As a business leader, you know that making strategic decisions is crucial for success. But how can you ensure that you’re making the right decisions?
The answer lies in using competitive intelligence.
In this issue, we’ll explore how to use competitive intelligence to drive strategic decision-making, from identifying key players in your industry to best practices for using competitive intelligence.
So, let’s get started!
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is gathering and analyzing information about your competitors, the market, and industry trends to inform strategic decision-making.
It’s like being a detective, trying to gather clues about your competition and their strategies. By doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of the market, identify opportunities and threats, and make more informed decisions.
Identifying the Key Players in Your Industry
The first step in using competitive intelligence is identifying the key players in your industry. This process includes analyzing your direct competitors, identifying potential new competitors, and analyzing the competitive landscape.
When analyzing your direct competitors, looking at factors such as market share, product offerings, pricing, and marketing strategies is essential. You can gather this information through various sources, such as industry reports, public filings, and competitor websites.
But don’t stop there. Identifying potential new competitors who may disrupt the market is also essential. New competitors could include startups, new product offerings, or companies from other industries entering your market.
By identifying these potential threats early on, you can better prepare your company to respond.
In addition to analyzing your competitors, examining the overall competitive landscape is essential. Look at regulatory changes, emerging technologies, and changing consumer preferences.
By understanding the larger context in which your business operates, you can make more informed decisions about your strategy.
Gathering and Analyzing Competitive Intelligence
Once you’ve identified the key players in your industry, the next step is to gather and analyze competitive intelligence. You need to collect data from primary and secondary sources, analyze the data to identify patterns and trends, and use competitor analysis tools and software to gain insights.
Primary sources include first-hand information such as customer feedback, interviews with industry experts, and employee insights.
- Former employees of competitors
- Industry analysts and domain experts
- Customer-facing and field employees (sales & field marketing)
Secondary sources include data that has already been published, such as industry reports, news articles, and social media.
- Competitor websites – copy, keywords, and search traffic (SEO)
- Competitor social media – company page, leadership profiles, and advertisements
- Competitor content – content shared on the internet and social media (white papers, brochures, case studies, and others.)
- Email marketing – newsletters and marketing emails
- Press releases – PR releases and announcements sent to news agencies
- Competitor support sites – reviews, Q&A, and customer support requests
- Financial reports/disclosures – annual reports, analyst presentations, call transcripts, SEC filings, and others.
- Patents and patent applications – US & global patents and applications
- Product/technical information – product and technical specifications from the internet or inside the product packaging
- Investment websites – Morningstar, E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, PitchBook, and VentureBeat
- Industry analysis websites – Industrial Info Resources, IBISWorld, Nielsen, Forrester, and others.
- News/Magazines – your choice of news sites and magazines
- Trade journals – niche and market vertical trade journals and magazines
- Third-party review sites – independent product, service, and company review sites
- Forums – internet forums that discuss products, markets, trends, and people.
- Trade shows and events – competitor booths and speeches
- Academic research – is often overlooked – research that cites companies, provides case studies, examines products, strategies, and other research.
To analyze the data effectively, look for patterns and trends that inform your decision-making.
For example, this data might include identifying changes in customer preferences, market trends, or the performance of your competitors.
Tools for Competitive Intelligence
Competitor analysis tools and software can also help gain insights. These tools can provide data on factors such as website traffic, social media engagement, and search engine rankings.
These tools give you a more comprehensive understanding of your competitors’ strategies and performance.
But since every competitive analysis has different goals, it’s hard to know which tools for competitive analysis are beneficial for your project. Plus, there are a ton of “paid” tools out there.
However, I’ll list some of my favorite free tools you probably haven’t considered.
Semrush is my favorite competitive intelligence tool. It helps you gain insights into your competitors’ strategies, tactics, and activities. With Semrush, you can find out what keywords they are ranking for, how much traffic they’re getting from those keywords, their backlink profiles, and their social media strategy.
Analyzing this data lets you quickly understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a strategy to outpace them in search engine rankings. Additionally, Semrush allows you to monitor your competitors on an ongoing basis to remain ahead of the curve.
Identifies the keywords that your competitors are buying on Google AdWords. When you use this tool, you can determine who your competitors are targeting and how they use ads to drive lead generation.
Once you have this information, develop a content marketing and advertising plan to “steal” leads from your competitors.
Google Advanced Search
You might be thinking, wait, what? C’mon. But hear me out. You can use Google Advanced Search to find your competition’s public documents. Go to Google advanced search.
Type in your competitor’s name. Then, scroll down to “file type.” Now you can search for pdf, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Another way to use google search as a competitive analysis tool is to do a specific site search. In the search bar, type site:competitorsurl.com, then filetype:PDF or any other keyword. Don’t put the http or www. If I were doing this for GE it would look like this – site:ge.com filetype:PDF
Use G2 as a competitive analysis tool to determine market position. This site is a peer-to-peer review site. You can gain valuable information from verified users of software and services. You can collect “voice of the customer” about competitive products.
Facebook Ad Library
I love using Facebook’s Ad Library as a competitive analysis tool! You search for your competitor’s ads. Then, reverse engineer your competitor’s funnel. Seriously, you can figure out their step-by-step process to generate leads. You’ll also find out their target audience.
Like SpyFu, you can create a GTM strategy to beat your competitor’s lead generation process. This works for all products, including large capital industrial equipment.
You might be saying, “no way! LinkedIn?” But you have no idea how much competitive data you can gather from LinkedIn. Go to your competitor’s company page. Look at the documents, presentations, videos, and posts.
Or, search LinkedIn for people that use your competitor’s products or former employees. Send an invite asking for a quick 15-minute call. Lots of people will say, “Sure, happy to help.”
Give these competitive analysis tools a chance. Test them out. I bet you’ll be surprised at the competitive analysis you can pull together using these simple tools.
Incorporating Competitive Intelligence into Strategic Decision-Making
So, you’ve identified your key competitors and gathered and analyzed competitive intelligence. Now what?
The next step is to incorporate that intelligence into your strategic decision-making.
There are several ways to do this. For example, you can use competitive intelligence to identify market gaps and opportunities. By understanding what your competitors are doing well (and not so well), you can identify areas where you can differentiate yourself in the market.
Similarly, understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses can inform your strategy.
For example, if your competitors struggle with customer service, you might prioritize improving your customer service to differentiate yourself.
Competitive intelligence can also help you assess the potential impact of strategic decisions.
So, if you’re considering entering a new market, you can use competitive intelligence to understand the competitive landscape and potential barriers to entry.
Finally, creating a feedback loop is essential to continually incorporate new intelligence into your decision-making. Your feedback loop might include:
- Regularly updating your competitive intelligence strategy.
- Revisiting your competitive landscape analysis.
- Gathering further information from primary and secondary sources.
Best Practices for Using Competitive Intelligence
It’s necessary to follow competitive intelligence best practices. These include maintaining ethical and legal practices, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the information, assigning a dedicated team or individual to manage competitive intelligence, and continually reassessing and updating your competitive intelligence strategy.
- Maintaining ethical and legal practices is crucial to ensure that you’re gathering and appropriately using competitive intelligence. You need to ensure that you’re not collecting information deceptively or illegally, respecting the privacy of individuals and companies, and following all applicable laws and regulations.
- Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of information is also critical. You need to verify information from multiple sources, evaluate the credibility of sources, and analyze data in a rigorous and systematic way.
- Assigning a dedicated team or individual to manage competitive intelligence can also help ensure you’re using it effectively. You should consider hiring a competitive intelligence specialist or assigning someone on your team to gather and analyze competitive intelligence.
Finally, it’s important to reassess and update your competitive intelligence strategy continually. You must revisit your competitive landscape analysis, gather new information from primary and secondary sources, and evaluate your current strategy’s effectiveness.
Using competitive intelligence to drive strategic decision-making is critical for success in today’s competitive business landscape.
You can make more informed and effective strategic decisions by identifying key players in your industry, gathering and analyzing competitive intelligence, and incorporating that intelligence into your decision-making.
Remember to follow best practices such as maintaining ethical and legal practices, ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the information, assigning a dedicated team or individual to manage competitive intelligence, and continually reassessing and updating your competitive intelligence strategy.
By using competitive intelligence effectively, you can gain a competitive edge in your industry and position your business for long-term success. So, start gathering those clues and making informed decisions today!
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