3 key things you should monitor about your customers and competitors

We think it’s a good idea to keep a watchful eye on the people who can impact upon your business, and there are potentially a few different types of people that can have an impact on how you go about your day-to-day activities, whether that be a negative or positive impact. These include:

Customers
Suppliers
Competitors

Keeping an eye on these businesses will allow you to respond should something happen that could affect the way that you operate, which could then either protect you from risk or worse, or allow you to benefit and grow.

But what should you monitor? It’s not a definitive list, but for starters you can keep an eye on:

Their financial stability – Knowing if a company’s credit score is heading in the wrong direction would be an indicator that they’re encountering some kind of financial difficulty, such as missing payments on borrowing or being turned down for additional credit. Changes in the frequency that a company pays its debts from paying only 10 days late to now paying 30 days late would perhaps indicate that the company doesn’t have enough funds available to pay invoices and need to wait to receive money in order to pay it out.

If they’re a customer of yours then you should do all you can to get paid as soon as possible and adjust any trading terms you have with them so that you minimise the risk of unpaid debts. If they’re a competitor then you might be able to take advantage of their lack of available funds to invest, by investing yourself in advertising in key areas. If they’re a supplier, then you might want to look around and see if there are alternative suppliers you can use should you no longer be able to use this one.

How to: Credit Reference Agencies consolidate a large amount of financial information, from numerous sources, in order to provide a scoring system to indicate financial stability. They make these available from a variety of sources, such as CreditHQ. (www.credithq.co.uk)

Their mentions in the trade press – It’s always good to know what the press is saying about people you work with. Good publicity might result in an increase in sales for them, whilst bad publicity could impact them and damage their finances (see above). Knowing what’s being said might just give you enough of a head start to allow you to react to what’s happening before it’s too late.

How to: It could be as simple as setting up Google Alerts for companies you want to monitor so that you can receive emails linking to online articles mentioning them, or it could be using a media monitoring service (such as Precise or Press Data) that keeps track of a variety of on and offline sources before reporting back to you.Social media sentiment

Their social media sentiment – Similar to trade press monitoring, social media monitoring will allow you to see whether the mentions that companies get on social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook are positive or negative. Obviously, positive sentiment is good for the company mentioned, and negative is not good, but either way, you’ll be able to take appropriate action depending on which way things are going.

How to: Tools for this range from the free (Social Mention or How Sociable) through to paid services (Trackur or Brand Watch)

You’ll never know everything that’s going on, but knowing something might be just enough to avoid a financial disaster or take advantage of a golden opportunity!