Last week my team and I were looking at some new software. No reason for it to be a secret - we were looking at Vocus, a news/PR/social media monitoring tool. It was...pretty good. We liked it.
My next question is always - who are their competitors? Sure, we could buy this, but what else is out there? Is it any good? Is it better?
Having spent a few years selling software in the City, this question always fascinates me. When you're selling one of half a dozen systems into a small market, you know who your comeptitors are - you bump into them every day, your customers are forever thinking about replacing your system with one or another of theirs and there are competitive pitches going on all the time. But from the point of view of someone buying a system, it's surprisingly easy not to know that one or more of the half dozen options out there even exists. The sales guys at company X aren't going to tell them that company Y has a great piece of kit too; they might ask their competitors what they use but hey, they're competitors and who wants to look clueless in front of competitors?
So I always wonder, when I see a new piece of technology I might want to buy - what else is out there that I've missed? And who is going to tell me?
The answer now, it turns out, is pretty simple. I tweeted that I was looking at Vocus and asked for suggestions. Some of their competitors tweeted me back - companies I was vaguely aware of but didn't know had anything in this space. And now I can assess those systems too. Point being, next time I'm comparing systems to buy I'm going to do this again. And if you're trying to sell something, and you don't have anyone at your company watching the streams for people mentioning your competitors, I'm not going to know you're out there till long after the ink's dry on the contract with the other guy. Social media monitoring matters. It's a sales channel, because it's an effective, convenient and almost miraculously easy buying channel. Everyone needs to keep an eye on their space and not let the opportunities slip by.
Image from berthop on Flickr