This Thursday, July 22, 2010, Bryan Eisenberg, two-time New York Times bestselling author and renowned online marketing speaker and expert, will present a webcast, "How to Legally Spy on Your Competition." Sponsored by Compete, the presentation will highlight different solutions for monitoring online competition, how to use them and what to do with the resulting data. Last week, Compete spoke briefly with Bryan to get his thoughts on the online marketing landscape in advance of the webcast.
Q: What are some of the challenges companies face when it comes to knowing what’s going on with their competitors online?
A: One of the biggest challenges is that most people don’t know how much information gathering they can actually do on their competitors. One of the things I’ll be doing in the webcast is presenting people with four different means they can use to spy on the competition. The discussion will provide an overview of the available tools, and give attendees an idea of how they can actually be used to increase business value. Things can change so quickly online, and I want everyone to have a clear idea of what is possible.
Q: There are so many different solutions out there. How can companies stay on top of all of the options?
A: First, I think all successful online marketers need to clone themselves! In all seriousness, I really think people spend too much time on busy work that could otherwise be automated and not enough time on projects that require more creativity and decision making. So one suggestion I always give people is to try to find a way to automate as much of reporting as you can. Or, in cases where it can’t be automated, see if there are tasks that could be assigned to an intern or someone else internally to free up the marketing team’s time to really put the data you’re gathering to use. Â The real value is in finding the people who can take the data and the intelligence that’s gathered and turn it into action, and understand what to do with it. It’s a nice idea to track your competitors but if you don’t understand what to do with the information you’ve tracked, then it’s really just more busy work.
My philosophy on all tools is get good at free, and then pay. People will pay for tools and expect that to give them ROI, but tools don’t do that. They don’t exist in a vacuum. Companies like Compete give away free tools, so try them, figure out how to use the free version and then you’ll really have an understanding of what the paid tools can do. It’s in knowing, not in doing. That’s where you get real value.
Q: What are the most common mistakes people make in online marketing?
A: The most common mistake I see companies makes is investing everything in black boxes"”thinking a particular tool or product is going to demystify the online landscape. No tool is going to solve your problem. The creativity and marketing strategy needs to come from the people.
Another common mistake is people coming from offline marketing to online and thinking the same tenets hold true for both. Things change every day online, and companies need to develop a corporate metabolism to keep up with that. Amazon is the perfect example. When Michael Jackson passed away last year they reconfigured their entire MP3 store in two hours, because they’d been monitoring the online buzz. Marketers at offline companies like Walmart would have to spend hours getting new signage into the store, ordering excess inventory, rearranging displays, etc. to respond to the same event. It’s incredibly difficult to react so quickly offline, but online there is no excuse not to. Speed is really one of the biggest competitive advantages you can have as an online marketer.
Q: Any closing thoughts on online marketing?
A: I think it’s invaluable for the marketplace to have more competitive knowledge and an understanding of how to leverage it. You can’t market in a vacuum; you need to have a clear idea of who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you use that information to grow your business and your brand.
Drew is responsible for strategy and execution of marketing initiatives for Compete.com, including affiliate, blog, email, lead generation, paid search, and social media. Before Compete, Drew worked for office supply giant, Staples, Inc. where he had the opportunity to manage multiple online marketing channels for Staples.com, including affiliate, SEO/SEM, and comparison shopping engines. Follow Drew on Twitter or link him on LinkedIn.