Across all industries, it's gotten harder for brands to stand out among the competition. According to a 2020 survey by Crayon, businesses have, on average, 29 competitors — a 16% increase from 2019. Small and large companies alike are fighting for consumers' attention through targeted marketing campaigns, persuasive sales teams, and competitive pricing structures. The question is, how can a brand stay competitive as new companies emerge every day and threaten its position? One solution is competitive intelligence (CI) – a process that can drive revenue and keep brands ahead in their industry. Let's get into what CI is, what it isn't, and how brands can harness it. Competitive intelligence (CI) is the practice of monitoring, gathering, and analyzing data – through legal and ethical means – on your competitors and industry to make better business decisions. It can help brands identify gaps in their strategies and discover growth opportunities. In the past, it was primarily enterprise-level companies that had the resources to invest in CI, but that's changing. In 2017, the Crayon study reported that only 37% of businesses had CI teams or dedicated CI employees. In 2020, that number grew by 20%. Given how attainable information is online, it's now easier for small businesses to implement CI tactics without shelling out on resources. Another thing to note about competitive intelligence is that those insights are not only for C-suite executives. With the information gathered through CI, teams in: With CI, you treat your industry as a game and your competitors as players. The end goal is to leverage key insights from their plays to determine your next move.
What is competitive intelligence?
How to Conduct Competitive Intelligence Research
1. Identify your competitors.
Across all industries, it's gotten harder for brands to stand out among the competition. According to a 2020 survey by Crayon, businesses have, on average, 29 competitors — a 16% increase from 2019.
Small and large companies alike are fighting for consumers' attention through targeted marketing campaigns, persuasive sales teams, and competitive pricing structures.
The question is, how can a brand stay competitive as new companies emerge every day and threaten its position?
One solution is competitive intelligence (CI) – a process that can drive revenue and keep brands ahead in their industry.
Let's get into what CI is, what it isn't, and how brands can harness it.
Competitive intelligence (CI) is the practice of monitoring, gathering, and analyzing data – through legal and ethical means – on your competitors and industry to make better business decisions. It can help brands identify gaps in their strategies and discover growth opportunities.
In the past, it was primarily enterprise-level companies that had the resources to invest in CI, but that's changing. In 2017, the Crayon study reported that only 37% of businesses had CI teams or dedicated CI employees. In 2020, that number grew by 20%.
Given how attainable information is online, it's now easier for small businesses to implement CI tactics without shelling out on resources.
Another thing to note about competitive intelligence is that those insights are not only for C-suite executives. With the information gathered through CI, teams in:
With CI, you treat your industry as a game and your competitors as players. The end goal is to leverage key insights from their plays to determine your next move.
If you don't know who your competitors are, it will make it that much harder to gather valuable information.
Start by narrowing down your top direct competitors. These are brands that offer a similar product or service and target the same user persona.
Then, compile a secondary list of indirect competitors. They'll provide a different product or service but may still attract your target audience. It's good to track for inspiration rather than for competitive advantage.
Once you have your list, rank them by threat level.
2. Set objectives.
Before you start conducting CI research, set your objectives. Ask yourself and your team: "What do we want to learn? " This will help you determine which avenues to pursue and which data sources on which to focus.
Let's say high-end handbag company Amore wants to better understand its competitors' marketing strategy, specifically their messaging, campaigns, and content marketing. This is a very specific goal that gives a clear direction to your CI team. From there, the team can devise a plan to find that data.
3. Determine data collection strategies.
Now that your CI team knows the end goal, they can set up their data collection tools.
Staying with Amore's goal of understanding its competitors' marketing approach, the intel team will likely look at their websites, landing pages, blog posts, and downloadable offers – to name a few.
Social monitoring and social listening will also be valuable in understanding what content Amore's competitors are putting out there and how consumers are responding.
Having a plan of action for data collection helps CI teams stay within the scope of the project. When you cast a net too wide, it can be difficult to know where to start.
4. Gather and analyze your data.
Now that you have your competitors, goals, and research plans outlined, you can get to work.
The data gathering process can take weeks or months, depending on your goals. As you compile your data, using a CI tool will be instrumental in categorizing your data for analysis later. Jump to that section here.
Once you have enough information, things get fun. You can start looking for patterns and discover strengths and weaknesses in your competitors.
5. Relay insights to key stakeholders.
Identifying themes in your research is the first part of the process, the second is presenting your insights to key stakeholders.
They can then harness this information to further the growth of the business and generate more revenue.
One thing to keep in mind is that just like for any data analysis, you are the storyteller. You are tasked with not only analyzing it but also framing it to explain why it matters. Without that key component, it can be difficult to understand where to go next.
You'll also want to create reports tailored to the team. For instance, your sales team may find battle cards to be most useful while your marketing team may prefer a visual reporting breakdown. If you're not sure what would work best, go straight to the source. Collaborate with your teams to determine the best way to communicate your findings.
Competitive Intelligence Examples
CI work can include anything from tracking your competitors' pricing model to monitoring their social media activity. It all depends on how much time and how many resources your team is willing to invest. Here are the most popular sources and intel used for CI:
- Press releases
- Job postings
- Ad campaigns
- Lead magnets, such as ebooks, white papers, and templates
- Product and service updates (rollouts, updates to features, packages, etc ...)
- Pricing changes
- Customer review sites
- Rebranding announcements
- Website changes or redesigns
- Sales calls and client communications
- Earnings reports (for publicly traded companies)
While some of this information will be gathered by the CI team, other departments can also submit their intel. For instance, sales representatives can be especially useful when gathering intel, as they have direct contact with leads and customers.
Competitive Intelligence Best Practices
1. Stay within legal limits.
This may seem obvious but a term like competitive intelligence can give the wrong impression.
When doing any sort of CI work, you must stay within legal limits. Accessing information through illegal measures, such as hacking or phone tapping, crosses over to "espionage" territory.
If there's ever doubt on a CI approach, err on the side of caution and consult with your legal team. If you don't have an internal team, reach out to a corporate lawyer who can offer some insight on the best route to take.
2. Be ethical.
Just because it's legal, doesn't mean you should do it.
Let's say your team discovers a disgruntled employee from a competitor has recently quit and has key information on the business' strategy over the next five years.
While it's not illegal to reach out to the employee, it may be unethical as the employee may be tempted to reveal sensitive information.
Use good judgment. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
3. Share insights often.
One study by Crayon found that businesses that share CI at least once a week were twice as likely to have revenue increases than those who shared them less often.
With that in mind, sharing insights should be done often and regularly. CI is an ongoing process, not a one-and-done tactic.
As long as your company is growing, you'll need to keep an eye on the competition.
4. Contextualize reports.
An important part of CI is sharing insights regularly.
Whether it's through a newsletter, a monthly email report, or a meeting, context is everything.
For instance, let's say the CI team at Amore reports that their direct competitor Abella has launched a collaboration with a luxury clothing brand. That report should also mention how it affects Amore's positioning.
After all, the purpose of tracking competitors is to leverage that knowledge to improve your own positioning.
In this example, the collaboration with the clothing brand could solidify Abella as a luxury brand and help it move upmarket. This could weaken Amore's position and require stronger messaging surrounding the product's exclusivity and craftsmanship.
Also, insights don't happen in a vacuum. They're built over months or years of trends. As such, adding historical data can also help frame these insights and enable strategic decisions.
Competitive Intelligence Tools
Crayon is one of the leading competitive intelligence platforms in the market. The software offers a centralized platform to store and analyze data from over 300 million sources and over 100 data types.
You can track your competitors' digital footprint and easily filter through everything from social media and events to customer reviews and financial reports. The platform's top features include:
- Daily and weekly digests – You can set alerts to receive updates every time there is a change in something you're tracking, like a pricing page. Crayon also assigns a market analyst to your account to curate weekly custom reports.
- Sales battle cards – This makes battle cards easily accessible to your sales reps and has the power to analyze which plays are impacting revenue.
- Automated categorization – If your CI team is gathering data from multiple sources, Crayon automatically organizes that data for easy analysis.
To request pricing, you must contact the company.
Kompyte makes it easy to visualize the changes in your competitors' pages. They have a before-and-after module that allows you to easily pinpoint changes on a page.
The tool provides details on the effectiveness of your competitors' ads, giving you insight into which opportunities are worth exploring and which ones to avoid. This includes A/B tests and targeted keywords.
Beyond that, CI teams can also set KPIs and monitor them on the platform to ensure they're on track to meet their goals and take action quickly based on performance.
To request pricing, you must contact the company.
SEMrush is the place to go for a deep dive into your competitors' domain performance.
The platform allows brands to monitor other domains' authority, their link-building efforts, paid search strategies, and more across multiple channels.
They offer a free version with some access to competitive research tools. However, the paid versions – ranging from $119 to $449 a month – unlock access to traffic analytics along with several toolkits for SEO, advertising, social media, and content marketing.
To get a more holistic view of your competitors' online presence for free, consider SimilarWeb.
The platform has monitoring, benchmarking, and analytics capabilities to help scaling businesses better understand their market.
From SEO and web traffic to ad placement, the platform's CI capabilities are extensive in both free and paid versions. For pricing details on the enterprise plans, you must reach talk to a SimilarWeb consultant.
If you're low on resources or don't need an extensive CI program, Visualping is an easy and free way to keep track of your competitors and their website changes.
The site monitors website changes and alerts you via email, text, Slack, or API. You can specify what areas of the page you would like to track along with how often you'd like to be alerted.
All you need to start is an email and a website to track. However, for business use, the monthly cost ranges from $20 to $135.
The key takeaway is that when running a business, staying in your lane is important but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look left or right from time to time to see what everyone else is up to. When done right, CI can be an incredible asset to every brand.
Topics: Conducting Marketing Research
What is competitive intelligence in marketing? ›
The definition of competitive intelligence (CI) or competitor intelligence is the process in which a company gathers and analyzes information about its industry, business environment, competitors, and products with the goal of directing their future strategy.What are the 3 types of market intelligence? ›
The four cornerstones of Market Intelligence are Competitor Intelligence, Product Intelligence, Market Understanding, and Customer Understanding.What are the key components of competitive intelligence? ›
The three main components of competitive Intelligence
To begin with, there are three main components of competitive Intelligence: market research, analysis, and strategy.
For example, A mobile company wants to understand the competitor's position in the market to launch its own product in the same segment. A competitor analysis survey can be conducted to understand the competitor's position in the market, their product features, and their market share.What is an example of marketing intelligence? ›
Examples of market intelligence data include market growth rate figures and competitor analysis data (i.e. how many companies a target is directly competing with). This can give decision makers more insight into how external factors are impacting target accounts.Why is competitive intelligence important to marketing strategy? ›
Competitive intelligence can not only get you good customer knowledge - which will be invaluable in forming your marketing strategy - but help you examine the marketing mix of competitive brands and products in the space.What are the 3 keys to marketing? ›
- Market Research. Before you can effectively create a marketing strategy, research is key. ...
- Adequate Data. When trying to carry out effective marketing, having adequate data is also another key component. ...
- Focus on the Quality of Your Content.
But to thrive in such an environment, you need three key elements: Digital infrastructure, marketing processes (like lead generation strategies and a marketing funnel), and compelling creative.What are techniques of marketing intelligence? ›
- Market entry research. ...
- Market assessment research. ...
- Competitor intelligence research. ...
- Needs assessment studies. ...
- Branding research. ...
- Market segmentation.
- Knowing Customer Needs. ...
- Understanding Competitors' Strengths and Weaknesses. ...
- Finding Markets That Are Large or Growing.
What are the 4 major competitive strategies? ›
- Cost leadership strategy. ...
- Differentiation leadership strategy. ...
- Cost focus strategy. ...
- Differentiation focus strategy.
In summary, the 7 P's of marketing are Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process and Physical Evidence.What are 5 ways that you can gather competitive intelligence? ›
- Identify your competitors. ...
- Set objectives. ...
- Determine data collection strategies. ...
- Gather and analyze your data. ...
- Relay insights to key stakeholders. ...
- Stay within legal limits. ...
- Be ethical. ...
- Share insights often.
Marketing intelligence is everyday data that is relevant to the marketing efforts of an organization. Once collected, this data can be analyzed and used to make informed decisions regarding competitor behaviors, products, consumer trends, and market opportunities.What is the best example of competitive market? ›
1. Farmers' markets: The average farmers' market is perhaps the closest real-life example to perfect competition. Small producers sell nearly identical products for very similar prices.What is the purpose of market intelligence? ›
Market intelligence enables you to become more customer-centric, gain a better understanding of market demands and consumer views, gather real-time relevant data, increase upselling chances, minimize risks, increase market share, and gain a competitive edge.What are 5 examples of marketing? ›
- Content marketing. ...
- Inbound marketing. ...
- Social media marketing. ...
- Search engine optimization. ...
- Email marketing. ...
- Paid media advertising.
Competitive intelligence is important because it helps businesses understand their competitive environment and the opportunities and challenges it presents. Businesses analyze the information to create effective and efficient business practices.What are two strategies that companies use to collect competitive intelligence? ›
Competitive intelligence can be gathered by going through business ads or visiting the competitor's website. A company can learn which business practices consumers like best by searching through business reviews.How does competitive intelligence improve business performance? ›
CI makes it easier to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, which improves your business intelligence. CI can also help you anticipate their next moves, analyze their customer base and compare it to your own, as well as stay ahead of new market trends.
What are the 5 main marketing strategies? ›
The 5 P's of marketing are part of what is often referred to as a “marketing mix”. A marketing mix is the actions brands take to market their products and services by using a specific framework with the five biggest components of successful marketing: product, place, price, promotion, and people.What are the four 4 types of marketing strategies? ›
- Market Penetration Strategy.
- Market Development Strategy.
- Product Development Strategy.
- Diversification Strategy.
The 7Ps of marketing are – product, pricing, place, promotion, physical evidence, people, and processes. The 7 Ps make up the necessary marketing mix that a business must have to advertise a product or service.What is the key of marketing? ›
It is important that your product offering meets the needs of your chosen target market. See target your most profitable customers and define your target market. You should create a marketing strategy that makes the most of your strengths and matches them to the needs of the customers you want to target.What is the most effective marketing tactic? ›
If you are looking for the overall most effective marketing strategy for small business, content marketing is the winner. Content marketing encompasses blogs, videos, social media posts, podcasts, webinars, and more – basically, any type of content you can distribute online falls into this category.What is the best marketing tactic? ›
- Brand Storytelling.
- Digital PR.
- The Surround Sound Method.
- Brand Extensions.
- Video Marketing.
- Community Building.
- Contextual Marketing.
Market intelligence tools (also called marketing intelligence software) helps businesses collect and aggregate needed information about companies and individuals in their marketplace. This can include: firmographic information. financials and funding rounds. competitive information and analysis.What are the 3 basic competitive strategies? ›
According to Porter's Generic Strategies model, there are three basic strategic options available to organizations for gaining competitive advantage. These are: Cost Leadership, Differentiation and Focus.What are the 5 competitive priorities? ›
There are five common groups of competitive priorities namely cost, quality, time, flexibility and innovation. Finding the right competitive priorities does not happen overnight, many companies struggle for years when making decisions regarding different competitive priorities.What are the 5 basic factors that influence competition? ›
From a microeconomics perspective, competition can be influenced by five basic factors: product features, the number of sellers, barriers to entry, information availability, and location.
What are 4 common characteristics of a competitive market? ›
- Provide many different producers and consumers.
- Ensure no single buyer or seller influences prices.
- Remove barriers to enter the market.
- Ensure producers are price-takers that serve the market supply and meet its demands.
- Identify your competitors. This sounds straightforward, but in fact there are different kinds of competitors to consider. ...
- Gather information about your competitors. ...
- Analyze your competitors' strengths and weaknesses. ...
- Determine your competitive advantage.
Answer and Explanation: The six factors of competitive advantage are selection, quality, service, turnaround, price, and speed.What are the 6 steps of competitive analysis? ›
- Identify competitors. Find out how much you're spending on monthly biz app subscriptions. ...
- Analyze competitors' online presence. ...
- Check online reviews. ...
- Talk to competitors' customers. ...
- Identify their strengths and weaknesses. ...
- Use research tools.
The four primary methods of gaining a competitive advantage are cost leadership, differentiation, defensive strategies and strategic alliances.What does competitive intelligence mean why is it important? ›
Competitive intelligence is necessary to help businesses understand their business environment, challenges, and the opportunities present in this space. The information gathered can be used to set up efficient business practices and standards for your business.What are the benefits of marketing intelligence? ›
- Improved marketing strategies. ...
- Higher sales conversion rates. ...
- Increased customer retention. ...
- Competitive advantage. ...
- A holistic view of the markets.
As a marketer, market intelligence is important because it can help you understand your position in the market, evaluate your product, know your target audience, and conduct competitive analysis. With this information, your marketing team will be better equipped to position your company in the marketplace.How do you use marketing intelligence? ›
- Understand what questions need to be answered.
- Determine the best sources for the information you need. ...
- Drill down to analyse specific environments, including competitors.
- Analyse the data and extract key insights.
- Present information in a digestible and actionable format.
An empirical study of 382 US computer and electronics firms shows that higher product quality and lower production cost are the most important competitive factors.
How can competitive intelligence be a success? ›
It can help you identify new opportunities in the market. By understanding what your competitors are doing, you can identify areas where you may be able to gain a competitive advantage.