Competitive intelligence (CI) is hardly new—heck, it’s been around as long as businesses have had competitors. However, just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s any easier. In our current age, millions of signals are being generated by businesses every day across the web—signals that often indicate a small piece of a bigger strategy.
CI has many struggles, but among the most difficult is not only what to capture, but what to do with the intelligence once you have it. And knowing how to act on CI is crucial—according to the 2019 State of Competitive Intelligence, companies who shared intelligence on a daily basis were 84% more likely to see an increase in revenue.
Let’s walk through the top 10 types of competitive intelligence you should start tracking and then how to leverage them to drive action in your organization.
Top 10 Most Effective Competitive Intelligence Types
Messaging & Positioning Changes
Tracking changes to your competitors’ messaging and positioning is a subtle yet extremely effective way to gauge where your competitor might be headed in terms of strategy. Messaging shows up everywhere on your competitors’ website properties, but typically the best places to look are:
- Product pages
- Pricing & packaging pages
- Marketing campaigns/landing pages
- Blog posts
Pricing & Packaging Update
Pricing and packaging changes are, not surprisingly, one of the most effective types of intelligence you can find. Updates to pricing or packaging are critical to share with internal teams like sales and can also affect marketing campaigns, positioning principles, and more. On top of that, these types of changes can indicate broader shifts in a competitor’s strategy - moving up or down market, expanding or focusing product lines, etc.
Campaign or Website A/B Test
Marketing tests - such as an A/B test of a call to action or landing page - can be particularly useful in giving a view into what your competitors are planning to do in the future. If you knew what your competitors were going to do before it happened, what would you do differently? Monitoring campaign tests gives you that exact opportunity. Also, by monitoring both the test and what gets rolled out in the future - the winning variation - you can learn from your competitor’s heavy lifting what works and what doesn’t in your industry.
Quite a few companies will publish their product roadmaps to public or somewhat hidden customer sites to share with their users. Undoubtedly, getting a view into what your competitors are developing and the direction their product is headed is incredible intel to share and discuss with product and executive teams alike.
Third-party product reviews on sites like G2 are an excellent source of competitive intelligence. Product reviews tell you exactly what your competitors’ customers like and dislike about their products and services, which can help you understand their strengths, potential product gaps, etc. Understanding what your competitors’ customers are saying about them can help you capitalize on their weaknesses and gain a competitive advantage.
Monitoring a competitor’s product page goes beyond reading the feature details and positioning statements. Truly keeping tabs on your competitor’s moves means capturing when features have been removed as well as added. Removing a feature can be particularly thought-provoking and actionable because this change takes effort but results in offering less to their customer base. Is it because they lost specialized resources to support that feature? Is it because they’re shifting to a different target market? Is it because they will be relaunching a new version of that feature? Planning for the different scenarios when you identify this change is key to taking advantage of competitive opportunities.
Executive Team Update
One commonality of each of these engaging competitive intelligence types is that they signal so much by a seemingly simple change. Executive team updates are no different in that regard - the removal of a CEO or the addition of a new VP Services is big news inside and outside the company. What’s needed when a change like this occurs is to discuss its meaning and share the takeaway with impacted teams. For example, if the VP Engineering is removed, that could mean that there have been challenges with product innovation or reliability and that there could be a gap in product advancements while the company has no engineering leader. This insight - the takeaway determined by analyzing the intelligence - is great input for the sales team’s competitive positioning or marketing team’s competitive campaigns.
Office Location Added
Office locations are meaningful signals of a company’s growth and focus, especially for industries that are even more locally focused in their go-to-market strategy. Oftentimes, additions of office locations may come before an announcement of new funding, hiring plans, or product initiatives tied to the new location.
Open Job Postings
Job postings are an excellent source of competitive intelligence, because they tell you exactly where your competitor is making investments across all key departments—marketing, product, and sales. Is your competitor hiring a paid media marketer? You’ll likely start competing with them more aggressively on AdWords, LinkedIn, and other paid channels. Are they hiring specific types of engineers? That could tell you where they are making key product investments.
Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed allow employees to review their employers to tell the world what they really think about working at their company. Knowing what your competitors’ employees are saying about the company is an excellent source of competitive intelligence because it gives an unfiltered view into what’s going on behind the scenes.
For example—let’s say your competitor’s customer support employees are leaving reviews that have a recurring theme of “lack of career advancement” in their department. That could tell you that your competitor is not investing in customer support as a whole—presenting an opportunity for you to gain the advantage in that specific area.
What You Can Do with these Competitive Intelligence Types
There are many types of different competitive insights out there, but they aren’t very useful if you don’t do anything with them. Driving action is an essential part of CI, so here are a few actions and outputs you can execute for each team from the top 10 competitive insights.
Sales is on the front line every day selling against your competition, so you want to be sure that the competitive insights you are capturing are benefiting them directly.
- Update battlecards: Battlecards are essential for sales teams to sell successfully in a competitive deal, so any relevant competitive insights should trigger an update to your battlecards. Remember—the only thing worse than no battlecard is an inaccurate battlecard—if a sales rep gives the wrong information to a prospect regarding a competitor, the trust with the prospect is broken.
- Create sales collateral: Lots of sales collateral should have relevant competitive and market information, including (but not limited to) sales presentations, competitive comparison pages, email templates, etc.
- Hold a sales training: If you find that a competitor has made significant changes (or your win rate against them is decreasing), it may be worth holding a deep-dive training for sales reps on that competitor.
Product management needs to know where the market is headed, and many of the competitive insights listed will help deepen their understanding of the market and inform roadmap priorities.
- Create a CI digest: Sending the product team (or all teams, really) a weekly digest of product-related competitive insights will help keep them in-the-know about the shifts competitors are making in their product and service offerings.
- Provide roadmap direction: If you glean insights that signal your competitors are making significant changes in their product, you can help provide roadmap direction to your product team based on your market analysis.
- Look ahead with product job postings: Letting your product team know where your competitor is hiring in their product department gives a pretty clear idea where they may be going strategy-wise. What types of engineers are they hiring? Are they hiring a new product executive known for their expertise in freemium models? Insights such as these can help anticipate any major product launches.
- Run competitive campaigns: Showing your marketing team what types of campaigns competitors are running could inspire them to run their own competitive campaigns to help drown out your competitor’s message.
- Look ahead with marketing job postings: Same with the product job postings above—knowing where your competitor is making their marketing investments shows where they are headed with their marketing strategy.
- Lean into gaps in the competitor’s marketing strategy: Is your competitor publishing a lot of content on a certain new topic? Or are they increasing engagement on channels like YouTube? Knowing where your competitor is not investing can help your marketing team lean into those gaps.
- Create an executive summary: This is similar to a CI digest, except much more high-level. Executives just want the major takeaways about what’s happening in the market—major product announcements, SEC filings, mergers and acquisitions, funding rounds, etc.
- Give a high-level executive presentation: If you have the opportunity, giving the executive team a presentation on the state of the market based on the competitive insights you’ve collected is an excellent way to keep them notified of how the market is shifting.
- Look ahead with executive team changes: Same with marketing and product job postings—knowing when your competitor makes changes to their executive team can indicate where they are going with their overall company strategy. Letting your executive team know of these changes will help spark discussion at the highest level of the company.
These are just 10 of the many types of competitive intelligence needed to get a full picture of your competitors’ moves. Ensure you’re tracking these and every aspect of your competitor’s digital footprint to find actionable intelligence for every team in your business.
Originally published May 17, 2018. Updated on December 19, 2019.
Topics: Competitive Intelligence