June 04, 2008

Social Media, Competitive Intelligence, And Web Analytics

Have you ever wondered why I occasionally write obtuse articles like this one on free shipping at Lands' End (check the organic/natural results for Free Shipping Lands' End on Google).

Or this article about Williams Sonoma and Multichannel Growth?

Or an article about Abacus, a popular co-op in the multichannel catalog world?

All are part of a strategy to gain what I call "Competitive Intelligence".

Maybe you noticed that Father's Day is just around the corner? There's a veritable plethora of folks who are interested in getting Dad a lightweight coat from Lands' End. They also want free shipping. Because I wrote the article about Lands' End free shipping, Google sends visitors to my site. In kind, I use Google Analytics and SiteMeter (here are my site statistics) to understand the rhythm around free shipping for Father's Day. I get to see the build-up prior to Father's Day, the days customers are most interested in obtaining Free Shipping, and the drop-off prior to shipping cutoffs.

Now if I can do this with my humble little blog, imagine what L.L. Bean could learn about Lands' End, Eddie Bauer, Orvis, you name the competitor, by hosting comparable content? And imagine how much more effective these brands would be, given their scale, compared to my humble efforts?

Miller Brewing Company accomplishes this style of competitive intelligence with their "Brew Blog", writing about their competitors on a daily basis.

This stuff isn't rocket science.

For me, the Lands' End example is more fun than anything else. More important is the work I do to understand my competitors.

For instance, I frequently write about matchback analysis, especially as it relates to co-ops like Abacus. Because Multichannel Forensics indirectly compete with matchback programs from companies like Abacus, it is a good thing for me to have folks searching for matchback solutions, searching for products from Abacus, to visit my site.

I get to track the evolution of terms that folks use. Catalog marketers use the phrase "Lifetime Value" to understand the long-term potential of customers. Online marketers and E-Mail marketers seem to prefer the term "Return on Investment" or "ROI". If I want to partner with online marketers on long-term customer value studies, I won't attract them to my site by writing about Lifetime Value.

I also have numerous competitors, folks who provide similar products and services to those offered by yours truly. By writing about these folks, or by hosting their RSS feed on my site, I get occasional visitors from Google who are searching for information about my competitors. I assure you, this information is very enlightening!! I get to see who the companies are that want to hire my competitors. I get an idea for the type of service the company has a need for. If necessary, I adjust my content, products, and services accordingly. I get to see the articles you like, ones written by my competitors.

Once, a competing organization fired a long-standing and high-ranking employee. The company announced the firing on a Tuesday. One day earlier, I had numerous visitors who arrived via Google searches that combined the competing brand name and the name of the individual who was fired. If I wanted to, I could have fact-checked the story and "scooped" the mainstream media.

Hosting a blog is so much more than the social media pap spewed by the punditocracy. The competitive intelligence gained from this effort means everything to a small business like mine. And best of all, the tools needed to obtain the competitive intelligence are free. FREE!

Now imagine for a moment what your brand could accomplish with a combination of Social Media, Competitive Intelligence, and Web Analytics?

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