How to Use Evernote to Track Competitor Information
It’s probably been a while since you learned the skills that moved you ahead in your career, but to keep that success going, you need to continue learning, indefinitely. But logging classroom time isn’t the only way to grow – by keeping an eye on like-minded entrepreneurs, you can stay abreast of current trends, keep your pricing competitive, obtain ideas for ad copy, and more.
Unlike large companies, investing time and resources toward this effort may not be an option. But a free product, Evernote, can help you organize competitive data quickly and easily.
What is Evernote?
Evernote is a multi-platform system that allows you to store and file snippets of information. You can supplement each piece of data with your own comments and observations. You then organize and store the information in your Evernote account, where you can retrieve and reference it from your computer or mobile device.
“Evernote gives you an automated process for capturing information and keeping it in a way that makes sense to you,” says Joshua Zerkel, Evernote’s Productivity Ambassador and Product Consultant out of San Francisco, California.
What should you know about your competition?
As you listen to the news, read blogs, or browse the web, keep an ear open for news about others in your field. Pay attention when you hear:
- Industry trends or mentions of your competitors in the news.
- Information shared via social media.
- Plans of upcoming conferences, trade shows, and events.
- Upcoming specials on products or services.
- Changes to distribution of delivery methods.
- Community involvement or outreach programs.
- Public data such as annual reports, financial data, or statistics.
Watch other entrepreneurs to gain ideas for:
- Marketing literature, brochures, and ad copy.
- Branding efforts and company values.
- Website content, style, blog, and traffic.
Notes and Notebooks
That’s a lot of potential information to gather, so organization is crucial. Using Evernote, you can turn each bit of useful data into a note. A note can originate from almost anything: you can scan paper copy, save audio of video recordings, or capture content directly off the web using Evernote’s Webclipper feature.
“Each time you see ad copy, product descriptions – whatever other people are doing that you like, you can keep a copy of it, and provide yourself with samples to look at later when you need to write an ad or describe a product,” says Zerkel.
For example, you learned that a local competitor is holding some workshops for scout troops. That’s a great way to build your brand locally and do good for the community, two things you’d like to do more of. You store the information as a note:
Just like their paper counterparts, notes can pile up fast, so organizing them into subject-specific notebooks will maximize efficiency. Each notebook is depicted with a title and the number of notes it contains.
How you set up your notebooks is up to you. You might opt to keep a few large, general notebooks: Local competitors, Ad copy, Pricing schemes. Or you might prefer numerous, targeted notebooks, organized around specific names of competitors, products, or trends: Joe’s Catering; Wedding cakes, Holiday specials.
“I also suggest keeping a general ‘swipe’ notebook, where you store bits of copy that you capture with the Evernote Webclipper,” suggests Zerkel. “Just remember to come back to this notebook once a month to sort out and organize the contents.”
Each time you create a note, you can increase it’s potential usefulness by adding descriptive tags. A search on each tag will retrieve matching notes from any notebook.
“I recommend that you set up a tag for each competitor,” says Zerkel.
For example, with the note you created earlier, you might tag it with “Community” so you can find it when you’re exploring community service efforts, the name of the catering business, “Countdown to Cookies”, and the name of the entrepreneur, “Linda Garrison”.
You’re probably familiar with Google alerts – the ability to receive a notification from Google when a specific search term appears in current Google results.
Once you get familiar with keeping watch on other businesses, the names and terms you want to keep up with may become numerous. Google alerts can help automate this process, suggests Zerkel.
“If you set up a Google alert for the competitors you wish to follow, you’ll receive an email anytime the alert term is mentioned on the Internet. You can direct that email to the free email address that comes with every Evernote account,” suggests Zerkel. Competitor news will fall right into your mailbox.
It’s up to you
Evernote provides a flexible framework to set up and organize all types of data – but it’s up to you how you use it. Start by developing a habit of watching other freelancers in similar lines of work, then build up a workable system for filing and tracking your findings.
With minimal cost and effort, you’ll stay informed about what’s going on in your industry!
How are you using Evernote in your freelance business?