What’s the secret to becoming a leader within your market? Competitive intelligence.

To successfully position yourself as the market leader, you need to keep a pulse on what your competitors are doing. What features do their products have? What’s their pricing? What do they share on social media? Which website pages are they updating? What do their customers think?

All of those questions can be answered by monitoring your competitive activity.

In this article, I will walkthrough:

  • How to set yourself up for success
  • The sources you should monitor to gather competitive activity
  • How to make that intelligence actionable

Let’s get started!

Set yourself up for success

Before you begin monitoring your competitors, you need to set yourself up for success.

Competitive intelligence (CI) can’t be conducted in a vacuum—if you’re conducting CI on your own, with no clear goal in mind, your CI program won’t be impactful for your organization.

Here are four actionable items to complete before you get started monitoring competitive activity:

Identify your competitors

Every company has multiple competitors, even startups. The first step in monitoring competitive activity is identifying who you’re competing against. Depending on the size of your company, you might have many competitors.

At first, you don’t want to go after your entire competitive landscape, so break down your market, and tier your competitors based on who you compete with for the most revenue. Start with tier one, two, and so on.

Identify your stakeholders

Externally, you’re identifying your key competitors. Internally, you need to identify your key stakeholders—who within your organization is integral to your CI program?

While everyone within your organization can benefit from Competitive Intelligence, you will have a group of key stakeholders that you’ll work closely with, who will be the main consumers of your intel.

Some examples of key stakeholders might be:

Set a cadence for monitoring

Conducting competitive intelligence research doesn’t have to be time-consuming. If you can set aside a certain amount of time every week or month to focus on CI, you’ll soon build a habit of incorporating competitive intelligence into your day-to-day.

When setting a cadence for monitoring competitive activity, you should take a few variables into consideration:

  • How much time can you realistically allocate to your CI initiative?
  • How many people are dedicated to CI on your team?
  • How often are changes happening within your market?

There is no right or wrong answer to how often you should be conducting competitive intelligence research. It all depends on your unique market and your business needs. Whether you’re going to spend 10 minutes per day or five hours per week, just make sure you set a cadence and stick to it.

Set goals and KPIs

As a product marketer, you know that it doesn’t make sense to kick off a new project without setting goals and KPIs. When it comes to CI, you should set both short-term and long-term goals, as well as a combination of both quantitative and qualitative KPIs.

Some examples of KPIs:

  • Revenue - how has your revenue changed? (Revenue is the ultimate KPI!)
  • Win rate - how has your win rate improved?
  • Strategy shifts - How has your strategy been impacted by CI?
  • Employee engagement - Is there a high adoption rate of your CI tools? Are your teams benefiting from CI?

5 sources for monitoring competitive activity

There are many sources across the web to monitor competitive activity.

These days, every company has at least a website and a small social media following. Those two sources alone can give you a wealth of competitive information.

But, more often than not, companies have a very large digital footprint encompassing websites, microsites, social media accounts, third-party review sites, and more.

While there are many sources to choose from, here I’m going to spotlight five highly valuable sources for monitoring competitive activity.

Monitor competitive websites

Your competitors’ websites are the main source for tracking competitive activity.

Websites include a lot of information that can give you insight into key investment areas, product strategy, and overall business growth. You can find information about:

  • Executives
  • Investors
  • News
  • Events
  • Products
  • Pricing and packaging
  • Thought leadership

...and so much more!

One sweep of your competitors’ website pages, and you’ll be able to identify so many golden nuggets of competitive intelligence insights.

When you’re evaluating a competitor’s website, you should identify key themes that will help you pull together a narrative. What’s their key messaging? What are they writing about on their blog? Where are they hiring? Are they raising a new round of funding?

All of those questions (and more) can be explored and solved on your competitor’s website.

Set up Google Alerts

If you’re just beginning your competitive intelligence initiative and don’t want to invest in an automated competitive intelligence solution, setting up Google Alerts is the next best thing.

You can save time by having competitive intelligence come to you, rather than you having to manually monitor every mention of your competitor on the web.

The best part about Google Alerts is that you can choose topics, cadence, and time of day so that you’re getting the alerts at a time that fits your busy schedule. You can be vague, such as getting alerts about every mention of your competitor or be very specific with your search to get targeted Google Alerts sent to you.

Once they’re set up, all you have to do is monitor your inbox and wait for the next group of alerts to come through.

Follow social media accounts

Companies use social media accounts for a variety of reasons. Some companies use social media to promote upcoming events, thought leadership, employee updates, support—or a combination.

Following your competitors on social media can give you insight into the content they’re producing, which events they’re sponsoring, or how satisfied/unsatisfied their customers are. All of this information is valuable to different elements of your strategy, so monitoring your competitors on social media can not only give you insight into their strategy but help you plan your next move.

Crawl review websites

Review websites are the holy grail of customer satisfaction. Of course, you want to know how happy or unhappy your own customers are, but the key is knowing what your competitors’ customers think.

Does their new feature not work as well as yours? Are they missing something major that your market wants, and you could build? Does their helpdesk not offer valuable support?

Third-party review sites, like G2 or TrustRadius, can give you extremely valuable insight into how others view your competitors and how successful their product really is at helping your market.

Subscribe to marketing emails

Monitoring your competitors by subscribing to their marketing emails may seem a little suspicious. But, you’re guaranteed to know what your competitors are working on if you’re subscribed to their email list.

You’ll know which content they’re sharing, what events they’re planning to attend or sponsor, and webinars they’ve got coming up—which you can attend to gain even more insight.

Don’t worry about using your personal email vs. work email because the truth is, it’s common practice to subscribe to your competitor’s email list, so you don’t need to worry about flying under the radar.

What to do with Competitive Insights?

So, you’re searching websites, third-party review sites, social media, setting up alerts, and receiving marketing emails.

Great! But, now what?

Once you’ve compiled your competitive intelligence information, you should put that intelligence into action.

Here are four ways to share competitive intelligence across your organization:

Create competitive analysis

Creating a competitive analysis is a great way to not only map out what your competitors are doing, but also where you fit into your competitive landscape. It’s important to monitor your competitors and collect information, but you need to translate it into something of value.

Competitive analysis helps you visualize your market landscape, identify gaps in the market, and figure out how you stack up against your competitors.

Share findings with your key stakeholders

Once you’ve collected competitive intelligence and created a competitive analysis, you need to share your findings out with your key stakeholders—those key people that you identified before getting started with competitive monitoring.

Don’t forget to tailor your communication based on who you’re communicating with.

You’ve gathered a lot of intel on your competition, but not every stakeholder cares about everything or wants to consume the intel in the same format. Customize your reports so that each communication of competitive information speaks directly to that specific key stakeholder.

Create sales enablement collateral

Competitive intelligence can give your sales team an impactful competitive advantage. Leverage the intel you’ve gathered and create sales enablement materials to help your team prepare for competitive objections, answer feature questions, and get stronger at selling within competitive deals.

Some examples of valuable sales enablement tools are:

Leverage CI to iterate on your strategy

Ultimately, monitoring your competitors is beneficial to your own strategy. By evaluating your competitors, you’re able to pull out key pieces of intel to craft a narrative about where their strategy is heading next.

If you set up your competitive monitoring initiative using the tips above, monitor these key sources, and turn your findings into action, you’ll be able to iterate on your strategy and position yourself as an industry leader.

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