In a crowded market, your instinct may be to maintain a healthy distance from your direct competition, but is that really the most effective way to shine?

Fortune 500 companies often have entire teams dedicated to competitive intelligence, but because small businesses feel the impact of their competition more quickly, independent event professionals have even more to gain from keeping tabs on your competition. Here’s a quick guide to getting started.

Map Out Your Competition

According to, it’s best to keep a working list of your top five competitors – any more than that can be too overwhelming and distracting. If you’re not quite sure who your top five competitors are, ask yourself: who is offering a similar service at a comparable price range to the same segment of potential customers?

Stay Informed

Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to stay informed about what your competition is up to. Set up Google alerts which will automatically inform you any time the competition’s company name is mentioned online. This includes news articles, press releases, blog posts, videos, etc. Google alerts are free and easy to customize, so you can tailor the incoming information to fit your needs.

Be Social

It’s extremely important to follow your competition on their various social media platforms – for more reasons than one. Not only will receiving their updates will allow you to keep tabs on their day to day activities, but it also allows you to keep an eye on their client base and their promotional strategies.  Maybe there’s a demographic that they’re targeting that you hadn’t thought of yet, or maybe they’re seeing a lot of promotional success using referrals or contests – there’s no rule that says you can’t co-opt a good strategy, and who knows, maybe you’ll win over some of their followers in the meantime.

Subscribe, Subscribe, Subscribe

These days, nearly everyone has a company newsletter or even weekly updates going straight to their customers’ email inbox. Make sure that you’re on your competition’s subscription list. Not only will you stay up to date on any events or announcements that don’t make it to their social media pages, but you’ll also be able to see how your competition is communicating directly with their client base. This may offer another chance to co-opt successful strategies, and it also gives you the opportunity to take note of anything that you don’t find appealing: maybe your competition is sending out monthly emails and you prefer to receive news weekly, or perhaps their tendency to tie up their subscribers inbox with multiple emails a day seems like way too much. Either way, you have the opportunity to do things differently.

The Takeaways

Mark Twain once said “there’s no such thing as a new idea” and it’s just as true today as it was in the 1800s.  In order to be successful, it’s important to stay informed on what your competitors are up to, and remember, there’s no shame in borrowing a great idea.