A Handbook to Competitive Intelligence Research for Your Business

Kimberly Surico |
 06/24/21 |
6 min read

A Handbook to Competitive Intelligence Research for Your Business

There’s no denying that social media has made the world a smaller place. Consequently, the news media and business enterprises have risen to the occasion to move at the speed of social. The great thing for brands is the vast amount of consumer and news media intelligence that is freely available.

Social listening and data analytics tools make a world of difference in research and development and forming effective marketing strategies. And using these tools for brand health monitoring is a godsend in understanding the voice of the consumer. However, these same practices and techniques should be used to extract every bit of intel you can get on your competitors.

Here, we’ll explore how to stand out in your category with our handbook to competitive intelligence strategies for your business. Specifically, we’ll break down the topic with a focus on:

  • Defining competitive intelligence
  • Why competitive intelligence research is essential for businesses
  • Competitive intelligence strategies brands use to win

It’s crucial for your brand to keep up with the shift in competitive intelligence practices as these statistics suggest:

  • More companies than ever before are seeing the critical nature of competitive intelligence research in today’s business landscape. 73% of brands allocate 20% of their technology budgets towards data analytics-based research. Not only that, 94% of businesses are planning on investing more into competitive intelligence
  • According to a survey released last year, 48% of respondents said their industry has become much more competitive in the past three years. 41% said theirs was somewhat more competitive.
  • 61% of brands say they’ve seen impacts to their revenue by implementing competitive intelligence strategies into their market research. That’s a notable increase from last year’s numbers which stood at 52%.

Competitive intelligence casts a wide net and captures all of the intel available on your competitors, which allows you to choose points of interest for a deep granular dive. Once you begin unlocking competitive intelligence, it will revolutionize your brand’s decision-making process.

what is market intelligence

Competitive Intelligence Defined

Competitive intelligence is the process of observation, data collection, and analysis of external business environments, which yield critical information allowing the observer to make effective business adjustments.

These days, the data that is available on competing brands is prolific and freely available. Brands taking the time to collect and analyze competitor data wield an extreme advantage over those that do not. Additionally, there are quite a few use cases for competitive intelligence research, including:

  • Competitive campaign analysis
  • Monitoring of competitor’s product and employee reviews
  • Merger and acquisition intelligence
  • Patent applications and grants
  • Brand health tracking
  • Consumer perception and share of voice
  • Monitoring competitor’s influencer marketing performance
  • Key opinion leader identification and monitoring

Modern data analytics practices in conjunction with social media listening tools open a vast world of opportunities to gain the upper hand in your segment through competitive intelligence. Everything that you use to measure and monitor your brand can be used to unlock competitor’s movements leaving you with a holistic viewpoint of your industry and its competitive makeup.

Furthermore, conducting your competitive market research in light of emerging trends allows you to spot first-mover opportunities knowing which brands are fleet of foot and who the laggards are within your segment.

Competitive intelligence research is much more than knowing what competitors are doing. It also includes who they’re talking to, what consumers are saying about them and their products, as well as what they’re getting right and where they’re struggling.

Creating measurable metrics around these types of competitive intelligence allows your brand to track movement over time so you can adjust accordingly. After all, disruption is always just around the corner.

Gone are the days when sales figures told the bulk of the story. As such, competitive intelligence research built with the power of artificial intelligence is fast becoming the norm, so it’s critical for brands to get on board quickly.

Let’s look into that a little further.

Why Competitive Intelligence Research is Important for Businesses

First and foremost, you need a robust picture of your brand health, and competitive intelligence research helps to inform exactly where you stand. That’s because consumer perception of your competitors fluctuates and exerts influence on your brand health.

A social media audit allows you to take a snapshot in time of where your brand health metrics stand. Repeating this process over time enables you to monitor where you’ve progressed and where you’ve lost steam.

The thing is – you should be doing this with your competitors too. That way, you know where their benchmarks are and allows you to strategize on the areas where you have the most ground to make up. Additionally, it shows where you’re holding the advantage, enabling you to work on defending that strong point.

For example, here are three of the top fast-food brands placed on a brand passion index. This is a one-month picture of each brand sized by the volume of their social media mentions. They are measured on the scatterplot by net sentiment and passion intensity. It gives us a clear picture of where everyone stands with consumer perception and volume this month.


This being the case, if brand B wants to catch up to the competition in net sentiment, they know exactly where they stand relative to the other two brands. In other words, this acts as a baseline to measure against next month to monitor progress.

Competitive intelligence research allows you to identify and quantify the metrics that matter to your brand and monitor movement over time. The opportunities are limitless, so you can keep your finger to the pulse of anything your competition is doing.

If your competitor signs on a new influencer, you can measure any aspect of consumer response that you want, including demographics, psychographics, domain response, geo regions, followers, sentiment, professions, news coverage, etc. The sky’s the limit.

Is a new technology causing a frenzy for innovation in your space? Dial into M&A chatter to monitor for what the average volume looks like so you can be alerted when volume starts moving outside of baseline. Likewise, monitor patent applications like a hawk, so you know who’s doing what and where. Additionally, gain an understanding of the active inventors to track their research and applicable activity in the space.

The opportunities for competitive intelligence abound, and social listening and data analytics tools make short work of uncovering invaluable insight into the brands at work in your space.

Competitive intelligence research affords you a serious leg-up on the competition. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Competitive Intelligence Research Strategies Brands Use to Win

One of the first things that brands do when employing a competitive intelligence strategy is to gain a concrete understanding of their share of voice. That’s not just limited to social media volume either, as it includes news media mentions, so you are familiar with both sides of the conversational coin.

As we touched on earlier, knowing the conversational metrics for your brand is the first stop. Then applying these tactics to cover competitors lets you see where you sit in your industry landscape.

Competitive intelligence research also reveals discrepancies between the social and news conversations surrounding your competition that allow you to better determine where to apply your focus. Case in point, look at the difference between social media and the news media on Kia’s product line.


Additionally, you don’t only want to cover direct competitors, so it’s a good idea to include one or two aspirational competitors and any potential disruptive companies seeking to take away some of your share of voice. Likewise, it’s never a bad idea to keep tabs on brands positioned in a lateral space should a crisis compel your brand to move into it.

One of the most significant assets in competitive intelligence research for brands is uncovering and tracking emerging trends. Once you have a broad industry viewpoint with your share of voice analysis, an understanding of emerging trends will be the holy grail of keeping you far ahead of the competition.

Why is that? Because virtually everything your brand does should be governed by where the markets are heading, and an iron grip on emergent trend discussions ensures you’re on the move before your competitors catch wind. Not only that, since you can track movement over time, you know when it’s time to let a trend go and target your products and messaging towards the next one.

If the only competitive intelligence strategies you ever implement involve share of voice and emerging trends, you’re already in good shape. However, you can go as deep as you want.

Track competitive product launches, events and partnerships. Gain insight into the nuance of global conversations through sentiment analysis. Take a deep dive into your category, the topics of discussion involved and your place within them.

For example, that’s what the advisory firm Brunswick Group did for a client seeking a concrete understanding of the global narrative surrounding the energy sector. Using social listening and visualized data analysis of media conversations, they categorized themes within the broader narrative and identified the key players making waves within the conversation.


And really, that’s just the thing – competitive intelligence is all about putting solid numbers behind otherwise abstract social and media conversations revolving around ever-changing shifts in perception.

Taking snapshots of these metrics regarding the themes, topics, brands and industries that matter to your brand and measuring them over time is the best way to ensure your brand is on a firm footing.

Is your brand dominating your industry or just treading water? Reach out for a demo, and we’ll put a whole new world of competitive intelligence right at your fingertips.

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