Spy Games: Running feedback on a competitor’s website to learn their market weaknesses

(This article originally appeared on the userinput.io blog)

I believe that business is war. Well, not entirely. It’s like a casual war. Less murder and explosions and tremendously awful stuff. But it’s still war. And part of war is espionage.

Recently a userinput.io customer got website feedback, which is nothing unusual, as that happens all the time. I followed up with him to see what he thought of the service, and I also complimented his website, because it was a SaaS that I was familiar with.

But the interesting thing was that the website that he got feedback was not his at all, it was a competitor. He was thinking of entering the market and was running surveys on an established company to try to find their weaknesses.

Brilliant.

With pretty regular questions like “how could we improve the site? What else would you like to see on the site?”, he was able to find out their weaknesses and areas he could improve:

  • Create an actually GOOD podcast on affiliate marketing / blogging instead of the one they currently have on the site
  • Lots of specific design issues and shortcomings, including reasons why the site wasn’t trusted. By building his site knowing the issues with his competitor’s site, he instantly has an advantage
  • Provide real information and value, and don’t just make it sound like a sales pitch the whole time

What can you learn from these spy games?

By running feedback surveys on your competition, you can learn:

  • What they are doing wrong
  • What holes they leave in the market for you to explore
  • What annoys visitors about their site (so that you don’t make the same mistake)
  • If their pricing looks too high or too low
  • If people would want to see variation on their pricing model, IE maybe they offer on demand help, and the survey takers say they’d rather see an all-you-can-eat model like WPcurve does, but for your vertical
  • If they have features that you could leave out of your service, or at least out of your MVP
  • Their favorite parts of the competitor’s website, so you can include those too
  • And what features or info you should have on your website that the competitor didn’t include

Yeah, but how do you run these surveys?

There are a few different ways:

  • Design a Survey Monkey survey and buy respondents from them.
  • Design a survey on Survey Monkey or Responster or similar, and find people to take it (Reddit has a subreddit for this, /r/samplesize)
  • Use my service userinput.io to get instant and on-demand feedback for your questions. If you want, you can even specify a demographic like “people who use Mailchimp” or “Online Marketers” etc.

Whatever method you choose to get the actual feedback, it should be helpful for your spy games. Remember, business is war.


Originally published at userinput.io on August 15, 2016.

Stuart Brent is a free range micropreneur, founder of Vacord Screen Printing(they want to make your custom t-shirts and hoodies), userinput.io (an easy way to get on demand feedback for your app, idea or website), Ignite Your Match (improve your online dating profile by getting group feedback) andStartupResources.io (a list of the best tools for your Startup). When he’s not glued to his laptop, he enjoys traveling, eating sandwiches, and trying to find decent espresso throughout The South.

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