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Competitive Intelligence: How to Track Your Business Rivals

By Kathy, Senior Marketing Strategist

Animation of three business men running a race on a trackIt never fails. Whenever I’m talking with a physician or medical marketing professional the frustrating topic of healthcare “competition” inevitably raises its ugly head.

It’s inevitable because competition among providers, group practices and hospitals is increasing in intensity and healthcare reform has brought it to everyone’s doorstep.

What’s more, it’s frustrating for several reasons. One being that the competitive landscape is a moving target. In short order, individual physicians form groups, hospitals acquire groups and health systems swallow multi-specialty groups.

Another frustration is when doctors ignore or underestimate the competition. Of course they are busy…everyone is busy. Competition is ever-present, but not always top-of-mind.

And, as we’ve written about previously, “doctors rarely like to think of their professional colleagues as competition. There is a tendency for many physicians and surgeons to see themselves as a band of brothers and sisters in white coats. Each and all are members of the same fraternal league with a higher calling.”

Technology to the rescue…

Don’t announce any of this to the opposition forces, but here are several effective and time-efficient ways to look over the other guy’s shoulder and pull down some valuable competitive intelligence.

Check what they’re saying/doing online. Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media (SM) platforms provide an observation platform. Simply follow competitive practices as a member of the general public and notice the topics of discussion. There may be several SM accounts for each challenger; one for the business and others for individual principals and key staff. The most insightful information often comes from what others—the public and prospective “customers”—are asking or talking about.

Watch through Google Alerts (and others). It turns out that Google is willing to do some of your homework for you and issue tidy little reports automatically. It’s easy (and free) to have Google Alerts to “monitor the web for interesting new content.” Given a list of specific words or terms that you select, the service sends you an email when they detect a match in new content from web pages, newspapers or blogs.

If you dare to peel the onion another layer or two—and you have a slightly sophisticated techie-touch—there are several other software tools available to monitor the Internet including SocialMention, Marketing Grader and others.

Try PERCH for a birds-eye view. If you’d rather have a simpler monitoring arrangement, “there’s an app for that.” Perch, available in iOS or Android, distills competitive intelligence to your mobile screen. The free app can be configured to keep tabs on both you and your competition. It follows a personal Watchlist and reports about mentions, social posts and related activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and several others. The Perch app is free and it is intended primarily as an aid for small businesses.

Final reminders…           

Some additional things to keep in mind. Competitive research is often useful insight, but what you find online may not be the complete picture. Depending on your marketing situation, other techniques are available. And for more “how-to” instruction, see: Do You Really Know Your Competitive Landscape? and Competition is Increasing—Rapidly and Dramatically.

Also, carefully monitor your own practice as comparative reference, to know how prospective patients see you, your practice and your reputation. A self-review can reveal what your competition might be seeing about you online. Let us know if an independent third party view would be helpful in assessing competition in your marketplace.

Author: Kathy Gaughran

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