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Competitive Intelligence: Hype or Necessity?

Competitive Intelligence: Hype or Necessity?

Home Blog Media Monitoring Competitive Analysis Competitive Intelligence: Hype or Necessity?

Curious about what your competitors are doing? Interested in understanding how your customers see your brand?

You’ve likely thought a lot about these factors at your business. Information you collect about competitors and customers, which helps you maintain a competitive advantage, is known as competitive intelligence.

Growing your market share is impossible without it in today’s hyper-competitive environment.

It’s tempting to dismiss it as just hype, but it’s a necessity for your business. After you read this article, you’ll understand the numerous types of competitive intelligence, how and where to gather data for this purpose, and the tools you need for success.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence enables companies to gather vital data about crucial market factors, such as your:

  • Competition
  • Customers
  • Industry
  • Technological landscape

Taken together, this data empowers you to gain that elusive competitive edge, which helps you make better business decisions. These valuable insights are anything that lets you manufacture your product or service faster, cheaper, and much better overall.

This leads to creating a business strategy that will help you outperform competitors by selling more and earning higher revenue than them.

5 Pillars competitive intelligence

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According to Crayon’s 2024 State of Competitive Intelligence Report, 65% of sales opportunities are competitive. So, to sell more, you must prioritize competitive intelligence in your business.

The concept has quite some nuance to it.

Types of Competitive Intelligence

There are many angles from which you can analyze competitive intelligence. Let’s break down the different kinds.

Strategic competitive Intelligence

One way to look at strategic competitive intelligence is as an understanding of the big picture in your business environment. Its insight comes from examining both internal and external data from multiple sources.

Strategic intelligence is essential in helping organizations avoid the temptation of responding to short-term events as they happen and instead remain committed to their long-term plan.

For example, if your business is based in the US and plans to expand into Asia, don’t allow temporary events (like recent regulations only affecting North America) to prevent you from achieving that goal.

Tactical Competitive Intelligence

Whereas strategic intelligence is more forward-looking, tactical intelligence, by contrast, is focused on taking action in the present.

Think of tactical intelligence as giving decision-makers the ability to capitalize on current opportunities and even redirect resources to support current initiatives.

Tactics are the actions you take in the moment to still support the overall, long-term, strategic goals of your business.

Market Intelligence

Market intelligence comes down to the data that you gather about the external environment that your organization operates in. This aspect of competitive intelligence homes in on factors like your:

  • Customers
  • Competitors’ moves
  • Products in the overall market

When you have a handle on market intelligence, your business understands the changing market dynamics around you, which allows your team to respond to shifts in your industry more nimbly.

Technological Intelligence

Technological intelligence is critical to any business’ survival. It plays a key role in your stakeholders’ ability to determine the types of tech tools, threats, and trends that will impact your organization positively or negatively.

This form of intelligence allows you to stay on top of emerging tech in your industry, harness this tech to your advantage, steer clear of tech that will harm your business operations, and become a tech thought leader in your niche.

Ultimately, it helps your team make better decisions about adopting technology across different markets and regions globally and maintaining security at your organization.

Product Intelligence

When you want to know how your customers interact with your products, you lean on product intelligence. Here, you collect data on how your customers use your product. This process results in a feedback loop that helps you understand what your customers want from your products and how to improve them.

The challenge with product intelligence is gathering all this data comprehensively from various locations. Besides data on user interactions with your product, you need product metrics and information from separate sources like your CRM to get a complete picture.

Customer Intelligence

To get a deeper impression of what your customers need, what motivates them, and how they behave, conduct customer intelligence research. Generally, you can split customer intelligence into internal and external camps:

Internal — You gather this with any customer interaction and store this data in your business database, CRM, POS, and call center systems.

External — This data is more complex and includes personal information (age, gender, education, income), attitudinal information (what your customers think of your brand), and geographic information (urban vs. rural data).

Competitor Intelligence

Competitor intelligence is data about your competition’s strengths, weaknesses, tactics, and strategies. Think about things like tracking what your competition is doing in the marketplace and what activities they’re pursuing.

You can gather competitor intelligence from numerous places like:

  • Their website
  • Industry news sources
  • Their products
  • Their job postings
  • Social media
Stay on top of everything

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With social media, you can monitor your competitors’ social profiles to see how they interact with their audiences and what feedback they’re getting. Then, you can compare it to your own social media activity.

Apps like Mention allow your business to monitor any brand via the Monitor tool, which provides social data from more than 1 billion sources daily.

Other types of competitive intelligence include marketing intelligence and corporate intelligence.

How to Conduct Competitive Intelligence Research

Let’s look at the steps you need to take to gain an advantage through competitive intelligence research.

Determine Your Objectives

The quality of your competitive intelligence will be determined by how clear your goals are from the outset. When you identify your objectives from the start, you know what to look for and can expedite your research in the direction that makes the most sense.

For example, suppose you’re launching a new generative AI product to expand your brand’s offerings.

In that case, you may want to start your competitive analysis by determining right away what your competitors are already doing, how saturated the market is, how you can create a unique value proposition to differentiate your brand, and the steps you need to take over the long run to take market share from them.

Identify Your Main Competitors

You need to narrow down your competitive landscape. You’ll know who these brands are by their usually appealing to your target audience and featuring similar products or services.

Once you have a list of your competitors, you need to rank them according to who the strongest ones are. These are the ones who pose the biggest threat to you.

Gather Data

Now, you’re ready to start amassing data on your competitors. There are primary and secondary ways to do this.

Here are the primary collection methods.

Primary sources

Interviews — Reach out to former and current employees of your top competitors to learn about their products, services, culture, operations, and plans. You can also talk to your competitors’ customers to understand their preferences, pain points, and what the competitors’ products or services can improve.

Surveys — Ask your customers, through surveys, which of your competitors they’ve heard of and if they would ever buy from them or have bought from them. This helps you either confirm or update your list of who you believe your top competitors are.

Direct observations — Examine firsthand and in real-time how your competitors are doing in the marketplace. Gather this data from news reports, competitors’ websites, and even how your competition’s customers are using their products out in the field.

These are the secondary collection methods.

Secondary sources

Public records — Public records include earnings reports, such as if your competitors are publicly traded companies. Other sources are their websites, social media streams, and conference and tradeshow lists of guests.

Online databases — Online databases provide information about your competitors and can include items like their financials, what’s been written about them in news articles, and market research about them. Examples of online databases are Nexis Uni, SEC EDGAR, and Dun and Bradstreet.

Industry reports — Industry reports feature thorough accounts of your competitors’ industries. They include trends, performance, and forecasts. Find industry reports on websites like Statista, IBISWorld, and ABI/Inform.

Analyze Data and Develop Insights

Now that you’re armed with a wealth of data, it’s time to pore over it, find patterns, and develop insights to help you gain that competitive advantage. One of the best ways to proceed is with a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

According to the Competitive Intelligence Alliance’s 2023 State of SWOT Report, almost 50% of the respondents conducted a SWOT analysis at least once in the prior two months, proving the popularity of this analysis.

First, you look at your competitors’ strengths to see what they’re doing right and where. For instance, you could examine their successful content marketing campaigns and product and feature launches.

Then, on the flip side, analyze their weaknesses. Did they miss revenues? Did they recently have a PR nightmare? Have they failed to hit their goals?

For the opportunities section, analyze unbiasedly where your competitors may have true opportunities for their growth.

Has favorable legislation recently been passed in their industry? Are they eyeing a merger or acquisition of a smaller company?

Finally, the threats section can be the biggest opportunity for competitive intelligence professionals to uncover where they might stutter soon. Are there economic downturns impacting them, are there shifts in the market (as with the introduction of AI, for example), or are other competitors competing for their market share?

Benchmarking your position compared to leaders in your industry can be beneficial to your competitive intelligence analysis.

Compare your product, service, or processes against the performance metrics of competitors you know are ahead of you. The information you’ll glean from such a comparison is priceless to improving your business strategy.

Present Findings and Make Strategic Recommendations

With your analysis complete, it’s time to persuade your stakeholders to support your vision. Do this by communicating your findings effectively.

In today’s world, that means using a competitive intelligence report and dashboards within your competitive intelligence tools. The data and charts in reports leave an indelible impression on your stakeholders because they can more easily visualize what you’re talking about.

Mention report

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Case in point: Mention’s Analyze feature empowers you to uncover actionable insights by consulting trend and comparative reports and charts. This makes it easy to show your stakeholders what you have to do to overtake your competition.

Monitor and Refine Your Strategy

Competitive intelligence research is never one-and-done. It’s a living thing that constantly needs to be updated. As with digital marketing campaigns and web design, competitive intelligence is an iterative process built on updating your conclusions based on new information you learn.

To achieve this, monitor your competitors regularly and benchmark your progress alongside their results. Your competitive intelligence strategy will only be refined this way and will continue to positively impact your business operations.

Where to Gather Competitive Intelligence Data

Places abound online where you can search for data in your competitive intelligence analysis. Here are several of them.

Competitors’ Websites

This is a no-brainer. You want information on your competitors? The first place to look is always their website. There, you’ll find a plethora of information about them:

  • Their unique value proposition
  • Their tone of voice
  • Their brand image
  • Who their target audience is
  • Their personality
  • Their past successes
  • Their goals for the future

Depending on how big your competitors are (large enterprises, for one), you may already have a wealth of competitive data at your fingertips just by navigating through the many pages of their site.

Social Media

Another great opportunity for competitive intelligence gathering is on your competitors’ social media channels.

Here, you’ll see firsthand how the competition interacts with its target audiences, including how it responds to comments, criticism, and questions from its followers.

You’ll also see their brand image in action by how they curate their social feeds. You’ll get an impression of if your competitors are serious, funny, professional, or conversational based on the content they post and how they write it.

Industry Reports & Market Research

Getting your hands on industry reports is a big game changer because you can access rich data like your competition’s performance, financial stats, trends, future outlooks, and applicable government regulations.

These in-depth reports are available from library subscription databases, public libraries, industry associations, and government websites.

Review and Rating Sites

Customer feedback is an invaluable source of insight about the competition. You can determine what your competition is doing right and what they’re doing wrong.

You can also get a sense of how your competition handles customer feedback and how customer-centric (if at all) they are.

Some popular review and rating sites are Google Business Profile (Google Maps), Yelp, Clutch, Tripadvisor, and Trust Pilot.

Financial Filings

Looking into your competitors’ financial statements and regulatory filings lets you see if they’re on track to hit their revenue each quarter or struggling.

This knowledge also empowers you to make broader inferences about the prognosis of their products, services, or the direction of their industry as a whole.

Find financial filings on websites like:

Competitive Intelligence Tools

Using the right competitive intelligence tools to gather competitive intelligence can’t be overstated. It’s the difference between gaining a competitive advantage because you can benchmark yourself against your competitors—and staying in the dark.

Here are the tools we recommend.

Mention

Mention is your strongest choice for online competitive intelligence. Use Mention to get real-time insights from social media and any online mentions of your brand. It’s able to track 1 billion sources daily. See how you stack up against your competitors, compare social media strategies, see which influencers competitors are partnering with, and check their reviews.

mention dashboard

Take advantage of the 14-day free trial. Try Mention today.

Crayon

Powered by artificial intelligence, Crayon is competitive intelligence software. Use Crayon to monitor your competition and gain insights about them in real-time.

Crayon competitive intelligence software

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Use this data for your sales enablement to win more deals at your organization.

Semrush

One of the most well-known SEO tools on the market, Semrush empowers you to analyze your competition’s online presence and digital marketing strategies.

Semrush

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With tools like Competitive Research and Keyword Research, you can identify how much organic traffic your competitors get and from where, what keywords send traffic to their sites, and what keywords they’re ranking for that you’re not ranking for (yet) and should make a play for.

Kompyte

Kompyte is a competitive intelligence app that helps you close more deals.

Kompyte

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It focuses on preparing data-rich battle cards for your sales teams so they can sell your product or service with greater confidence than ever, thanks to understanding your competitive edge.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is content-research software that empowers SEOs and content writers to craft engaging content. It helps you identify popular topics and trends in your industry.

Buzzsumo dashboard

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Publishing in-demand content that resonates with your audience will result in more traffic, backlinks, and engagement.

Conclusion

Competitive intelligence gives you an edge over your competitors. You research their strengths and weaknesses and compare their results to your position in the market.

There are several types of competitive intelligence, each instrumental in giving you a well-rounded picture of where you stand against your competitors and what opportunities you have to make inroads against them. It’s important that you incorporate each into your research.

As you research, proceed methodically, first clarifying your goals and then lining up your data and insights and sharing the information with stakeholders. Don’t forget that competitive intelligence is an ongoing process, too.

Online, you can access all the sources you need for research, from competitor websites and social media feeds to industry reports and reviews. Use competitive intelligence software and tools to help you along the way.

Competitive intelligence is a must for your business, whether you’re a startup or an established operation. Always integrate it into your strategic planning process.

Sign up to Mention or book a demo now to gain competitive intelligence over your competition!

Marc Schenker

Marc is an SEO professional who runs The Glorious Company, a content marketing agency. The Glorious Company provides SEO and digital marketing services to small, medium, and large companies in the SaaS, fintech, and broader technology sectors. His writing has also been featured in Adobe, WordStream, and Shopify.

Founder/Content Marketer @The Glorious Company