It doesn’t matter whether you are already in business or just started a brand new product, you are always surrounded by competitors.
Your competitor might be the leader in the business industry with a huge army of customers and brand ambassadors. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doomed to failure.
You can use niche-related competitors to help your business.
By implementing a competitive intelligence strategy.
In this guide, you will find out how to use competitive intelligence that will help keep your business afloat.
Let’s cut to the chase!
The Essence of Competitive Intelligence
Competitive intelligence is a collective term that stands for gathering and analyzing data about your market. This information embraces stats about niche competitors, customers, and other marketing activities that could help push your business ahead.
Competitive intelligence is organized by collecting data from different sources.
What is the importance of competitive intelligence?
If you think that it would be enough to know your competitors and their marketing strategies, you are wrong. Aside from that, you should be aware of trends popular in the market. Especially, how these trends change and impact stakeholders.
Besides, competitive intelligence can help solve a bunch of things:
Brainstorm counter-strategies for your competitors
Identify opportunities for your brand growth
Discover areas of improvement for your product
and many more
Now, let’s see where you can gather competitive intelligence.
There are eight sources that you can use for the process of competitive intelligence:
The first place to start is your competitor’s website. And there are a few core moments you should draw your attention at:
Product page updates
Vertical pages and solutions
To figure out how your competitor wants to improve the brand’s authority in the customers’ eyes, you should explore the homepage and other marketing-related pages.
What to take into account?
Customer logos on the site
Buyer persona your competitor targets
When you’re observing product and price pages, you should figure out such nuances as – the length of trial period (if any), onboarding costs, pricing models, perks (if any.)
Moreover, don’t pass by a FAQ section. It is a good source of information as well.
Competitor’s content can provide you with lots of insights. In particular, you will find out what your potential customers want to find on your competitor’s blog. What concerns they have and what solutions your competitor suggests via content.
Draw your attention to:
Format and type of content (long reads, researches, infographics, charts etc..)
Keywords used in content and overall SEO optimization
For example, your competitor might focus on producing case studies. It is a clear signal that the priority of this content is chasing a buyer persona.
So, how to identify content frequency?
You will have to use the tool Content Explorer from Ahrefs. Just grab your competitor’s site URL and plug it into the tool. Then, switch the mode to “In URL” and check the “published vs. republished ratio” compared to your content publishing frequency.
Social media channels
Social media channels are a good source of information for your competitive intelligence process. And here are:
- Channels your competitor uses actively
- Post publishing frequency
- Social media ad
Keep in mind that social media ROI varies. It depends on the channel your competitor uses. Thus, you will have to build a report for each social media channel accordingly. Your goal is to analyze your competitor’s activity and identify potential pain points.
Let’s take Twitter as an example. Your competitors reply to the questions of their customers. These questions can help you understand what product issues your competitors may have. Use this information for your own benefit.
LinkedIn can suggest unique information regarding a company’s culture, upcoming events, content updates, and new hiring opportunities.
Resellers can give you insights into your competitor’s selling strategy. You should pay attention to three factors:
The structure of pricing
Conditions for upsales
For example, this analysis provides you with the findings like an increase in price every new year. Or whether your competitor offers some better conditions for the customers when they choose a more expensive price package.
The best way to identify the company’s value is by reading customer reviews. A customer never lies because this person is a concerned party with a self-interest.
Research the following resources:
- Q&A platforms like Reddit, Quora
- Analyst reports like Gartner, Forrester
- B2B review platforms like G2, TrustRadius
For example, Q&A platforms are full of hot topics about your competitors. People (customers) ask questions, share their opinions, and things they are satisfied/dissatisfied with. Plus, you can ask anonymous questions about your competitor’s business and product.
Past and current employees of the competitor’s company can share lots of useful information for your competitive intelligence analysis. And if the company hires freelancers or new talents, then the business seems to grow.
Draw close attention to:
- About us page
- Careers page
- C-level hires
Feedback on the company
To get a clear idea of job satisfaction of current and former employees, check out a website from Glassdoor. You will find answers to the following type of questions:
What are the pros and cons of the company’s culture?
What does the interview process look like?
What is the average salary?
How thorough was the onboarding process?
Your company’s HR will get tons of useful findings before hiring new job candidates.
When you’re exploring the “Careers” page, you can find information about job posting details. Draw attention to what job opportunities are in demand. What specialists the company is seeking right now. And what department they belong to.
Customers and colleagues
If you have just decided to run a business, you need to analyze what business-related customers say about your potential customers.
As a rule, your future customers have already dealt with similar companies in the market. Therefore, they can share with you the problems these companies try to solve. What works for them and what doesn’t. Eventually, such a survey will save you time.
Another great way to add more insights to your competitive intelligence analysis is by talking to your business-related colleagues.
Nobody says that you must force them to share the company’s secrets with you. Nope. Everything that you need to figure out is:
HR job interview questions
The only issue that you may face is that data is spread across different channels. Hence, you will need competitive intelligence tools.
Five Steps to Build Competitive Intelligence Process
A competitive intelligence process pursues an aim to provide all employees with the correct understanding of their job position. And this information would be useful not just for C-level executives but other members of the company like marketing managers, engineers, sales, and customer success departments.
So, how can you build a competitive intelligence program?
Figure out your direct competitors
According to a survey from Crayon, there is an 18% increase in the growth of competition across companies of all sizes every year. It leads to the conclusion that even if your company is a newborn one, it already has tons of direct competitors in the market.
Even though your business has tough competition, you should be able to distinguish the types of competitors you have. It will help your competitive intelligence process a lot.
There are three main types of competitors:
Direct competitors – the same market and selling a similar product (Ibanez vs. Music Man)
Indirect competitors – the same market but different products to satisfy the same needs (Ibanez vs. Marshall)
Remplacement competitors – different markets but can replace products to satisfy the same needs (Ibanez vs. Cubase (music production software that helps create whatever music from scratch)
Now, put aside replacement competitors and create a list of up to 10 direct competitors and indirect ones. If you still don’t know your competitors, use Site Explorer from Ahrefs. Review the report called the “Competing domains”:
When you know your competitors, move to the next step.
Set your key objectives and metrics
A competitive intelligence process requires setting key objectives and analyzing them with certain metrics. These two aspects go in line with identifying stakeholders you need to get buy-in for the competitive intelligence program.
Where to start?
First, talk to C-level executives. Try to find out what issues they are trying to resolve during their daily routine. Afterwards, work with each company’s department one by one. And here are the goals these departments set:
Customer success department – retain customers
Engineering – build differentiators
Marketing – work on creating battle cards
Sales – Increase the revenue and win competitive deals
The main point of this stage is to find out the job roles that would contribute to the competitive intelligence process and find ways how to measure it.
This stage of the competitive analysis process is the most time-consuming. The goal is to find qualitative insights that will help support your team members within their job roles.
The process of collecting data for the competitive intelligence process revolves around two types of data:
Internal data – information available within your business (competitor’s pricing list, call notes from the sales department, etc.)
External data – information available online (social media channels, review platforms, website, blog, etc.)
Remember – both types of data should be analyzed together to get more positive insights.
You have figured out your competitors, set goals and metrics, and collected data. It is time to spend your time analyzing data.
The data is raw. Thus, your task is to polish it by turning it into marketing and sales assets. Then, introduce this information to the right stakeholders.
In this very case, the most actionable way to do it is by creating battle cards.
Battle cards work as a sales asset that suggests short insights about certain competitors. These insights have a goal to outcompete the competitors.
How to create a battle card?
a) Have a competitor’s profile
b) Find facts that would play against your competitor
c) Prepare arguments that tell why you win and why you lose compared to your competitor
d) Objection handling answers
e) Get prepared the list of topics that would put your competitor in a bad position
When the battle cards are created, move to the final step – share insights with the stakeholders.
Impact stakeholders with your competitive intelligence battle cards
Before introducing your competitive intelligence results, you will need to take two steps – ask stakeholders about their preferred channels for communication and increase the frequency of delivering competitive insights.
Figure out how your stakeholders communicate. For instance, C-level executives prefer to communicate via email. While representatives of a sales department run their conversations on Slack.
Try to share competitive intelligence insights daily (or weekly.) It will help you boost your company’s revenue according to a study by Crayon. This research states that 69% of the responders share the competitive intelligence insights daily and 72% – weekly.
Don’t delude yourself by thinking that the competitive intelligence process is a one-time process. Nope. It is an ongoing process that you should keep on doing constantly.
To Sum Up
The competitive intelligence analysis is a key solution for those people who want to enrich their companies with more clarification in modern-day business activities. It is an ongoing process that provides the entire company’s team with insights related to their job positions.
Don’t shy away from using the tips suggested in this guide. And implement a competitive intelligence analysis in your practice so far.
If you think this post lacks some information, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.