David Brim on business, marketing & life.

007 Ways to Digitally Spy on your Competition

By: David Brim

In business it is often said that only the strong survive.  The businesses that adapt to their environment the most effectively greatly increase their chances of surviving, or better yet thriving. But so do the companies resourceful enough to learn from them.

Developing trade secrets, creating innovative offerings, and tracking market changes can take a lot of time, money and effort. Many companies, both large and small allocate substantial sums of money towards these initiatives to win. Yet there are others that lurk in the shadows – Spying on companies large and small to uncover key insights to help their business grow at a fraction of the cost.free-vector-james-bond-007_068002_james-bond-007

Now before some of you get worked up on the ethics of this topic, I want to state that I am not advocating for unethical business activities.

Monitoring your competitors, or other successful companies that you may look up to, can be equated to studying Lebron James to learn his best moves to incorporate them into your game.

There are many levels of spying. Today, we’re talking about using digital marketing tools…it’s not like we’re encouraging you to sneak into a team’s locker room during warm-ups to steal play-sheets like a certain patriotic football team that will remain nameless..(Had to sneak that in there. I am a Steelers fan!)

The internet has equipped us with the power of anonymity and empowered us to access vast amounts of information at our finger tips. We have the ability to use both, along with our many smart connected devices, to spy on our competition.

Here we go…

The activities you are about to participate in are of a highly classified nature. Use absolute discretion while executing this mission.

Agent, your mission if you choose to accept it, is to breach the digital footprint of your competitors, monitor them from a distance undetected and utilize the latest technology to extract key information. Deploy what you have learned to advance your organization…and take over the earth. Well, maybe not the last one…but at least use it to gain market share your industry 😉

Below are a few considerations to help you on your way…

  • Follow without being detected – stalk competitor social media and third party web profiles.

By following the social media properties of your competitors you can uncover updates on product releases or changes, new industries they are exploring, existing customers and new potential customers.

You can also monitor their company profiles on websites like Glassdoor (reviews from employees), Google Maps (Reviews from customers),  Amazon (if they are selling products there), etc. Understanding what customers like and don’t like about your competitors and their products can be a great learning experience for you. Often times people purchasing a product may say something like  – “I like this product, but it would be great if it had this” (or was more durable, wasn’t so expensive, had different colors, etc). These are all opportunities for your business to learn and grow. It’s one of the best focus groups you could ask for.
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  • Subscribe to competitor email newsletters

Companies use email newsletters to communicate with their potential customers, partner organizations, and investors. Consider subscribing to their competitor email newsletters or blogs – use an email that is not clearly identifiable.

  • Mine competitor websites

Websites reveal a great amount of information about a company. Take your time going through the websites of your competitors. Determine how they are positioning their company in the minds of their customers. Uncover what they are doing well, and what you think they can improve on – then review your own website and make adjustments.

  • Understand what keywords they are targeting

Your competitor may have invested in search engine optimization, or be utilizing paid search advertising. Consider checking their URL on a service like www.keywordspy.com,  www.spyfu.com or even the free Google keyword tool located in Adwords. What  keyewords are they targeting? Are these keywords you should be targeting as well?

  • View Competitor Back links 

There are great tools out there that allow you to see links pointing to your competitor websites. Why should you care? The web is made up of links. It is what makes the digital world click.  By browsing these links you can not only see what is being said about your competitors, but identify potential places that you may be able to obtain a link from. SEO algorithms regularly change, but obtaining quality links from good sources is never a bad thing and can significantly help your rankings in search engines.  Consider these tools to view your competitor back links:

  • Set up Keyword Alerts for competitor company names, products, key personnel, etc.

There are many great online monitoring tools that exist. These tools crawl websites, social media profiles, and forums looking for specific keywords that you specify. Consider using an online monitoring tool to monitor your competitor company names, key employees, brands, products, etc.  Consider utilizing free offerings such as SocialMention.com, or Google Alerts. For the experienced spy, that wants the best…consider premium offerings such as BrandWatch.com or Trackur.com. For more resources, consider this great list of social media monitoring tools.

  • Remember, Tomorrow Never Dies

Change is the one constant in life. Don’t just check out your competition one time and stick your head in the sand. Every minute of every day social media posts are occurring, press releases are being submitted, blog posts are being published, website content is being changed and more. Some of these are likely from your competitors.

Final Briefing

There are many that discuss the power of the “First Mover Advantage” – the idea of getting to market first with a new offering, innovation, message, or positioning. While being the “First mover” can have it’s benefits, remember…Pioneers were often the ones that met their demise with arrows in their back when exploring uncharted territory.  Spying, or should I say “learning”, from competitor wins, successes, innovations, and marketing efforts can help you establish a stronger position to win in your respective marketplace.

Now it is time to put these suggestions into practice.

So get your favorite drink (shaken or stirred), open that laptop or smart device, put on some James Bond music and get to work.

Remember the success of your organization is resting on your shoulders.

Good luck Agent.


I crafted this originally as a guest post for Access Information.

Will infrastructure projects and tax reductions improve the economy?

By: David Brim

Over the last seven years, I have had the opportunity to work with and get to know Chris Gibbons, the founder of Economic Gardening. Economic Gardening is an entrepreneurial approach to economic development that focuses on growing second-stage companies within communities across the country, as compared to traditional economic development initiatives that focus on recruiting outside companies to relocate and bring jobs with them.

Chris recently shared his thoughts on the economy as well as the proposed tax reduction and infrastructure improvements with me and several others via email. I always enjoy reading and listening to his perspective on the economy and thought my subscribers and network would find it interesting as well.

With his permission, here is a guest post from Chris Gibbons, the founder of Economic Gardening.

Will infrastructure projects and tax reductions improve the economy?

water-pipesI tend to think of economic systems as closed systems – like a big field of interconnected pipes.  The water (money) is always there, always moving in the system.

So we can’t say the money goes to someone (rich people, government, China) – it always goes through someone on the way to the next place.  Government workers buy clothes, food and cars just like everyone else.  China uses its trade imbalance (accumulated US dollars) to buy U.S. government debt.  Rich people buy mansions and yachts.

Diverting money out of the private sector pipes (via taxes) to build infrastructure does not put more water into the system – it only moves the existing water over into public sector pipes which will dump it back into private sector pipes shortly thereafter (bridge builders buy food that evening).  It’s not new money coming into the economy, it’s just a diversion from the main set of pipes into a side set of pipes and then back into the main set.

In the reverse situation, reducing taxes takes money out of the public sector pipes and funnels it into the private sector pipes. Instead of the policeman or city planner buying groceries that weekend, someone in the private sector takes their tax refund and buys groceries. There is no new wealth; there is no new water in the pipes—only water directed out of the public pipe into the private pipe.  The dollar amount in the economy is exactly the same – the only thing that changes is what it is spent on (a public good like a policeman’s salary or a private good like a new washer and dryer).

The point is  — none of these activities increase the amount of wealth in the economy.  They are zero sum actions.  Add a tax refund in the private sector and subtract the same amount from the public sector.  Take taxes out of the private sector to build infrastructure and add it to the public sector account.  Add them together and the sum is zero.

The discussion should be around innovation.  It is innovation creates new products, new companies, new jobs, new wealth.  Innovation puts new water in the pipes.

Christian Gibbons

Thanks for sharing this Chris.

Though tax cuts and infrastructure improvements will greatly benefit certain individuals and companies (especially the ones getting big contracts); I agree that from a macro level this merely moves money around as compared to growing the top line of the economy (adding new water into the pipes – great analogy!). We can only hope that the individuals and companies that benefit the most from these cuts and projects will reinvest their profits into innovation. When people and companies have more than enough – think Google – they can afford to invest more heavily in R&D and social good initiatives. The question is will they? We’ll have to wait and see.

6 BIG BENEFITS of Creating Awesome Content

By: David Brim

Over three years ago I decided to write a blog post sharing 7 Powerful Lessons Sun Tzu can teach you about Strategy. In that post I researched insights from ancient Chinese philosopher and military strategist Sun Tzu and shared how these lessons can help business professionals win the battle for customers in their respective marketplace.

In 2016, this single post generated over 20,000 unique visitors to my blog.

Think about that for a second.

A post that I wrote three years ago generated over 20,000 unique visitors this year to my blog without me paying a dime for the traffic (and the year isn’t over yet).

Creating quality content is an essential part of any effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Social Media strategy. This is also one of the most neglected aspects of Social Media and SEO. Many business owners and marketing professionals want their “website optimized” to rank high in search engines. They get excited about setting up their social media profiles and eagerly track their likes, followers, and connections.

While having a quality website, the right social media profiles, and quality connections is valuable – it is content that truly brings it all together and delivers the results they are seeking from their social media and SEO efforts.

It is important to remember that Commodity content gets commodity results.

Below are 6 BIG BENEFITS of creating Awesome Content.

  1. Great Digital Content has a Long Shelf Life
  2. I am not going to tell you that Print, TV advertising, and direct mail are dead. They are not. Every marketing and/or advertising tactic has its place and time to shine. My marketing agency has gotten amazing results from newspaper advertising for certain clients over the last year. What I will say is that print advertising and direct mail have a very short shelf life.

    It may cost tens of thousands of dollars to place a print advertisement for one day. After a couple days, that paper is generally thrown away along with your ad.

    Creating high quality digital content does take time and resources up front, but it can continue to drive traffic to your website for many years to come.

    As an example, here is a snapshot from my Google Analytics for the Sun Tzu post I referenced that I wrote three years ago. You’ll see that this post has generated over 20,000 unique page views and visitors this year.

    sun_tzu_nov_11_2015_-_nov_11_2016

  3. Outrank the Big Boys
  4. Ever heard of David & Goliath? Sure you have. Quality content is like your sling shot to battle the giants. Google has changed their search algorithms and placed a much larger value on quality content.

    As an example, you’ll see that for the search term “Sun Tzu Lessons”, my blog is able to out rank some giants including Business Insider, Huffington Post, Life Hacker, and INC magazine.

    google_search_-_sun_tzu_lessons

    the_power_of_good_content_-_sun_tzu_lessons

  5. More Social Shares
  6. Creating high quality content, and adding well positioned social share buttons increases the liklihood of visitors sharing your content with others. Google and other search engines do look at page level metrics such as social share signals and links pointing to the page when determining their rankings.social_share_buttons

    This is  a self perpetuating feedback loop that continues to make itself stronger and stronger. The more the content is shared, the more people see and share the content.

  7. Become a Trusted Resource
  8. Sharing valuable content gives you the opportunity to educate and help others. If they find your content to be beneficial they may subscribe to your blog, or reach out to you to get more customized assistance, which can lead to new business.

  9. Grow your Audience & Influence
  10. When a visitor comes across valuable content that you created they may have a desire to be aware of future insights or content you create. This could lead to them following you on social media, subscribing to your blog, or simply frequenting your blog to read new posts.

    As your audience and influence grows you build even more “reach” and opportunities to distribute your content, engage others, obtain more press attention, monetize your content, and form new meaningful relationships.

  11. Convert more visitors into Leads, or Customers
  12. As the amount of quality traffic to your website increases you have more opportunities to “convert” this traffic into a subscriber, lead or paying customer. Depending on the type of business you are in this conversion could be: a phone call, newsletter subscription, purchase of a product, request for a quote, etc. I do suggest that you add a call-to-action box under your blog post. I utilize a WordPress plugin called Socialize to accomplish this. You’ll see my call-to-action box below this blog post and it includes multiple conversion opportunities such as subscribing to my blog, purchasing my book, and sharing my post.

I hope that you have found this blog post to be helpful!

Happy content creation!

My Journey to Living my Dream (Guest Post from my wife)

By: David Brim

The following is a guest post written by my wife Lindsay. Earlier this year she co-founded Crossroads Corral, a Central Florida based nonprofit, with the mission of improving lives through horses. The progress that Crossroads Corral has made in such a short time is truly remarkable and due to the passion, commitment and drive of Lindsay, her fellow co-founder Julie, and the wonderful herd of supporters, volunteers and donors they have developed. This is her journey to making her dream a reality.

My Journey to Living my Dream

One of my favorite quotes states, “If you cant figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.”- Bishop T.D. Jakes. For me, I have always been passionate about helping people and I’ve had a love for horses since I was a little girl. I always dreamed that one day I would be able to use horses to help people and that dream is coming true.

Lindsay Crossroads Corral

Let me take you back to the beginning.

Lindsay and Freedom

Lindsay and Freedom

I got my first pony, “Freedom” when I was eight years old. My parents were smart and made me “work” for that pony. I cleaned stalls and learned how to care for horses so that I could see the amount of responsibility it takes to have your own horse. When you are a horse lover I truly believe it is in your blood and you are born to own horses. YES, they are a lot of work, YES they are expensive to care for and YES they ARE worth it. I quickly developed a love for competing and showing and got heavily involved in 4-H. I learned so many important life skills and made so many wonderful friends through the 4-H program. I am forever grateful for my parents who nurtured and supported my love for horses.

Lindsay and Roxy

Lindsay and Roxy

Throughout my life I have owned some incredible horses, each one different and each one has challenged me and brought out the best in me. In high school I saved up money and was been able to rescue and train a 6 month old wild filly, “Roxy” who we raised until she was 5 years old and then we sold her to a forever home. I won a state Championship with my horse “Toby” who I still proudly own today. I have had some heartache with horses too. My beloved horse “Mac” who I got as a 13th surprise birthday gift passed away of colic when I was 16 and I was devastated. My sweet “gentle giant” Jiggy has a Neurological disease that we constantly battle every day. Horses are not a “hobby”, it is a life long love affair. Today, my husband and I own 4 horses (3 quarter horses and a miniature horse).

Older_Horse_Show_Pic_-_Lindsay_Brim

Left image: Lindsay with her father Gary & Mac. Right Image: Lindsay & Toby

When I went to college I wasn’t completely sure as to what career path I was going to travel down. I knew I wanted to work with people and work in the medical field helping others in some way. I was in a car accident in high school and I received Physical Therapy. I realized that this was the perfect path for me. I would be able to use my 2 hands and my big heart for helping others to help people heal and improve their lives. After I graduated from College, I moved to Florida with my boyfriend (now husband) and I got a job with Brookdale Senior Living doing Home Health and Outpatient Physical Therapy as a Physical Therapist Assistant.

Fast forward a few years, ok….. 8 years.

Last November, my good friend and fellow horse enthusiast, Julie and I were sitting in our barn after a trail ride talking about life. We discussed what would be our perfect “job”. Both of us agreed that if we could use our horses to help people in our community that would be our calling. We did some research, gained the proper certification (www.okcorralseries.com), applied and received our 501 ©(3) and co-founded Crossroads Corral.

Crossroads Corral Banner

The founders of Crossroads Corral: Julie Hester & Lindsay Brim

This all happened very fast, because I believe it was truly meant to be. At Crossroads Corral we conduct Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy activities. We use our horses and work with at-risk youth as well as Veterans and their families transitioning home from deployment. Many people ask us about the term “at risk youth”. We define this group of youth as kids who are at risk of falling behind in society. Maybe they have a learning disability, maybe they are in the foster care system being bounced between homes, maybe they may have medical needs that cause developmental delays, etc. We are not a therapeutic riding facility. Our 7 horses get to “work” and give back to people in need, which they enjoy because horses also need a purpose and job. It was very interesting to me to learn a little bit more about myself during this whole process. I have always been interested in physical health but I have quickly developed a passion for mental health. At Crossroads Corral we have partnered with a Licensed Mental Health Counselor to begin Equine Assisted Psychotherapy work and I could not be more excited.

tobyandbrims

Lindsay and David Brim with Toby

I am very lucky to have a supportive husband (David). He is an entrepreneur and owns his own
Marketing Agency. His Agency, Brand Advance and his wonderful team also donated and designed our logo, website, marketing material, etc. which was huge for us. David understands first hand about the fire that develops within a person when they start something. He is also extremely supportive because I have left my full time, good paying job to be a full time “volunteer” Executive Director of Crossroads Corral. As Executive Director, my daily duties are caring for our 7 program horses, business development, volunteer management, event planning, fundraising, building community partners/relationships, client session facilitation, etc. Luckily my “other half” as I call her, Julie also manages our herd of horses, does daily barn care, works with clients and more. Another favorite quote of mine is, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”. This was a scary leap of faith for us when I decided to leave my full time job but we know that this is part of the road I have to walk down. Many people have a hard time understanding non-profits. What I have learned from many educated people in the Non-Profit space, including professors at Rollins University is that if you do not run it like a business you will fail. Did you know that most non-profits and businesses fail because they charge too little? No, we do not have any paid staff members or have any sort of profit but yes we do charge for our services. We have to or else we would not have the finances to manage our herd of horses and then we would not be helping one single soul. Our goal is to have enough funding to cover our horses expense/year (which is about $56,000.00) so that we can provide all services free of charge.

Angel, Buddy and Connie

Jiggy, Moose, Retta and Toby

We also have a goal to one-day rescue horses from kill pens and then our clients and horses can work together to heal each other.

At Crossroads Corral we have been so blessed to have incredible volunteers who are passionate about what we do and help us in so many ways. We have a supportive board of directors, a beautiful farm to call our “other home” and patient, happy and loving horses. I can truly say that I am living my dream.

Crossroads Corral Saddle up Saturday

Crossroads Corral: Saddle Up Saturday in September 2015

I challenge you to find your calling if you have not already. Your life will be forever changed. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined.”- unknown

 

BLOG TALK TV: My Chat on Business Blogging, My book and more

By: David Brim

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on Blog Talk TV, a television show airing to 1.5 million households weekly in Virginia and Florida. I sat down with the hosts of the show Bess Auer and Ben Reed to discuss business blogging, my blogging journey and book Land More Customers through Online Marketing.

David Brim Blog Talk TV

You can learn more about the show by visiting BLOG TALK TV Online. I’ve also added the full show below in case you wanted to check it out.

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