All Along the Digital Watchtower
It’s no secret interactive (web-based) marketing has arrived. The IDC research group just released a study in late June of this year indicating 99.9% of a survey of executives and entrepreneurs said they currently conduct online marketing activities, or, are in the process of implementing or initiating some form of interactive marketing. The problem or challenge that many of these executives (marketing, management, etc.) and entrepreneurs (marketing, principals, etc.) have is how do they measure their online presence?
Most interactive marketing types, whether they are agencies working for/with clients or in-house personnel, typically just measure a company’s return for a specific process or period of time. Many never think to actively monitor what a company’s competitive position is vis-à-vis Search Engines or Directory Listings, the number of links they have pointing back to their web site or what type of “net buzz” is being generated (positive or negative) via the Usenet/Newsgroup community. In short, its digital warfare and the fog of war is obscuring the battle lines.
Entrepreneurial competitive intelligence sounds like a real mouthful, or much more than it is. Basically it’s using off-the-shelf tools (software or ASP services) to understand what your page 1-3 keyword rankings are versus:
your direct competitors via the top tier Search Engines (Google, AltaVista, Excite, AOL/NetFind, HotBot, Netscape, Magellan, Lycos, Web Crawler)
how and where your company is listed via the blue chip Directories (Yahoo, LookSmart, Open Directory)
what’s your link popularity (number of links pointing back to a web site) and/or?
how many Usenet/Newsgroup posts are being made about your company, products, or services
Usenet/Newsgroups can in fact be an extremely valuable resource for unearthing competitive intelligence about a direct competitor’s products or services; “Usenet/Newsgroup mining” certainly works well for United, IBM, Microsoft, and many other corporations.
These digital touch points fill in competitive intelligence gaps and you don’t need to have an advertising budget in the 4-6-figure range complemented with a large staff to consistently monitor your competitive position. You can do much of this by hand and/or use free tools offered by many of the search engines or portals (small plug: we offer a free and low-cost Competitive Intelligence service via our website).
But, be forewarned, if you don’t use some technology to leverage yourself, it can take a great deal of time to assess these metrics, but well worth the effort. In the end, you will know what your online market presence is and be armed with actionable business intelligence that enables you to understand how to maximize your marketing dollars by knowing where you need more of an online presence. And, most importantly as Sun Tzu once said, “if you know your enemy and yourself, you will win every battle.” Sound advice from a master tactician who had no idea his pearls of wisdom would be shaping the digital age!