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Category: competitive intelligence

There are 3 posts published under competitive intelligence.

Anatomy of a Competitive Analysis

While a competitive analysis should be a core part of a business plan for any organization — big or small — it holds a particular significance to startups and small businesses. By obtaining this type of insight into the specific channels of opportunity in your market, you can ensure that you’re focusing your efforts in the most effective way when budgets are small and resources are limited.


If you haven’t performed a competitive analysis for your business yet, you’re likely missing out on a high potential marketing opportunity. Simple as that.


A competitive analysis should cover seven key topics – and possibly more, depending on your specific goals and market:


  1. Your company’s competitors
  2. Competitor product summaries
  3. Competitor strategies and objectives
  4. Competitor strengths and weaknesses
  5. Market outlook
  6. A SWOT analysis
  7. Future strategy recommendations

Let’s take a close look at these one-by-one.


1. Competitor List


The analysis begins with a list of your company’s competitors, and a quick overview. Pick 4 or 5 that are either comparable to you in stature or are leading brands in the industry.


Consider, also, that there should be an eclectic nature of this list. – These may be competitors from a revenue, brand popularity or online visibility position. Plus, there will, undoubtedly, be additions to this list as your research begins.


2. Competitor Product Summary


Assess your own and your competitor’s products and services in terms of features, value and targets. Customer feedback will be key and can be obtained through surveys, reviews and online research. Get on the phone and talk to your current customers or come up with a set list of questions to send out via email.


Be a prospective customer of your competitors and find out more about their sales process, their funnel and have a clear picture of their products and features.


Finally, find out how your competitor’s manufacturer distribute and market their products. This should give you a basic understanding of what they do differently in comparison to you and each other.


3. Competitor Strategies and Objectives


Observe how your competitors market themselves, and take a look at their public reports to see if you can garner insights into what their current goals and strategies are.


Sales personnel can help you get this sort of information, which is why playing the role as a prospective customer can be key. Former employees and customers may also be able to help.


4. Competitor Strengths and Weaknesses


Here’s where we can really find the opportunity. What’s working well for your competitors? What isn’t? Why not? Where is there room for improvement, and what are the market needs that are not currently being met?


Take a look at this from several angles – the product, the sales process, customer service and, most importantly, their marketing. Analyze their website, social channels and where they’re spending their marketing dollars. Use readily available tools to perform a thorough SEO, SEM and paid advertising analysis.


If one form of marketing simply isn’t working for your competitors, it’s likely that it probably won’t work for you either. Finding that out sooner rather than later will save you time and money. At the same time, with so many marketing channels available these days, there’s sure to be an opportunity that your competitors are all missing out on that could be a perfect location for you to gain traction.


5. Market Outlook


Take a bit of time to also weigh up the overall outlook of your market. All of your competitor research could be for nothing if your particular niche is about to tank, perhaps for socio-economic reasons outside of your control.


How does the market overall look? Is it growing? Is it struggling? How does the economy and consumer behavior look like it will impact the market in the future?


Discover key demographics in your space, and which marketing opportunities best allow you to reach this market. Is there a section of your target audience that offers high potential ROI, or is it a packed market that you’ll always be facing tough competition in?


6. SWOT Analysis


Using all the information you’ve gathered in the steps above, you’re now in a great position to perform your SWOT analysis. This is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for your business.


Where can you win, and where can’t you win? Which efforts should you capitalize on, and which should you sideline? What are potential future risks?


7. Future Strategy Recommendations


You might be an employee providing these recommendations to a manager or a consultant offering these to a client. Either way, this is where you take your research and turn it into a set of recommendations. These recommendations should then be used to create a formal strategy.


Writing a competitive analysis is both challenging and time-consuming, no doubt about it. But it’s incredibly valuable. You’ll learn a lot about your industry and your company, as well as your competitors, and such a report will become vital for your company in future strategy and planning.


Using Competitive Intelligence as a Rearview Mirror

Would you ever drive your car without checking your rearview mirror at all? How many times have you seen a speed car racer coming from behind, driving faster and see the leader try to block them in a NASCAR race?


Running a business against competition is no different. You would never take the seat of a racecar and not have rearview mirrors – it would be too easy for your competitors to pass you by.


Competitive Intelligence is Your Rearview Mirror

In business, the only and true way to check your rearview mirror is to have competitive intelligence (CI). CI will give you the tools and metrics that will allow you to measure the competition. You will be able to see when someone is coming fast and also measure how you are catching up to the market leader (yes, CI can be both a rearview mirror as a radar for your business). Without comparable metrics for all the players out there, you are forced to rely on subjective analysis and opinions that can be completely misleading when it comes to sizing the performance of your competition. If you can see them coming, you will be better prepared to handle them and position yourself in a way that will prevent them to bypass you.


Rearview Mirror is Used More Often Than Once a Year

You would never just check you rearview mirror once a year – so why do you do this with CI? While we will work on analyzing competition for a yearly or quarterly meeting, we should never underestimate them —each of our competitors are doing things everyday to improve their business. They could be planning a new product release, expanding in a new market, hiring new people, approaching new market segments, etc. Competitors never stand still while you are busy working on your business. As much as you can be active, your competitors are doing pretty much the same. I am sure that the better racecar drivers check their mirrors all the time while staying focused on what’s ahead of them.


Look for Early Indicators

Waiting too long before recognizing a competitor in our rearview mirror can be quite damaging to your business. You should leverage CI to capture as many metrics available and to be alerted to anything that changes significantly. It could be change in traffic growth, social media activities, and sudden increase of job postings or new trademarks being filed. You need to put a system in place where it’s easy for you not only to capture as many of your competitor’s vital signs, but also to be able to frequently measure any changes. And you should be worried if many metrics are all moving at the same time – it’s hard to block someone with momentum, and the sooner you can see it coming, the better you can adjust your own business.


Only the Paranoid Survive

We have seen too many companies in the lead suddenly becoming laggards or even going bankrupt: Silicon Graphics, Palm, MySpace and Blackberry are a few names that come to mind. It’s fine to be proud of being the market leader, but you should never assume that no one is gunning for your throne. Leading companies should be the ones that worry the most about their market position and need to be even more vigilant when it comes to competition. This also applies to any of the cars in the race as there are new entrants coming in all the time – the bigger the opportunity, the more people are trying to get a share of it.


Everybody Needs a Little Competitive Intelligence

For many years, competitive intelligence has been used by large organizations capable of paying expensive specialist that would mine various sets of data in order to find that elusive piece of information that would help the Fortune 1000 beat their competitors. What used to be a luxury for the most fortunate companies is now something that is at the reach of any company – even the smallest ones.


There is a proliferation of information out there that is just begging to be mined by any individuals who wants to be better informed. There is no shortage of data you can find on your competitors and even your own business — from news feeds, to freely accessible company databases, web and social media metrics, to SEO and Pay per click (PPC) analytics all the way to publicly available information about employees, job posting, trademarks and patents.


No matter how big your company is, you are constantly required to have a good understanding of the competitive landscape — from direct competitors, to indirect competitors to keeping a close look at potential new entrants in the market. The more you know about your competition, the better you are positioned to identify and define a competitive advantage for your business. Competitive intelligence can be valuable for many roles in your company:


Business Owners


As the CEO, business partner or owner, competitive intelligence is a must if you don’t want anyone else to eat your lunch. We often talk about having a vision of the future, but this is not possible if you cannot foresee what your competitors will do. Competitive intelligence gives business owners a better method to react faster to changing market conditions and prevents you from being caught off guard if one of your investors starts asking hard questions about stuff they learned about your competitors.


Product Managers


We often say that the Product Manager is the CEO of the product. Not only do you need to make sure that your product or service is meeting the customers needs but you also need to know what your competitors are doing – such as what direction they are taking with their own solutions. As your competitors release new products, you need to make sure that your own roadmap takes into consideration any change in user demand that can be caused by actions taken by other companies. You cannot afford not to be the first one who learns about anything changing in your competitive landscape.


Marketing Managers


Your entire sales organization relies on you to deliver the right message to the market and bring enough leads for them to achieve or surpass their sales targets. You need to make sure that your message is superior to that of your competitors’. You always have to be one step ahead of them. Nobody wants to play catch-up or start losing market shares. You also need to provide competitors reports to your sales team and always have a good answer for any competition related questions your customers might have.


Sales & Business Development Managers


There is nothing worse than being in a meeting while unaware of the latest news or changes that have impacted your key customer or partner. One of the biggest challenges in sales or business development is to build trust with your key contacts. Unless you are constantly aware of what’s going on, you are at risk of missing key information that will help you close or secure that important partnership your company needs to get.


Once someone is convinced of the value of continually doing competitive intelligence, the biggest challenge is to find the right content sources and finding the time to do it. In addition, you need to make sure you can do this cost effectively in regards to your company. Luckily, there are many new companies out there that are looking to do just that: to provide an affordable solution that will allow any business professional to capture competitive data and keep it up to date for you – removing a lot of the pain related to doing competitive intelligence.