How to find your competitors' online marketing spend

Finding out about the competition’s online marketing - its keywords, ad copy, clicks, clickthrough rate and spend can help you position your own marketing. Identifying high value keywords, for example, can help you develop your own online marketing strategy - while reducing any advantage your rivals may have had.

 

AdGooroo is part of Kantar Media, the media intelligence group. Claiming to have “the world’s largest collection of search marketing intelligence, bar none”, AdGooroo can provide its clients with data on most global advertisers, giving an in-depth insight into your competitors’ campaign performance.

You can view current and historical data for advertising campaigns across 50 countries, including performance statistics, keywords used, and spend estimate (please note “estimates”…). You can measure your historic and current performance against the competition’s.

Other useful features include trademark intelligence, which enables you to keep an eye on any misuse or hijacking of you brand.  AdGooroo offers a demo before you leap in and subscribe. The free blog is regularly updated, and offers great general insights into this field.

ispionage doesn’t dress up what it does in fancy apparel: the tagline on its website reads “Steal your competitors’ traffic and uncover their conversion strategy.” They have a database giving 7 years’ worth of PPC and SEO information from Google, Bing and Yahoo (claiming 92,000,000 keywords).

Again, you need to subscribe, but ispionage offer a free trial, so that you can test its efficacy and interface. The basic package is $29 per month.

Moz, formerly SEOMoz, started in SEO consultancy back in 2004, and now offers SEO toolkits, as well as wise words in their excellent blog. With Moz, you sign up and create a campaign. They then start collecting data for you, and within a few days, you have a detailed insight into your area, enabling you to develop a killer SEO strategy.

The Mozscape API lets you integrate data from their index into your own applications. This index is updated regularly, providing fresh data on billions of URL status codes, titles, and links, together with any other information Moz thinks is useful. If you join and become a “Moz Pro”, you’ll be able to access historical data. You can use Moz for free, although that limits how much data is made avilable.

With over a million users, SEMRush helps you by establishing keywords, comparing your domain with others, and various reports. You can start to use their website immediately, and for free.

SpyFu is straight in there with topline financial estimates if you try their free search function.

If you register, you can track your competitors’ domain history over the last 10 years. Again, this company offers monthly packages.

This is a summary of some of the main companies offering this service. Each vendor provides a slightly different take on understanding competitors' marketing spend, and one way or another it should be possible to build a fairly good understnading of how much competitors are spending and on what campaigns.

Competitive intelligence companies - a definitive list

A while ago, we published a list of competitive intelligence companies. Our criteria was that competitive intelligence had to be their primary, or at least significant, focus. Other agencies graze the edges of competitive intelligence, but it's not their main service. All the companies we listed carry out primary or secondary research for their clients (usually both), and they all have competitive intelligence-focused websites.

In our latest update to this list, and to reflect the importance of social media, we have added their Twitter handles, where possible. We have also highlighted their locations to help you look for companies in specific countries. Naturally, there have been some changes to our original list: some new urls, a takeover, a couple of organizations have ceased trading, some companies have stopped focusing on competitive intelligence, and ISIS has unsurprisingly changed its name...

Here is our current directory of competitive intelligence specialists. If we have missed anyone out, please tweet @aquteintel

  1. Affinis, France
  2. Aqute Intelligence, USA, UK, @AquteIntel
  3. Aurora WDC, USA, @AuroraWDC
  4. AWARE, UK, @awareci
  5. Cascade Insights, USA, @cascadeinsight
  6. China Institute of Competitive Intelligence, China
  7. Cipher, USA, @CipherSisLLC
  8. CIS, USA, UK, China
  9. Clew, USA
  10. Combs Inc, USA
  11. Competia, Canada, Switzerland, @Competia
  12. DC Analytics, USA
  13. Die Denkfabrik, Germany, @think2know
  14. EMP Intelligence, UK, @Andrew_Pollard_
  15. European Agency, France, @EASI_IE
  16. Fletcher/CSI, USA, UK, @FletcherCSI
  17. Fred Wergeles, USA
  18. Fuld & Co, USA, UK, Philippines, @FuldCompany
  19. Global Intelligence Alliance, Finland HQ, global offices
  20. Helicon Group, USA
  21. I-Intelligence, Switzerland, @i_intelligence
  22. Info+Daten, Germany, @ipd+kg
  23. Inovis, USA
  24. Intelligentsia, UK HQ, global offices
  25. MindShifts, Australia, @BabetteBen
  26. Miniera, Spain, @MinieraIC
  27. Octopus Intelligence, UK, @Octopusintell
  28. Perpetual Strategist, USA
  29. Proactive Worldwide, USA, China, @PWW
  30. Quantumiii, South Africa, @q3intel
  31. Rauch Associates, USA, UK, @RauchAssociates
  32. RivalScape, USA
  33. Sharp Market, USA,
  34. The Business Intelligence Source, USA, @EllenNaylor
  35. Trinity Square, UK

You may be asking, why are we highlighting our own competitors? There aren't many service providers who cheerfully list their rivals on their websites. Primarily, we maintain this list because it is useful to companies that are looking for a competitive intelligence vendor. For example, most competitive intelligence agencies are relatively small, and their websites may get lost among general business and academic content devoted to competitive intelligence. In any case, competitive intelligence buyers are typically investigative types, who will find relevant agencies soon enough - the above list just saves time. And we like to think of our fellow competitive intelligence companies as healthy competition rather than business threats - there are good reasons why you would choose Aqute, and good reasons why you would choose someone else.

By publishing a list of what competitive intelligence companies are out there, and letting you see the scope of their offers, we are giving you a broader picture of competitive intelligence and how it can help you.

If you would like to find out how Aqute specifically can assist you with competitive intelligence insight, please get in touch with us.

Want to sign that contract? Federal databases can help.

If you’re bidding for a contract, it’s essential to know where to pitch your tender. Websites listing government spend and procurement are excellent sources of this competitive intelligence, as they can make finding out your competitors' pricing surprisingly easy. 

It's straightforward to find out federal spend and contract information in the US, thanks to the transparent approach on spending that the government is keen to advance. This transparency is a real gift if you want to find out a competitor's pricing, as the essential information is all nicely laid out for you in these databases. From this, you can get a pretty good idea of how your rival(s) will price their products and services for the contract you're competing for. Knowing this gives your pitch a huge advantage.

The Center for Effective Government was established in 1983, to “lift the veil of secrecy shrouding the White House Office of Management and Budget”. It manages a database of federal spending, the purpose of which is “to give journalists, analysts, government officials, and regular citizens easy access to information”, intended to hold elected representatives accountable for spend. For those in search of competitive intelligence, it’s a goldmine.

The contracts search facility allows you to view the top 100 recipients who were awarded federal contracts. The website has recipients dating back to 2000, and you can search up to and including 2012 (at the time of writing). Useful features include being able to drill down by contracting agency (department), and by state and district.

Searching by government department gives a great level of detail, giving a top 5 breakdown of spend in that area by state, products and services, and which specific areas of the department are spending the most. It then gives the top 10 contractors awarded contracts, with contract value. This top-line information can all be expanded, providing you with lists of all the contractors, products, and sub-departments.

Some federal departments provide their own, very specific intelligence. The Department of Defence is an excellent example of this. The US Department of Defense has all its press releases online, and you can search through these by contract news. It’s updated daily, and contracts valued at $7m plus are announced at 5pm.

There’s intelligence that you’d expect, such as major engineering contracts (with Boeing, for example); and there is also great detail here about everything else this department needs, from aircrew eye protection to hardware systems. There is an excellent search function: simply type your competitors’ names into the Search Contracts box, and it will bring up all relevant contract news.

Probably the most useful source of pricing offered to US government agencies is the GSA Advantage website. Again, searching by competitor name, or even externally searching from Google, usually yields excellent information.

If you’re searching for pricing information in Canada, try Buy and Sell, which lets you search government tenders. There’s a helpful range of search options, and you can register for search updates and email notifications. It’s an excellent resource for both snapshots and detail.

And in the UK, the government's Digital Marketplace website also provides specific pricing information kept on record by suppliers to government agencies.

As you can see, it’s straightforward to find out current and archived contracts and bids, giving you a real advantage when you’re preparing your own tender. If you need to drill down further into your competitors’ contracts and tenders, please get in touch.

Import/export information – how competitive intelligence can help

Having an understanding of the competition’s product pipeline is essential intelligence. If you can find out what they’re importing, this gives you a great insight into both their new products and timescales. It’s also helpful to know which manufacturers they are using – do you have manufacturers in common?

An obvious starting place is the US Customs website. The information is free; however it’s not easy to trawl through this site and it’s worth buying intelligence from one of the websites set up for this purpose. We’ve used several: they provide similar information but present it with different emphasis on certain areas, so it’s helpful to have a look through a few. Finding a search function that you like is also a good idea, as you’re going to be using it a lot...

We have put together a comprehensive guide to online tools for DIY intelligence research. Here is a closer look at some of the customs data websites we use for looking into import/export activity.

 

Import Genius

This US-based website has a comprehensive list of shipping manifests. This reveals suppliers, customers, and also shows trends. Their mapping application is a great way of looking into trading partners; and their email alert service helps you stay in touch with what’s happening.

 

PIERS

PIERS is a branch of IHS, who offer business information and analysis. PIERS specifically provides intelligence on global trade activity, collecting over 17 million bills of landing that have been filed with US Customs. You can access import and exports for 14 international markets, and trade stats for over 80 countries – that’s a lot of potential intelligence.

 

Datamyne

Great insights from Datamyne’s international trade website. You can get the details of each transaction, giving you intelligence about manufacturers, the logistics used by your competitors, and information about trade trends. There’s a great search and drilling down function.

 

Panjiva

A good global trade analysis website aimed at making it easy to find, save, and share international trade data. You can create and save a shortlist of companies (both buyers and manufacturers), and receive alerts when any new information that’s relevant to your saved data comes up. You also have access to key people’s contact details from over 1 million companies, helping you follow sales leads.

There are other sites available; however from our experience, we can recommend these four (if you’re willing to pay for the information). Related to this, if you look at the same page on our guide, you’ll see that we also provide a list of supplier directories.

The caveat of course is that your competitors may be hiding information by using proxy names. You can understand why; but it can mean that you’re coming up against a brick wall. If this is the case, please contact us, and we’ll see what we can do.

You can get a decent insight into import/export activity through DIY competitive intelligence; however if you want to take this to the next level, or don’t have time to search through all the data, please get in touch with Aqute. We’ve helped many organizations track their competitors’ import/export activity, gaining them invaluable supplier and product intelligence.

Using LinkedIn for organizational competitive intelligence

Building up an employee profile of another organization may sound like complicated information to track down. Short of infiltrating the business, how can you find out an organization’s divisional structure and recruitment priorities? The answer is, that thanks to social media, it’s surprisingly easy. You can find out a lot yourself, using nothing more than your own LinkedIn account.

LinkedIn, as we all know, is the social media site for the business community. It enables you to network, without having to do the small talk or eat the canapés. Primarily used for job searching, growing your own network of connections, and generally promoting yourself professionally, it is also a great tool for finding out more about your competitors’ staff structures and key personnel.

If you’re seriously thinking of researching your competitors through LinkedIn, subscribing to their Premium service is worth considering. However, if you have a basic account, there’s still a lot of information there that can help you. With 106 million active users, there’s an incredible pool of potential intelligence out there.

Before you leap in, you may first want to review your privacy settings. Best not to advertise to your rivals that you’re having a good look through their employees...

Here are some ways that LinkedIn can help you build a profile of your competitors.

Who works where?

It is actually quite straightforward to build a picture of an organization’s employees. If say, you want to find out more about the IT division in the US branch of a multinational, you can choose the country, then select the function. You can search further by seniority level. To drill down to this level of information, you’ll need to subscribe to Premium (although standard LinkedIn offers tantalizing grayed-out information.

For example, you can see that out of the 54,000 individuals employed by GM in Detroit (caveat – individuals that have a LinkedIn profile), nearly 5,500 work in IT. Compare this percentage with other companies, and you’ll get a general picture of the priority given to certain divisions, just from your normal account. Even though not every employee of GM will be registered with LinkedIn, it’s still a helpful guide.

What’s happening with recruitment?

This tells you a lot: your competitor’s general health, which areas of the business they are putting resources into, and what sort of talent they’re recruiting. If recruitment is static, that’s also interesting. LinkedIn tells you how many applicants there are for each advertised posts; and with a Premium account, you can dig down further and find out more about this, as well as the organization’s hiring trends. You can search by country and region, and it is very easy to get a snapshot as to where the company’s hiring budget is going.

If you have a look at Aqute’s guide to online tools, there is a list of other websites that can give you information about recruitment, including agencies.

What talent do they have?

This is a more subjective point: however, a look at the profiles of their existing team gives you an insight into their backgrounds, skills, and experience. Again, if there is a lot of talent in a particular division, what might this tell you? As mentioned above, what talents are they actively recruiting for?

Who isn’t there?

Sometimes finding out who is leaving can be as useful as who is actually there. What’s the movement like with the organization? You can search for previous employees, getting an idea of how long they worked for the company, and where they moved to. Are any divisions showing greater churn than others? Is there evidence of areas being wound down as well as built up? Is a third party luring certain skills away?

If any former employees have set up their own businesses or become consultants, they could potentially be very helpful to you (depending on what they may have signed, of course).

Personalities

You may not need this “softer” stuff – but it can really help you predict the moves an organisation can make. Check out the profiles of the senior team. Are they get in, do it, move on people? If so, they may have been recruited to lead a major project... Or, is the senior team a more cautious and long-serving team? Less dynamic, but solidly establishment.

The background check may yield surprises - some unexpected past expertise that may hint at what is to come. It’s likely also that you’ll find people in common that you didn’t realise you had in common – another, informal avenue of research.

Hopefully, this will get you started in your quest to build up a picture of your competitor’s structure and recruitment priorities. If you’d like some help taking this intelligence further, please contact us.