Keeping track of your competitors can be a difficult and time-consuming task. You can hire a corporate spy to infiltrate your competitor's organization; do a little dumpster-diving for useful discarded memos, manuals, and correspondence; or work smart by monitoring your competition's activities right from your desk, using the Internet. The Internet is filled with resources that can provide your company with media sources, web directories, clipping services, and competitive intelligence to keep you up to date on who the competition is and what they're doing.
By using these online sources, you can discover the answers to questions such as who are the leading companies in your industry, what information on your competition is available, and which of your competitors are most likely a threat.
Business Directories and Search Engines
The first place to start with your competitive reconnaissance is the business directories and search engines. Is your targeted competitor one of the top U.S. companies? The U.S. Web100 lists the top 100 companies in the U.S., in more than 50 industry categories cataloging more than 400 of the Fortune 500 U.S. corporations with web sites. The beauty of this site is that you can quickly see who's taking the lead in online communications in every major business area.
Want to throw a wider net? CorporateInformation lets you search more than 300,000 company profiles from all over the world. You can search by industry sector, U.S. state, or country. Another good resource is the Industry Research Desk, which provides links to U.S. and international industry home pages in more than 30 areas.
There are three other business directories on the Net from which you can build a list of competitors. All Business Network links to business-related web sites such as news, company information, reference, and so on. The Institute of Management and Administration (IOMA) provides a Business Directory that's a comprehensive compilation of resources listed by industry sector. Finally, the Business Resources Directory is actually a directory of directories and portals, featuring industry-specific sites, company information, and news.
Hoover's Business Links is a directory of more than 15,000 business-related web sites, divided into seven major categories. The links are selected by Hoover's editors based on timeliness, quality, and ease of use. CI Seek offers the Competitive Intelligence Resource Indexa search engine and categorical listing of sites relating to competitive intelligence. Categories range from associations to software, with books, companies, documentation, education, jobs, and publications in between.