours. This gives a great advantage to all of your customers because you will know the pros and cons of your competition and can more effectively sell your product or service.
Another strategy would be to have one of your employees or friends call your competitor. They could pose as a satisfied customer wanting to see what products or services the company is working on for the future.
An absolute must is to perform a search for keywords in specified newsgroups to find out if your name, or any other information about your company, is being used without your prior knowledge or permission. This is critical, since you will know exactly what people are saying about you and your other competition within moments of them mentioning it. It gives you the opportunity to defend yourself or solve customer service problems before any damage is done.
Anytime a competitor tries to “badmouth” you in any newsgroup or public forum or even compare your products/services unfairly, within hours you are there to reply to the post and deliver the truth or your account of the situation.
Now, put yourself in the competitor’s shoes. Imagine if anytime you wrote something, your competition was right there – as if they were watching over your shoulder all the time. Wouldn’t you be very careful in the future as to what you say and wouldn’t you be dumbfounded as to how your competition was always one step ahead of you?
Bear in mind the old customer service rule – bad news travels ten times faster than good news. One dissatisfied customer will tell ten other people, while one satisfied customer may tell one or none. All it takes is a few postings of dissatisfied customers to lose a lot of business. Can you imagine how powerful it is if you are right there to publicly take care of any customer service problems when a dissatisfied customer posts anything negative about your product or company? This will impress the thousands of people who read newsgroups but don’t post on them. It’s better to find dissatisfied customers instead of them having to hunt for you.