Competitive intelligence is one of the most important ways a company can understand market trends and where its competitors are innovating and positioning themselves. Without it, a company's strategy will be misinformed.
Competitive Intelligence is tough though, especially for small private companies. Fortunately there are a growing number of useful and free competitive intelligence tools to help. Here are a few of our favorites:
Archive.org allows you to dig up past versions of a company's website. If one of your competitors wrote a case study in 2005 that you want but is no longer on their website, archive.com might be able to help you find it. Using Archive.org also lets you see how your competitor's go-to-market strategy has evolved over time.
Spyfu. This is a goldmine for understanding competitors’ online advertising. Using it, you can determine what keywords your competition uses for AdWords, what their daily AdWords budget is, and what their daily traffic volume is. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Slideshare.net is essentially a search engine for PowerPoint presentations… but it is usually possible to dig up 'confidential' presentations and templates that can be very informative.
LinkedIn can be used for more than just social networking. It can give you estimates on a company's size, its turnover, and what positions, if any, are currently open. But be careful - for smaller companies (under 100 people) LinkedIn is usually an inaccurate portrayal of current staffing.