When it comes to understanding your industry and the competitive environment within it, data analytics and social listening tools are your best defense against a crowded market. Everything you use to monitor your brand can be used to build a competitive analysis for a robust knowledge of the competitive factors your brand is up against.
Recently, Harvey Rañola, Global Head of Media Intelligence with NetBase Quid sat down with Cam Mackey, Executive Director of SCIP (Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals) for two webinars focused on capturing better competitive intelligence with data-driven insight.
For the unfamiliar, SCIP is a global non-profit network of CI industry professionals committed to “advancing ethical best practices, training and certification in critical capabilities, curating innovative ideas, and cultivating a powerful peer community.” In a nutshell, SCIP is the world’s leading non-profit organization committed to CI education and certification.
Each of the presentations were packed with insights as Rañola shared best practices to help brands, analysts, and agencies reimagine their approach to competitive analysis. So, read on as we share a few highlights from the discussions, so you can maximize the takeaways from your next competitive analysis.
Specifically, we’ll touch on the following topics that were covered:
- Taking a holistic approach to competitive analysis
- Nurturing the discovery phase mindset
- Curating and sharing effective data visualizations
Before we get rolling, here are a few statistics that were shared during the presentations that are of interest:
- 90% of businesses report that their industry has become more competitive in the last three years.
- From 2019-2020, businesses have seen their average number of competitors increase 16%.
- 287,700+ unique articles are posted to the web daily and there are nearly 4 billion social media users.
And now, let’s jump into the good stuff!
A Holistic Approach to Competitive Analysis
Efficiency should be the goal with any competitive analysis and stopping to rethink your approach can help you guard your time. Ideally, a holistic approach will yield a comprehensive analysis for rich insights while maintaining focus for the duration. So, what’s that look like?
As Rañola mentions, the first step when approaching your competitive analysis is to stop and define your goals before you begin. This is crucial because it’s entirely too easy to get lost in a rabbit hole chasing a nugget of intel that might have caught your interest but doesn’t contribute to the cause.
Time is money. With the vast sums of data available to analysts today, it’s far too easy to get lost in the data and end up “trying to boil the ocean” as Mackey puts it. Well defined goals act as a mental boundary to maintain focus when you stumble upon the mythological Siren’s call of extraneous information.
Another point to think about when you perform your next competitive analysis is that traditional research methods were often focused directly (and solely) on a company’s closest competitors. With technology, we have the freedom to cast a wide net when building our search queries. So, you should build your search looking at the entire market your competitors operate in.
This surfaces common brands, products and wording that you may not be aware of – things that should be included in your queries. For instance, Rañola mentions the fact that four-door cars are known as sedans in the U.S. but are known as “saloons” in Europe. McDonald’s is colloquially referred to Macca’s in Australia and McDo’s in the Philippines. These aren’t things one would guess nor intuitively know worldwide.
When conducting your competitive analysis, leaving these types of mentions out would leave you with a compromised view of your competitors’ share of voice. That’s why casting a large net across your industry with your search terms is a safe bet. You can always drill down into your target later, without excluding relevant data.
The Discovery Phase Mindset
Another benefit of casting a wide net is that it allows you to keep tabs on industry themes and emerging trends throughout the news and social media. This is one of the hallmarks of competitive intelligence, as it lends context to how your competitors are operating. Monitoring the fluctuations of themes and trends within your industry conversation is critical – it’s all about identification and tracking.
Rañola puts it this way, “If you’re not looking at this data [industry themes] on a regular basis, you’ll get left behind by someone else who is keeping an eye on these different trends and actually taking advantage of it and operationalizing it within their business.”
Keeping tabs on emerging trends through diligent monitoring is one thing to keep in mind during your discovery phase. It leads directly into understanding the external forces at work on your brand.
Additionally, as you parse your data sets for competitive intel, you want to keep in mind buyer personas as well as the geographic and demographic differences in consumers talking about your space. To take that a step further, you should use your social listening tools to dig into psychographic intel such as interests to look for differentiating factors within otherwise homogenous consumer groups.
Speaking to social media datasets, Rañola states, “If we didn’t know what these people were interested in, if we didn’t know the types of things that they’re posting about, if we didn’t know about where they’re communicating with others and interacting [over] their interests, and all we had to go off of was their location, their gender, their age, … then we would have a very convoluted and confusing data set.”
With the right social listening tools, psychographic consumer insights are well within the reach of your competitive analysis. Drilling down into the voice of the customer in this way leads to a better understanding of consumer behavior across your industry.
For instance, Rañola goes on to say, “We’re running this analysis of the announcement of a Ford F-150 Lightning and comparing it to conversations about the Tesla Cybertruck. And what we’re seeing about that is the folks who were in similar age groups are gravitating towards different things depending on their interests.”
This is a perfect example of where psychographic data can show the nuance between consumers interested in Brand A versus Brand B – consumers that would appear the same when relying solely on demographic data. This is the frame of mind you want to be in when you approach your next competitive analysis. And it’s the level of granular insights you want to base decisions on.
After you’ve cast a wide net with your competitive analysis you want to take note of the themes at work within your industry and look for anomalies or emerging trends. Ask yourself if you’re keeping an open mind with your market research, and let the data tell the story that will help meet your objectives.
Additionally, looking deeper into consumer behavior across your industry can reveal attitudes and behaviors that could offer opportunities for your brand that would remain invisible through demographic data alone.
Curating Effective Data Visualizations
So, what does it mean to uncover the Rosetta Stone of competitive intelligence if you lack the means to share it effectively? Depending on the scale of your brand, there could be an army of people that could benefit from the insights you uncover from your competitive analysis. But just because you know about them means nothing, if you don’t communicate this intel in a digestible manner to the people that need to know.
It’s one thing to share complex data visualizations packed with insight to a fellow analyst, and a totally different thing altogether if you’re trying to present to the C-suite. You’ve put in the work and what you’ve uncovered needs to be heard, so paying attention to your audience and their needs is crucial or you risk being ignored or misunderstood. The struggle is real. As Mackey puts it, how do you get your insights out there without collecting “digital dust?”
The key here is translating your findings in a way that is most impactful to those seeing it. This is accomplished by climbing out of our own mindset and shaping our data with thoughtful visualizations.
Mackey mentions a colleague who says, “just give me two bullet points.” And that’s a great goal to have in mind. Not everyone you need to interact with has your skillset or patience to decipher multiple data points. Serving up a buffet to someone in a rush is not going to garner accolades for your abilities. Your award-winning lemon merengue will go unnoticed – worse it may end up in your face.
That being the case, boiling down your data into the most relevant points does the most service all around. It showcases an analyst’s skill while offering salient points for discussion. We all know the frustration of sitting on a mountain of intel that’s an overwhelming pile of ignored data.
Here’s a great example that the Brunswick Group shared with a client interested in Polio coverage in the media. It’s succinct and to the point.
This is the point where you need to summon your inner marketer. Rañola says, “What’s important is understanding who your stakeholders are in the data, and who is going to benefit from it. Overcommunicating and advertising is what you’re doing [and] is incredibly important because there is value in being able to share the work that you’re doing.”
Don’t be afraid to boil down your insights to the most meaningful bullet points with effective data visualizations. Think pie charts, scatterplots, timelines, etc. Keep them simple if your audience isn’t necessarily tech savvy. Hit the high notes.
And keep in mind, as human beings we process visual data light years faster than we do text so make sure your data points are easily digestible for maximum impact. This can be tough for data analysts accustomed to life in the weeds.
However, think of yourself as Eddie Van Halen trying to teach a student how to hold their guitar in their lap. That’s a big step back from your expertise, but it’s easy to forget what it’s like to not know what you don’t know. Of course, that’s not to say that your colleagues are elementary, but often, they just need you to get to brass tacks. Or you can call it hitting the high notes.
All in all, you want to take a step back and achieve a holistic approach to your competitive analysis. Additionally, keep an open mind with your data and don’t force a square peg into a round hole. Lastly, once you’ve uncovered intriguing insights, prepare visualizations that will target your audience effectively.
Reach out for a demo, and we’ll get you on the fast track to capturing competitive intelligence and growing your share of voice.