What Is Your Competitor Up To? Obvious and Little-known Research Techniques
In addition, lists are updated to reflect changes in numbers of names. For the serious corporate snoop, it makes sense to grab a new datacard every six months (minimum) to see whether your competitor’s business is growing or shrinking based on the addition or attrition of customers.
AOL is an example of a business tanking, having lost 3.1 million members during the 12 months ended March 31 of this year—down to 18.6 million members from a high of 30 million-plus in June 2001.
The situation is so catastrophic that AOL is seriously considering changing its business model from paid to free and relying entirely on advertising.
Gleeful competitors were able to watch AOL’s descent into hell simply by counting members. You can do the same for any company that rents its lists simply by amassing a set of datacards.
The information on datacards is far more precise than the rigged and hidden numbers in the annual report of a public corporation and in many cases the only place to pick up dirt on a privately held company.
Seattle direct marketing guru Bob Hacker introduced me to the process of reverse engineering as a technique to discover whether a competitor’s product is threat or not and whether it’s making money.
Let’s say that you receive a mailing that offers a product competitive with what you’re selling. Do two things immediately: (1) Order the product and send it to Taiwan for a cost estimate,and (2) send the mailing package out to a printing consultant for a cost estimate.
When the numbers come in, put yourself inside the guy’s head and figure out his marketing strategy—which lists he’s renting—and estimate his response. This information, combined with what’s on the datacards, should give you insight as to how he’s doing.