Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." Today, knowing yourself and your competitors when it comes to digital marketing is easier than ever. With freely available tools, you can quickly ascertain the sophistication of a company's digital marketing capabilities, from your own company to competitors to prospective customers.
Ghostery tells you what kinds of marketing and tracking tags a site is running - who else is getting visitor information about you. Generally speaking, sites who are thinking about analytics and monetization have more stuff installed. For example, here's Chris Brogan's site:
Note that there are relatively few extensions running on it, just a handful of software packages providing tracking. (I should clarify that in no way do I think of Chris as a competitor, opponent, or enemy, I just needed a non-work-related site to compare!)
Now compare to all of the stuff running on my site:
All of these tools are gathering data about your visit. What does this tell you about these two sites? The primary message is that I measure more stuff than Chris does. That's neither good nor bad in itself; however, if you were looking to sell analytics tools to either one of us, you'd be faced with two very different potential customers. I might be more receptive to what you're selling because I understand the value of analytics, but one or more of the tools I'm already using might solve my analytics problem, and thus you'd be trying to do a competitive sale. Chris Brogan might be less receptive to your initial pitch but might have greater need because the relatively small handful of tools he's using leaves more opportunity.
The second tool, BuiltWith, requires you to manually assess each site from a little button in the Chrome toolbar. Let's take a quick look again. First, Chris Brogan's site:
Note that it picks out that he uses InfusionSoft for marketing automation and runs WordPress with its stats module. He also uses Shareasale and Avantlink for revenue. This tells you something about his business model and what he's promoting. His website is a direct commerce engine, powering his business; we know this because InfusionSoft is a higher-end small business marketing automation system.
Now compare with my site:
I'm using lots of analytics tools to measure my audience but doing relatively little with them. There's an entry-level marketing automation system, LoopFuse, which indicates that I'm not running this website as a business, just a personal blog. I'm studying my audience carefully, but not investing heavily in the tools I'd need to make the website a full-time business.
From a competitive analysis perspective, who constitutes the greater "danger"? Without a doubt, Chris Brogan, in the sense that he's taken the time to invest heavily in his site to make it a real business. My site is personal in nature and while I measure lots of stuff, I'm clearly not intending to do much with it at the moment.
Once upon a time, in the era of Sun Tzu and the ninja of old, you would need to send spies into enemy encampments to understand what was going on. Today, just install a couple of browser extensions and know what you're looking for - we're all giving away our secrets right on our homepages.
Check out your own site. Check out your competitors' sites. See what they are telling you!
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