I recently began using a really cool free plugin for GMail called Rapportive.

What would you do if you found out a competitor was spying on your business?
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This isn’t a post about how awesome Rapportive is, but let me first say that it is awesome.It is, by far, my favorite GMail plugin. This story will show one of the cooler uses of it.

A few weeks ago I got an email from an affiliate of one of my clients. This person was asking for more information about an upcoming promotion we were doing. She was going out of town, she said, and wanted to know if I could give her the information early.

I began to reply to her email letting her know the details and asking her to keep them under wraps when I glanced over at the right side of my screen. It was there that I noticed her Rapportive profile. Rapportive gleans information from other sources such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and elsewhere. It looks something like the image on the left of mine.

Her current job title was that of Affiliate Manager for one of our largest competitors. This was the same competitor that had literally been copying my newsletters and promotions for six months. Imitation is the sincerest form of…ticking me off.

I thought to immediately kick her out of the program but thankfully a good friend called me as I was about to do that. As I told him the story, he reminded me of the old adage, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I picked up on where he was going with that.

To me, what this person did was unethical. It’s one thing to keep an eye on the market. It’s another to outright lie to get inside information.

My question: What would you do if you find out a competitor was spying on your business?

Let me know your thoughts below. How would you have handled this?

16 thoughts on “What Would You Do to a Corporate Spy?

  1. Carol Dublin says:

    That’s a tough one – and one I probably wouldn’t have handled well when I was ticked off! I guess I would have just said something like “oh, I really wish I could, but I’m not at liberty to share details yet. You know how it is…” I look forward to the other comments to see how to handle it better! Great post.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thankfully I wasn’t ticked off. I was past that already. I was actually more excited and relieved to have found the source. 🙂

  2. Bret Wortman says:

    You’ve got more discretion than I.

    I used to use Rapportive, but have gone back to Smartr. I can’t quite quantify why I prefer it. Maybe because it loads faster for me. Might be worth a look. Has an iPhone app that replaces your Contacts app as well, which is kind of slick.

    Definitely don’t let on to her that you’re … on to her.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thanks! I’ll check out Smartr.

      First time for everything…”You’ve got more discretion than I.” HAHA!

      I’ve found a ton of other uses for Rapportive. So glad I heard about it.

  3. Eric Nagel says:

    Wow… you’re so nice. I would have created a fake campaign, complete with banners, newsletter, coupons, etc. Something that just pushes the “I can’t believe they’re doing this” line.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      See the 2nd to the last paragraph: “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I picked up on where he was going with that.


      Just saying it’s crossed my mind.

  4. Todd Liles says:

    Competitor spy. That’s what they do. Competitor’s even fight hard to beat you. Ha, the free market. Here is where you Christianity and Humanity are going to butt heads in a big time way. OK: Trying to keep this Biblical. Ask them more questions. Maybe like “Are you spying on me?” :-/ Then follow it up with a statement. “I’m honored that you take my business plans into such consideration for planning your own business. Do you want to sit down and show me your plans to keep things fair? No? Okay then, why don’t we just both wait until it is public knowledge. Thanks for calling!”

  5. Greg Hoffman says:

    She’s a rookie. I spy on you through much more creative and undetectable ways.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I know Greg. But I actually like you, so it’s good.

  6. Lily Kreitinger says:

    They do say it’s the highest compliment. The good thing is that you can recreate, reproduce and reinvent your ideas and they can’t… They’ll just be looking for someone else to copy from. In the free enterprise world, ethics get a little blurry when it comes down to “benchmarking” vs “stealing intellectual property”. Like I said, they can do whatever they want, you have more awesomeness stored somewhere and they don’t.

    1. Lily Kreitinger says:

      You can also stick your tongue out and say nana nana boo boo.

      1. Matt McWilliams says:

        You read me well.

  7. Jon Stolpe says:

    It’s an interesting question. I work in a highly competitive business environment. And we are tracking our competitors as they are tracking our company to get the best talent, to establish the best pricing, to win the most contracts, and to make the most money. I’m not sure about spying, but I know information is “leaked” at times. Our sales management and branch management are much closer to this than me here on the operations end of things. If someone was spying, we would do our best to secure things. Our company has done quite a bit to teach our employees about the importance of keeping information secure.

  8. Consider it a compliment. Laugh it off – make some jokes to your friends about your awesomeness. However other than that, I personally wouldn’t waste any of my precious time on them and concentrate only on remaining ahead in the game.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      “make some jokes to your friends about your awesomeness.”

      That actually made me laugh this morning. I might have to try that one. Thanks!

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