Get Serious About Getting Competitor Intel
The world of competitive intelligence is vast. Companies use many types of market intelligence to help them make a wide range of smart strategic decisions – from successfully penetrating new markets to developing an effective offering mix to deciding on acquisitions and more. This type of intelligence is also more difficult to acquire and often requires highly specialized and extensive outside research.
Fortunately, some types of competitive intelligence that can help guide branding and marketing activities are more accessible and fall into two main categories:
- Competitor intelligence that will inform your own company’s positioning, brand promise and value proposition
- Competitor intelligence designed to help you better understand your competitors’ marketing
Even better, conducting research in these areas is the least time consuming and expensive of all competitor research you can undertake. It can be done by any brand-savvy in-house marketer or, ideally, by an unbiased, outside marketing consultant who is not as “close” to your brand.
Understand Your Competition
When conducting competitor research, keep in mind that every company has two kinds of competitors.
- First, your direct competitors – the companies you always see in the lobby when leaving a client presentation, or those who always seem to respond to the same RFPs.
- Second, the competitors that appear on the first and second pages of online searches when your prospects research the types of solutions that your company offers. To learn who they are, you can simply use online search (Google them!) or use tools such as SEMrush and Alexa to identify the top sites in your industry and your organic competitors (see more competitive intelligence tools later in this article).
It’s important to look at both of these groups even if you are competing against the same set of companies again and again. Why? Because your prospects do! Over the past few years, the way your prospects research, find and select your company has dramatically changed. According to the recent “Demand Gen B2B Buyer’s Survey Report,” online research has become the number one resource for making informed decisions.
See What Your Customers See
Once you’ve identified your primary competitors, the next step is to analyze their public-facing communications. Begin with their website – today’s most prominent brand ambassador and a critical member of marketing and business development teams, as well as the first step in a prospect’s company research and selection process.
Just as prospects visit your company’s website and form an immediate opinion, you will get an overall impression of your competitors by visiting their websites.
As you move from site to site, make sure to review them through your prospects’ eyes. For each website you visit, jot down your initial reaction and the overall impression it leaves. Then look at the visual design, message, content and overall site organization and type of information – all of these factors greatly contribute to creating a favorable (or not) impression of a company. Document your findings in a comparative matrix.
How does your company compare? If your public-facing communications are not differentiating and the overall experience is not providing value, then your prospects will move somewhere else – most likely to one of your better positioned competitors.
Go Behind the Scenes
Beyond the website and other easily accessible company communications, such as social media networks, downloadable content and public RFPs that make responses available to the public, there are many ways with the help of free or inexpensive tools to discover what your competitors are doing “behind the scenes.”
- SEMrush and Alexa will tell you if your competitors have paid traffic, as well as which pages on their website rank highest. SpyFu and iSpionage will inform you of what competitors’ are spending on pay-per-click advertising, and you can also use Alexa to collect demographic information on your competitors’ website traffic.
- Use Moz to compare your SEO metrics (keywords, backlinks, domain authority and more) to that of your competitors to inform your strategies for improvement.
- WhatRunsWhere shows you competitors’ landing pages, display ads and more, as does Adbeat, while with AdEspresso you can find out which competitors’ Facebook ads are most effective.
- Builtwith lets you know what technology your competitors’ built their websites on and what technology they’re using to track website visitors. Follow.net and SimilarWeb also give information about competitors’ monthly traffic.
- Buzzsumo tracks what content has been read and shared most, telling you not only what your competitors’ content is but also which pieces of content are working the best for them.
Pretty interesting, right? Keep in mind that as much information as you can find out about your competitors, they can find out about you!
Knowledge Without Action Does Not Equal Results
Of course, collecting information is only step one. The most important step is to analyze and use the research data you collect to strengthen your company’s brand and marketing – positioning it for the win.
Also read: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Your Brand – Deep Dive into Customer Research