In AdWords, you could find your competitor’s keywords and bid against them.
In fact, one of my favorite tactics over the last decade (which still works) is using various tools to do this across multiple search engines.
You might even straight copy their ads, if relevant and not misleading.
You’d use Alexa, Compete, Quantcast, and whatnot for competitive monitoring.
The old time SEOs remember how cloaking and honeypots were spy-vs-spy tactics to throw others off your scent.
Buying dirty backlinks for competitors (called Google bowling) was an example of this adversarial mindset.
And so prior to social, the world of digital marketing was quite unfriendly.
Your win came at my loss, zero sum, red fish in a blood red ocean.
But notice that social bred content marketing, which necessitates coordination.
If you want to share the best content, you must actively seek out these former “enemies” to co-produce.
Otherwise, you’re limited by your knowledge and time.
In the same way, if you are unwilling to hire minorities, then you’re at a competitive disadvantage, as Jan Koch outlines:
“Far too many online business owners still undervalue content marketing, even though their competitors already benefit from the targeted, organic traffic their content drives. WP Curve is a great example in this case. Dan Norris grew it to nearly 6-figures in monthly revenue with content marketing alone.
A successful content marketing plan has a few key components. The content targets the exact needs of the readership, the content builds upon each other, and the content is actionable. I implemented these things in my content marketing strategy, and the organic traffic doubled within 60 days. It’s hard work, yet it’ll pay off for any business in the long term. Short-term results most likely won’t come from content marketing, but the long-term results can save businesses.”
Frenemies and coopetition means that you have to lower the drawbridge on your moat.
And when you are forced to differentiate, you see that Red Bull and Rockstar are not competitors, though their products are chemically similar.
But if you’re now sharing your best-kept secrets openly, then you better make sure it’s good.
Who knows what the 13 spices are in Colonel Sander’s chicken, but I don’t think anyone cares anymore– minus the PR people for a marketing ploy.
What matters is that your content is delicious– and that others who consume it agree.
Social, having become mainstream, has diffused into content marketing, paid media, PR, and anything but “social media”.
When you do social “right”, you’re putting your personal brand on display to the world.
And competitors can’t copy that, any more than they can try to be you by using the same products and wearing the same clothes.
They can’t copy your relationships like they can Google keywords– these must be built authentically, one person at a time, as Paul Sokol puts it:
“The one thing your competition can never steal is the relationship you have built with your tribe. When you use social channels to amplify relevant content and generate conversations, you are only strengthening those relationships. In this hyperconnected world, competition is inevitable, but relationships will always be king!”
Thus, you can’t hire an agency to run your social media, any more than you can hire a personal trainer to work out for you.
If you’re a competent digital marketer, you’re only as good as your content.
But your content is only as good as the quality of the network you have which produces that content.
So if you’re hiding behind agencies for strategy and content, then you’re now obsolete, while that third party usurps your brand.
Your enemy is not the “competitor”– it’s anyone you outsource your marketing efforts to.
You must take back control of your strategy and know enough how to execute, even if you aren’t executing.
Then your contractors are workers hammering nails according to your process, as opposed to you being a fat man getting a shoeshine.
You don’t want to be hoping that your digital marketing efforts are successful just because the vendors say so.
Nor can you rely upon measurement vendors selling cross-channel analytics and attribution, which is just a new flavor of snake oil.
So if you’re struggling on the inside, that will eventually reflect on the outside.
The fear you’re not willing to admit is common to nearly everyone.
And the excuses are many, coming in the form of how you don’t have resources, it’s not your responsibility, social isn’t relevant to your industry, your agency says you’re doing fine, and so forth.
Maybe you’re older and can tell “back in the day” stories
Sure, you used to sling code with the best of them and walk uphill both ways to school.
I actually did walk uphill both ways, but that’s a story for another time.
But it means that you as a marketer, business owner, or student must get back into being a direct practitioner.
Else you aren’t able to produce the first-hand experience which is your entry ticket to hang out with other pros in your area.
And then you’re not able to get close enough to produce the content of quality necessary to drive traffic for your business.
I hope you’re still not thinking you can send someone in for you.
You are the lead singer, but can still have stage hands like me.
I just won’t sing for you– trust me, you wouldn’t want it.
The confusion marketers and entrepreneurs are feeling is not from being beat in traditional ways by a “competitor”.
But rather, they’re being “out-cooperated” by folks who produce and amplify content such that they appear to be the authority in the area you happen to be selling products and services.
If you don’t have a content marketing process (driven by checklists and undergirded by your own personal brand), you better get started now.
About the Author
You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.
You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.