Integrating competitive intelligence into your business strategy is not always a seamless process, especially if you don’t know where to start to gather the intelligence. Gathering intel is a critical step in a successful competitive intelligence process. Before you gather intel, you need to identify your competitors and identify areas of interest to track in your competitors’ digital footprints. Once you’ve gathered the intel, you need to create a competitive analysis, communicate the intel to key stakeholders, and then you are able to turn your data into results. Gathering competitive intelligence data is typically the most time-consuming piece of the competitive intelligence process -- The State of Market Intelligence found that 43% of time in the competitive intelligence process goes toward the research phase. So, any improvements to this step in the process will provide great benefits and time savings. Let’s take a look at the best practices for gathering competitive intel.
How to Prepare to Gather Competitive Intelligence
First, you need to decide who you want to track, and why you want to track them. This helps you narrow down your competitive landscape and focus your actions on the competitors that you directly compete against. You can also learn from your indirect and aspirational competitors but it’s best to start small by tracking five direct competitors, and then scale your efforts later. By starting small, you’ll be able to gather enough comparisons between your competitors, without getting overwhelmed by data.
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You’ll also want to hone in on key areas of interest about your competitors. Are you interested in their marketing efforts? Their product updates? Their team? This is another variable for ensuring you are gathering the most valuable competitive intel.
The next action to take before you begin to gather competitive intel is to set internal objectives and goals for the data. Combine both your list of key competitors and your areas of interest to refine your search efforts. You want to make sure that the data you’re collecting isn’t an empty effort, and that the data is being used to benefit your strategy. So, where can you look to find the intel you’re seeking?
The Best Sources for Gathering Competitive Intelligence
There are many sources that you can explore to gain intelligence about your competitors. Since most, if not all, businesses have a robust digital footprint, it’s easy to source information, but it can be hard to digest all of the information. Dive into these sources to gain relevant intel on your competition.
Looking at your competitors’ websites can open up an endless supply of competitive intelligence, that’s why it’s important to track website updates across your competitors’ websites. A company website is home to an abundance of information that can be used for competitive intelligence. Navigating the many pages of a company website may seem daunting, but if you break it down into key categories, you can unwrap plenty of intel. You can get information about their team from their about us page, and information on customers and partners by looking at the logos listed on their website. It’s important to note when people or companies are added or removed from the website, too.
The product and pricing section of a website is extremely important to watch. Key changes to those pages such as products added, data sheets, or pricing changes can be beneficial intel to gather for both product and sales teams.
Oftentimes, a company will test or launch campaigns and promotions directly on their website. Keep an eye out for changes in landing pages, calls-to-action, and promotions or events being highlighted on different pages.
Overall, pay attention to how a company is positioning themselves and how their messaging changes across their website. Set a cadence for how frequently to check for new updates across a website. Start with weekly checks to catch changes while they’re fresh, and adjust the frequency as time goes on.
Support Threads and Reviews
A highly valuable and free resource for gathering competitive intelligence data is your competitors’ customers. On review sites, customers will be extremely honest, giving you great intel about products - pros and cons, customer service, and overall customer satisfaction. New reviews are added daily to these websites. Similar to the frequency of checking your competitors’ main websites, do a sweep of all relevant review sites on a weekly basis to see what customers are saying. If your competitor has a major update to their product, increase the frequency that you check the review sites to daily or every other day, that way you can gauge how their latest updates are performing in your market.
To gain insight into your competitors’ media strategy, keep track of news mentions, press releases, and awards won by your competitors. Looking at which awards they’ve won allows you to see how they position themselves. This is beneficial not only to track their publicity, but also to apply their big news to your own strategy. An easy and efficient way to follow all news mentions is by setting up Google Alerts for each of your competitors.
Content and Social Media
Your competitors’ social media presence can present you with a lot of valuable competitive intel. Since there are numerous social media channels, each platform has the potential to offer you different pieces of intel. For example, Twitter is likely used more for customer interaction, whereas LinkedIn is more professional and could be used for job postings and company updates. Exploring your competitors’ social media presence can give you insight into multiple areas of their business. On all social media sites, you should follow, or subscribe to your competitors’ pages.
The primary content source for a company is typically their company blog. It’s beneficial to subscribe to their blog, that way you get their updates as soon as they’re live. In addition, Medium is a highly trafficked website that companies use to publish articles. Following them on Medium is another way to keep track of their new content. Video is often being used as a beneficial resource for lead generation and thought leadership as well. Pay attention to a company’s use of YouTube or publishing of videos to their social media platforms. Keep track of their latest content offers as well, such as ebooks, white papers, and videos.
Organizing the Data
When sourcing all of this data, it’s critical to keep all of the intel in one place. You can build competitor profiles along the way, loaded with key information about each competitor. That way, when the time comes to conduct analyses, you have built profiles on all of your competitors and all of the information will be ready for you to analyze.
Check out These Additional Tools to Get Started
If you’re looking to expand your competitive intelligence data sources, these nine tools that can help you gather more intel.
- US Census Bureau
- Pew Research Center
- Google Alerts
- Google Keyword Planner
- Survey Monkey