Keeping tabs on your rivals is just smart business, so take this crash course in corporate espionage.
- TIP: If your competitors know what you look like, pay strangers to do some of the dirty work.
- Step 1: If there's room in your budget, hire a corporate detective to do your spying. They'll put all these tips into practice, plus use their own professional sleuthing skills. And if they're caught in a Dumpster, you won't be the one with egg on your face!
- FACT: Fearing corporate spying, Kellogg stopped giving tours of its cereal factory in 1986.
- Step 2: Size up the competition by talking to them directly -- in the guise of a potential customer. Try pumping their customer service representatives for inside information.
- Step 3: Hang out at the competition's favorite watering holes to eavesdrop on employee chatter; liquor means loose lips. Just remember to stay sober so you can remember any trade secrets you overhear!
- Step 4: Follow your competitors' corporate and personal Twitter accounts; set up a Twitter account under an alias if you don't want them to know. Use Twitter search to track all tweets that mention your rivals.
- TIP: Subscribe to an RSS feed so you don't have to check your Twitter search results every day.
- Step 5: Root through your rivals' Dumpsters. If it's in the trash, it's fair game. This might not be the most pleasant way to spy on the competition, but you never know what you might discover.
- Step 6: Set up Google alerts on your competition so you're notified whenever they're mentioned on the internet. Choose the "Everything" option for as many results as possible, from blog comments and photos to videos.