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How Product Marketers Can Make Competitive Intelligence a Priority

Picture of Lauren Kersanske
Lauren Kersanske on Fri, Oct 11, 2019

These past couple of months, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at the Product Marketing Community events to talk about how product marketers can leverage competitive insights to drive revenue. During my conversations with these product marketers, one theme that stood out was that product marketers have a difficult time prioritizing competitive intelligence (CI).

A few things I heard:

“I wish we were doing CI more consistently, but we just don’t have the time.”

“Ugh, I’m so bad at keeping up with our competitive intel. It’s been ages since I’ve really sat down and looked at it.”

“It’s so important—we just simply don’t have the headcount to dedicate to it right now.”

Simply put—many product marketers don’t have time to do competitive intelligence effectively, and therefore it becomes deprioritized. It isn’t surprising—product marketing teams are notoriously understaffed, have very little budget, and are often juggling many competing priorities from various stakeholders.

Get the Guide to Competitive Intelligence for Product Marketers

Product marketers must make time for competitive intelligence, and not because they need to check a box or assuage their guilt—it’s because competitive intelligence is an incredibly effective revenue driver. According to the State of Competitive Intelligence, those who shared competitive intelligence with their organization on a daily basis were 84% more likely to see a revenue increase than those who share intel on an ad-hoc basis. 

Building a competitive intelligence program doesn’t happen overnight, but there are a few things product marketers can do to start integrating competitive intelligence into their strategy and priorities.  

Start with this Simple Competitive Intelligence Framework

It’s best to start out simply when building (or revamping) a competitive intelligence program. The basic three-step process breaks down as follows: capture, analyze, and act.

  • Capture: track every move competitors are making both on and off their websites. This includes website changes, product reviews, product and pricing changes, employer reviews, etc.
  • Analyze: Spot the trends and meaning behind your competitors’ moves. What do each of the competitors’ moves mean for your sales, marketing, or product strategies? 
  • Act: Set action items and provide recommendations for different teams to help them meet business goals. Examples of action items include updating competitive collateral like battlecards, conduct trainings for sales on new competitor updates/features, providing roadmap direction to the product team based on market analysis, etc.

There’s more detail when it comes to designing a competitive intelligence process, but it’s best to start with the basics. The simple and repeatable nature of the framework will allow for easier adoption and integration into your daily workflow.

Four Ways to Make Competitive Intelligence a Priority

Set Goals Around Competitive Win Rate

Only 50% of companies set goals around competitive intelligence, which could partially explain it’s deprioritized among product marketers. Setting goals and/or KPIs (key performance indicators) around competitive intelligence will allow you to force the function of CI—you need to do the work if you have a goal to hit. The metric most reflective of competitive intelligence efforts is competitive win rate.

Competitive win rate is a metric that shows how often you are winning deals against a certain competitor. Understanding who you’re losing against will show where you need work in regards to your competitive intelligence. For example—if you have a low win rate against a specific competitor, you may want to refresh that competitor battlecard with new intel and talking points, or perhaps even conduct a deep-dive training on selling against that specific competitor.

Competitive win rate should be measured on a regular basis, but be sure to really dive into it during your win/loss analysis to interview sales reps who lost deals to a specific competitor, and prospects who decided to buy from a competitor.

Automate Manual Competitive Intelligence Gathering

Without automation, competitive intelligence becomes extremely manual, particularly in the intelligence gathering stage. According to State of Competitive Intelligence, much time is spent in CI is the research (e.g., capture) phase. While this stage is crucial, spending too much time here takes away from performing in-depth analysis and most importantly—driving action.

To decrease the time spent in the capture phase, you’ll want to employ automation in any way you can. If you’re just starting out, Google Alerts is an excellent (and free) way to automate intelligence gathering. You can track any mentions of your competitors, or even keywords related to your industry to receive updates on the market. Be wary though—you’ll need to set a lot of filters on your search terms or else you risk being overwhelmed with irrelevant data—the exact opposite of what you want. You’ll also only receive new announcements or content that your competitor wants to make public, so anything your competitor wants to keep quiet (ex. pricing changes) will not be picked up by Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is a great (and free) way to kickstart competitive intelligence. However, if you’re looking to eventually build a scalable, repeatable, and impactful CI program, you’ll want to invest in a solution that will automate data capture for you across millions of sources.

Involve Stakeholders in CI Activities

Product marketing has many stakeholders, particularly marketing, sales, and product management. Each of these teams rely on the output of product marketers to make strategic decisions, so rallying these key figures around competitive intelligence will make it easier to prioritize and execute.

A few examples of getting stakeholders involved:

  • Provide CI email digests for high-level updates on competitors and the market.
  • Hold quarterly meetings on competitor and market updates. Surface any key trends and recommend action items for each department.
  • Periodically check in with any stakeholders that you assigned action items based on competitive or market analysis—checking in on progress will keep the momentum going.

Set Clear Guidelines Around Non-Priorities

Another sentiment I often hear regarding competitive intelligence is that it can have the effect of making teams too reactive to competitor shifts. While competitive intelligence is crucial to driving revenue, it’s obviously bad strategy to obsess about your competition and react to every single move they make.

The best way to avoid being too reactive is to be very clear about the non-priorities—what don’t you care about? What is the business NOT doing this year? What product features are explicitly NOT in the roadmap?

Build your competitive intelligence around the business priorities for the year—features that are in the roadmap, verticals that will be targeted, etc. This will keep your competitive intelligence program from being too reactive and keep you focused on your top priorities.

Keeping competitive intelligence on the backburner results in missed revenue opportunities, so product marketers prioritizing competitive intelligence is more crucial than ever. If you’re ready to start prioritizing competitive intelligence, check out our Guide to Competitive Intelligence for Product Marketing.

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence Product Marketing

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