At this point, you’ve got a strong grasp on competitive intelligence (CI). You know what it is, why it’s important, and how to gather it. If you’re really on your game, you might even be proficient in the analysis of competitive intelligence.
That’s awesome. But, as you know, manually gathering and analyzing intel requires a substantial time investment — an investment you’d eventually like to get a return on. And the only way to get that return is to translate your findings into digestible materials that people across your company can use on a regular basis.
“But, wait — digestible materials that who can use?”
Glad you asked. In this blog post, we’ll address a fundamental question at the heart of your fledgling competitive intelligence program:
Who Uses Competitive Intelligence?
Short answer: your entire organization. Ranging from sales to product to executive leadership — and everywhere in between — there are stakeholders across your organization whose decisions will be informed (and improved!) by the intel you gather and analyze.
In an ideal world, everyone you work with is a stakeholder. This is part of the broader vision that the CI community refers to as an intelligence culture: a mindset across your organization in which everyone — regardless of department, title, or seniority — feels responsible for gathering, analyzing, disseminating, and leveraging competitive intelligence whenever possible.
With each passing year, pretty much everyone says their market is getting increasingly competitive. As this trend continues, developing an intelligence culture (no easy task, mind you) will feel less and less like a nice-to-have and more and more like a requirement.
In the meantime, we can identify five specific groups within your organization who can use competitive intelligence to their advantage:
- Sales reps
- Product managers
- Customer success reps
- Executive leaders
Let’s discuss each of these stakeholders in turn. We’ll make up a character to represent each one, and we’ll pretend they all work for Compose — a hypothetical B2B software company that sells email marketing solutions.
Sales reps use competitive intelligence to win deals.
Nicole, a sales rep at Compose, spends a lot of time on the phone with prospects. Because the market for email marketing solutions is crowded, she often speaks with prospects about the other tools they’re evaluating. At the drop of a hat, Nicole has to be ready to talk about Compose’s solutions in relation to those of Competitor A, Competitor B, and so on.
Let’s say, for example, that Nicole is speaking with a prospect whose company uses Microsoft Outlook for email. Thanks to competitive intelligence, she knows that, in comparison to Competitor A, Compose’s solutions are much better equipped to integrate with Outlook. So, when the prospect mentions that they’re seriously considering Competitor A, Nicole is ready to steer the conversation in her favor.
A battlecard is a great way to deliver competitive intelligence to someone like Nicole. The easier it is for her to get a quick, up-to-date snapshot of all the ways in which Compose is superior to Competitor A, the better she’ll be at winning deals.
Product managers use competitive intelligence to establish and refine roadmap priorities.
Mike is responsible for overseeing Compose’s ecommerce solution — i.e., the version of their product that’s designed specifically for online retailers. Again, this is a crowded space; it’s up to Mike (and his team) to make sure they’re consistently going to market with something that’s uniquely valuable. Without competitive intelligence, that’s an impossible task.
Right now, Mike is working on establishing roadmap priorities for the next two quarters. Thanks to competitive intelligence, he knows that many of Competitor B’s ecommerce customers are unhappy with their subpar landing page tool. As such, he’s confident that Compose can gain a competitive advantage in the market by using the next two quarters to make their own landing page tool more intuitive for users.
A one-pager is a great way to deliver competitive intelligence to someone like Mike. The easier it is for him to understand the ways in which Competitor B is disappointing their customers, the better he’ll be at establishing sensible roadmap priorities.
Marketers use competitive intelligence to identify and capitalize on opportunities for growth.
As an SEO specialist, Angela is tasked with driving high-quality traffic to the Compose website. She and her colleagues are creating awesome content on a regular basis, but the same can be said for many of their competitors in the email marketing space. Unless Angela can stay on top of what each competitor is doing well (and poorly) from an SEO perspective, the content she and her colleagues are creating won’t stand out to prospects.
Next month, Angela has to give a presentation to marketing leadership — one that outlines her strategy for growing website traffic. Thanks to competitive intelligence, she knows that neither Compose nor Competitor C has created much content about ecommerce marketing — a topic for which there is ample demand amongst their target audience. Clearly, this presents an opportunity that Angela can pursue over the course of the next few months.
A newsletter is a great way to deliver competitive intelligence to someone like Angela. The easier it is for her to keep track of the types of content Competitor C is and is not creating, the better she’ll be at identifying and capitalizing on opportunities for growth.
Customer Success Reps
Customer success reps use competitive intelligence to improve satisfaction and retention.
Shawn, a customer success rep at Compose, has something in common with Nicole: He spends a lot of time on the phone. Rather than bringing new customers in the door, Shawn is responsible for keeping current customers happy — i.e., keeping them from churning and giving their business to another solutions provider in the market. Though this may not be impossible without competitive intelligence, Shawn’s job is considerably easier when he has a finger on the pulse of what’s going on outside Compose’s four walls.
Earlier today, a customer expressed frustration to Shawn regarding the so-so results they’re seeing from automated email campaigns. Thanks to competitive intelligence, Shawn knows that Competitor D has recently begun positioning their solution as the number one option for anyone who wants to run automated campaigns. He also knows that his customer’s frustration stems not from an issue with Compose’s software, per se, but rather from their lack of familiarity with all the amazing features hidden in plain sight.
To Shawn, the takeaway is obvious: He better book an in-depth training call with this customer if he wants to keep them from churning and giving their business to Competitor D.
Alongside marketers, customer success reps can benefit from receiving competitive intelligence in the form of a newsletter. The easier it is for Shawn to keep up with market trends — and connect these trends back to specific pain points — the better he’ll be at retaining customers.
(Battlecards are also useful, as they enable customer success reps to respond thoughtfully and strategically when at-risk customers mention specific competitors.)
Executive leaders use competitive intelligence to define and execute long-term vision.
Brianna, as the CEO of Compose, has more than enough on her plate. She does a little bit of everything, but in general, she’s responsible for making the company successful over the long term — whether that means growing revenue past a certain threshold, capturing a certain percentage of market share, taking the company public, some combination thereof, or something else entirely. Like Mike, Brianna is clearly unable to do her job without competitive intelligence.
At the beginning of the coming year, Brianna will be meeting with her department leaders to discuss strategy for the product and the company as a whole. Specifically, they need to figure out how they’re going to grow their market share over the course of the next two years. Thanks to competitive intelligence, Brianna knows that a rapidly increasing percentage of new customers who come from competitive deals are choosing Compose due to the superiority of their conversion optimization capabilities. As such, Brianna feels confident that they should alter the company’s positioning accordingly.
A high-level dashboard is a great way to deliver competitive intelligence to someone like Brianna. The easier it is for her to quickly get a snapshot of shifts taking place in the market, the better she’ll be at defining and executing a long-term vision.
Everyone Can Use Competitive Intelligence
Now that you’ve got a general sense of who uses competitive intelligence, it’s time for you to identify the key stakeholders within your organization and find out what they need in order to do their jobs more effectively. Note that this isn’t as easy as it sounds, as not everyone who could benefit from competitive intelligence is aware of what they’re missing. You may, in other words, need to make the case for CI before diving headlong into those deliverables we discussed at the beginning of this post.
Once you’ve opened up lines of communication with your stakeholders, gotten each of them to buy into the value of CI, and found out what each of them specifically needs from you, you’ll be on your way to growing your customer base and capturing more market share.