Competitive intelligence feels like it should be intuitive, as every brand understands its own category and competitors, right? Not entirely. The reality is that most brands make lots of dangerous assumptions about the marketplace and where their brand lives in it. And this leads to sloppy competitive intelligence that can do more harm than good.
But don’t worry – there are many ways to master competitive intelligence research – and we’ll share 12 of them below!
What is Competitive Intelligence?
First, what is competitive intelligence? It’s having an overarching understanding of what is happening in your category – both with your competitors and yourself – and the ability to drill down and see who these competitors are and what they’re doing right now. And if you’re keeping up, falling behind, or setting the pace for them to catch you! It’s having a big picture view of your company’s place in a competitive context, and those competitors fall into three categories:
- Those that are aspirational and have the processes, products and/or market share you strive to attain for your own company one day soon!
- Others are companies that are directly competing with you today.
- And then there are evolving competitors, places that you may not be entirely aware of, who may be about to gobble up a significant chunk of your category.
You want to know much more than “what they’re doing” of course. Your competitive intelligence research should reveal hints around where they’re heading; who they’re talking to; what consumers are saying about them; what they’re doing well and not so well; and anything else that can offer a competitive edge. You also need to understand your perception around those same metrics. And you need this competitive intelligence refreshed regularly – daily, even; as disruption can happen that fast.
Take ethical fashion, for instance. As we can see below, shopper sentiment certainly supports the concept. This is a well-established trend happening across retail, after all. But if we weren’t watching closely, we could miss that there is also rising consumer confusion.
What are consumers confused about? The whole process itself. They want to participate and be a part of the change, but they aren’t really sure what distinguishes ethical fashion from the “non-ethical” kind. “There are so many terms, certifications, and accreditation systems — not to mention the marketing spin and corporate greenwashing — to navigate.” As a result, many shoppers are avoiding purchasing new things altogether, turning instead to second-hand and thrift items. And this confusion could lead retailers in an entirely different direction.
Similarly, there’s a lot to keep track of on a daily basis for every industry – and it’s entirely doable. And we have 12 essential concepts, tips, tools and methods that will help companies use competitive intelligence to drive successful outcomes for their brands.
1. Competitive Intelligence Comes From Unlikely Sources
Competitive intelligence can be found on a wide variety of sources online, from news and blogs, social channels, forums and comment data to employee reviews, call logs, meeting transcripts, patent and company data and a variety of sentiment analytics teased out of everything previously listed.
Would most companies have considered Reddit as a source of competitive intelligence before the GameStop stock price conversations happened? There are many other unlikely sources out there – and you need to have a master dashboard capturing it all.
2. Your Competitors Are Watching You
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but one to come to terms with. Odds are, someone in your space is capturing competitive intelligence about your business and they’ve doing so for some time now. You haven’t entirely neglected your competitive intelligence game, but they’ve already leveled up to their data analytics game and are doing it better than you. They may be a few steps ahead, but you can catch up quickly.
3. Customers May Not Tag You, But They’re Talking About You.
And they’re also talking about your competitors. They rarely tag you by name, unless they’re super annoyed and seeking a refund or just love your brand so very much. Those instances are outliers though, and offer an unrealistic view of the landscape. Unfortunately, this surface view is the intel your marketing folks are depending on right now to plan your campaigns. Time to change that!
4. Your Missed Opportunities Are Competitor Gold.
When you drop the ball, you can bet a savvy social listener is watching and ready to pick it up and win over your unhappy customers. But this can go the other way as well. When competitors aren’t seeing what consumers are saying about them, good and bad, you can use it to your advantage. And you certainly should be!
5. Reporters Love a Scoop & Understanding Their Preferences Makes Connecting Easier.
Who are the key reporters in your industry – and what are their specific preferences for story ideas? You can leave this up to your media relations team to sort out, or can empower them with market intelligence that details who covers what in each tier – and also whether or not that writing is resonating with your audience.
6. Setting Sentiment & Mention Alerts Will Set You Apart
Alerts are great and they aren’t restricted to mentions about your brand or sentiment around your brand or category. You can set them to alert you to keywords like “boycott” as they relate to your competitors as well. And you can also set sentiment alerts around your competitor, so you’ll know when they’re facing a crisis, maybe even before they do! Fast food companies are quick to jump on these events, and this is how they do it.
When the tweets are as broken as the ice cream machine. https://t.co/esdndK1iFm
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) November 24, 2017
7. Global and Regional Conversations Matter
Every company is global now and should consider itself as such, or they’re missing out on a huge potential consumer set. Do you know what is being said by consumers in your category globally? And how that is different from domestic and even regional conversations? Your competitors probably don’t either. Be the first and win consumer love with your advanced understanding.
8. The News Media vs Social Media Distinction That Most Brands Miss
The conversation happening in the news media is rarely a 1:1 match with the consumer conversation on social. Oftentimes, the news picks up viral social stories and others it could be in the driver’s seat, but regardless of which comes first in this chicken-egg scenario, there’s always a distinct difference to be aware of. One is reporting on facts and the other is based on emotion – and neither fits neatly into one of those categories. Seeing that comparison side-by-side will set you apart:
9. Competitive Intelligence Capture Doesn’t Need to Be Time Consuming
With lots of premade dashboards and widgets available to rapidly organize competitive intelligence, your time to insight is cut down to a fraction of what you’d expect. This doesn’t mean you can cut corners, as you’ll still want to read about an overarching topic before narrowing down your insight, but it does mean you can get it done much faster than you currently are.
10. AI Does The Heavy Lifting for You
Advanced AI is amazing – it all but eliminates analyst bias by surfacing competitive intelligence your human eye may not have even searched for to begin with. Having a human eye on your results to help narrow it down is key though – this does not replace people by any stretch. It analyzes massive datasets in minutes, taking care of the heavy lifting and leaving the fine tuning to people best suited for the task.
11. Competitive Intelligence Should Inform Every Aspect of Your Business
It’s a mistake to think consumer, market and competitive intelligence applies only to marketing campaigns. What is happening online is happening in the world, more so now than ever before. And there’s insight available to inform strategic planning in every bit of your business. It’s just knowing where to look for it, and sorting out the noise from the actionable insight.
12. Both R&D and M&A Benefit from Competitive Intelligence
When researching new ideas to develop, it’s great to have access to patent and company data of other companies that may be pursuing related opportunities. And the ability to upload and analyze earning call transcripts, for example, is an untapped resource for most businesses. Imagine having that insight at your fingertips? You could right now!
Reach out for a demo and we’ll help you sort the specific combination to unlock your competitive intelligence story and win again!