87% of companies say that their market has become more competitive in the last three years, according to the 2019 State of Competitive Intelligence Report. With markets becoming more competitive, doing a thorough competitor analysis is a crucial step to getting a 360 view of the competitive and market landscape.
What is a Competitor Analysis?
A competitor analysis is a lot more than a feature comparison sheet. In fact, some competitive intelligence (CI) specialists will say to cover product features last and instead focus on areas like finances, positioning, or campaigns. Ultimately, the most powerful competitor analysis provides a complete view across many aspects of the competitive landscape, including where each company compares to the other on various dimensions.
There are five main aspects of a competitor's business to evaluate as part of your analysis:
Let's dive into each and some of the key elements to include for each area. You can also download our editable Competitor Analysis Template that walks through each of these components in depth.
The Competitor Analysis Process
But first, a note on making a competitor analysis constructive. The most impactful analysis is not merely a report -- rather, it's a blueprint for a company's competitive strategy. The full cycle of an impactful competitor analysis includes these four steps:
- Benchmark Performance: Take stock of the current landscape and compare your own business to the market.
- Identify Opportunities and Action Items: Drive follow-up actions in response to the findings from the benchmarking process. Be specific where possible and tie action items to desired results.
- Keep Stakeholders Updated: A competitor analysis is not a one-time effort, it is an ongoing strategy for winning in a competitive market. So, stakeholders across the business need the latest intel on an ongoing basis.
- Close the Loop: Connect with each department or employee that owned an action item to understand what actions were taken and how they performed. Revisit the competitor analysis regularly to see how your strategy has impacted the market.
This full cycle is key for an impactful competitor analysis effort. Where most analyses are lacking is going past the first step of benchmarking performance to driving action across the business and ultimately impacting the market. Be sure to complete this cycle to make the most of this effort.
So, what do you include in your competitor analysis to make sure it provides a complete and insightful review of the market? Let's dive into each of the five areas.
Starting with market insights helps provide a high-level view of the landscape and key financial factors. A market analysis should include:
- Competitors: Plotted by dimensions, such as direct or indirect, legacy or emerging, vertical, or solution
- Financials: Current standing and funding history to get an understanding of scale and stability for each company
- Key Market Trends: Whether tied to a specific competitor or generally to the market, key market trends will help get a view into how the market is growing, shrinking, or changing
Plotting your competitors along various dimensions can provide a quick and easy framework for evaluating the impact of all other insights.
Team details give you insight into what goes on behind the scenes at each company, influencing how leadership and employees think about the market and subsequently act. A team analysis should include:
- Team Overview: See each company's scale, resources, and geographic focus
- Key Executives: Get a view into their expertise and industry connections
- Employee Reviews: Trends and themes to identify strengths and weaknesses for further research.
Employee reviews and ratings give an "inside peek" into each company. Looking at overarching rating trends as well as themes from comments can provide great intel.
Product insights are key for many of your departments, from sales, who want to know how to respond to product comparison questions, to product management and customer success, who want to know how to drive development to better serve the market, to marketing and executive management, who can use this intel to influence overall strategy. A product analysis should include:
- Pricing and packaging comparisons for products and services
- Deeper feature comparison to dig into coverage and product focus
- Product review trends and themes to identify customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction in different areas. Check out sites like G2, TrustPilot, and Capterra for product reviews
- Support thread trends and themes to identify where customers are struggling and where there may be gaps in the product
Customers' product reviews can be rich with intel on how the company delivers on its products and services, and uncovers what customers care about most.
There are many different insights regarding marketing strategy and tactics to include in a competitor analysis. Each member of the marketing organization, from product marketers to PR managers to demand gen specialists should be digging into these insights to improve each of their efforts. A marketing analysis should include:
- Positioning comparison: See how each company's messaging helps them or hurts them in differentiating their solution
- Website traffic information: Gain insight into how each company is fueling its acquisition efforts and at what scale
- Social media reach: Look across various channels to review if and how they are engaging their audiences across different platforms
- SEO details: Keywords and inbound links that drive organic results for each competitor, to see where and how you can increase your own SEO results
- Content overview: Understand where and how each business is leveraging content to drive acquisition or retention, as well as reinforce their positioning and SEO strategies
- Calls to action and conversion paths: Gain insight into each company's marketing funnel and the steps they want a prospect to take to engage and become a customer
- PR activity and results: including news mentions, press releases, etc.
- Other key marketing programs: relevant events, email, promotions, etc.
- Tech stack: See where they're investing their marketing efforts
Marketing insights can provide inspiration on new campaigns to launch, give perspective on key acquisition channels by competitor, and direction on if and how to best differentiate.
Sales insights give the next level of detail regarding how each company is succeeding or failing in the marketplace in terms of acquisition and retention. A sales analysis should include:
- Sales snapshot: including customer count, geographic focus, and sales model, so you can see a company's sales success and focus
- Partner channel overview: including count and key partners identified, to gain insight into the company's channel strategy and how it relates to sales and product
- Win/loss data: including win rates and win/loss trends, to see where your team struggles or succeeds in the competitive market
It is critical to collect data on when and why you win or lose against each competitor. This can highlight where you need to invest in product, sales enablement, or other areas.
An initial benchmark of the above business elements is simply the first step in understanding and out-maneuvering your competitors. The key is to leverage this information to create a strategy and ultimately close the loop on activities driven by this approach. This process is an ongoing one, to stay on top of each competitor's moves and the many changes that can happen in the market. Armed with this intel, every leader across the business can make smarter and more strategic decisions to win in a competitive market.
Sharing Insights From Your Competitor Analysis
Once the analysis is complete, it’s time to share key takeaways. Sharing competitive insights is crucial because not only does it keep stakeholders informed—it actually has a direct impact on revenue. According to the 2019 State of Competitive Intelligence, those who share competitive intelligence data on a daily basis are 84% more likely to see a revenue increase than those who share intel on an ad-hoc basis. While a competitor analysis is a periodic initiative, sharing smaller insights daily, and then bigger picture insights regularly, will ensure your CI efforts have a greater impact.
When it comes to sharing key takeaways of your competitor analysis, there are a few methods you should try:
No one wants more meetings put on their calendar, but this one is important. Present your competitor analysis to key stakeholders only, with takeaways and proposed action items (again, you can use our handy template to do it!). Your analysis should certainly generate discussion and more than likely new action items will come about in the meeting. Once action items are decided, make sure to assign owners and check in with them to ensure the initiatives stay on track.
Email is a great way to share your takeaways with a broader audience who may not be direct stakeholders, but will still be interested and/or influenced by your analysis. While you may not share with the whole organization, you can share with the teams of the key stakeholders.
An internal wiki is a great place to share insights from your analysis because it gives everyone in the company the opportunity to learn about the competitive landscape. If you have an internal wiki, take advantage and do a write-up of your analysis for all to see. Be sure to share the link in Slack/chat channels and/or via email so everyone can access and review.
Slack is great for sharing quick competitive insights, but it can also be great for sharing the takeaways from your competitor analysis. Choose relevant channels to share your top three takeaways and link to any wiki page or further documentation that everyone can access. You’ll likely generate a lot of discussion and your coworkers will appreciate the education and transparency. Just be sure not to @ your entire #general channel—not everyone wants to be pinged about analysis, and tailored outreach is more likely to get the attention your analysis deserves.
Want to get your analysis off to a fast start? We've created a 50+ slide template that you can download and edit with your own data and analysis. The template also includes a list of (mostly free) resources to help gather competitive intelligence data.
Originally published May 3, 2017. Updated on October 2, 2019.