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7 Quick Ways To Conduct Competitive Intelligence

7 Quick Ways To Conduct Competitive Intelligence

Gathering competitive intelligence isn’t just a smart idea. It’s a vital part of becoming (and remaining) a market leader.

Unless you are truly the only game in town, running a successful business is all about keeping a watchful eye on the other players.

There have been companies in every industry that were first to market, offered a great selection of products and services, delivered a great customer experience but which ultimately lost ground to rivals.

Sometimes this is due to highly competitive pricing, in a sector where customers are more sensitive to costs.

In other cases a competitive firm might invest more heavily in marketing to ensure its brand is top of mind among potential buyers.

There are firms that will hire as many sales reps as they need to close more deals than the rest of the industry.

The long-term path to growth for any business is being alert to these competitive pressures the moment they begin to surface, and then taking action accordingly.

This might have been a little easier to do in the days when most companies were limited to running brick-and-mortar locations. They might have been able to physically see what was going on at nearby competitors simply by looking across the street. Word of mouth also travels fast, and so locals could tip off a business to competitive threats.

Our increasingly digital-first world has made gathering competitive intelligence a lot more complicated, but also more important than ever before.

Even the smallest businesses might now be competing with companies ten times their size. The competition is also no longer confined to other businesses in their neighbourhoods. The rise of e-commerce and digital experiences mean rivals could be popping up to win over customers from all around the world.

The largest companies sometimes have entire teams focused on gathering competitive intelligence, but don’t let that put you off. Businesses of any size can make this a discipline and develop it. As you do so, you’ll probably find you’re able to stay one step ahead of your rivals with greater ease and sophistication. Just try:

1. Mystery shop the competition

Retailers have a long history of employing “mystery shoppers” who act like real customers and research the positive and negative aspects of purchasing from their own stores. One of the advantages in the shift to digital channels is that you can apply the same concept to your competitors.

This could be as simple as setting a schedule to visit your competitors’ web sites, browse their product and service pages and even make a small purchase to assess the seamlessness of their e-commerce and fulfillment experience. Use this as a benchmark to boost your own firm’s performance.

2. Set Up Alerts For When Competitors Make News

Companies once employed third-party services to clip articles out of newspapers and magazines when their brand’s name was mentioned, as well as those of their rivals. Search engines like Google have made that process far simpler. You can just enter a competitor’s brand name and get an e-mail alert every time they are covered by the media, publish a blog post or issue a press release.

To be on the same side, don’t just enter the competitor’s name but their best-known products and services. Get more of out of your investment in search engine optimization (SEO) by creating alerts about industry terms so you hear about new competitors, too.

3. Join Your Competition’s Digital Audience

Do your rivals send out a regular e-mail newsletter with new product information, tips and insight? Subscribe to it using an e-mail alias and make sure your newsletter is just as helpful.

Do your competitors post videos on YouTube? It’s okay to add to their viewership count if you’re learning something to make your own business better.

Do your competitors host podcasts? Listen in and learn what you can about their vision, best practices and long-term strategy.

The bottom line: Monitoring any and all of the channels where your competitors are creating content.

4. Read Reviews And Track Social Sentiment

Consumer-focused companies can thrive or perish based on the feedback they get from review sites like Yelp. The same is true for business-to-business (B2B) firms whose customers post on sites like G2 and TrustRadius.

This content is often freely available and can tell you a lot about whether the customer experience your competitors are delivering should make you nervous.

There’s a similar treasure trove of competitive intelligence on social media platforms. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and even LinkedIn. Search up your competitors’ names and any related industry hashtags. You’ll soon see what customers are praising (or complaining about).

5. Visit Hiring Sites To Keep Tabs On Hiring Trends

The most successful companies not only compete for customers, but for talent. Just look at what kind of career opportunities your rivals are posting on recruitment and job sites.

If they’re looking for data scientists, for instance, that may be an indication they’re becoming more intentional about how they analyze and act upon information. Do their job descriptions include lots of perks and benefits you’re not offering? Make sure your employee experience is strong enough to retain your best people. There are employee review sites that are well worth visiting for the same reason.

6. Download Competitors’ Case Studies And Testimonials

People feel more confident about spending money with a company when they see their peers doing the same time. That’s what make case studies and testimonials such powerful marketing assets. They can be great avenues for gathering competitive intelligence as well.

Pay close attention to what ultimately tipped the scales in your competitors’ favour, especially with the kind of marquee customers or VIP consumers you’re trying to target.

7. Get The Truth About Competitors From Current And Former Customers

Much as you might wish it were otherwise, many people buy from more than one company in the same sector. There can be all kinds of reasons for this – but you won’t know unless you ask.

Conduct regular surveys with your best customers, or invite them for virtual roundtables or focus group-style conversations. They may have some horror stories about your rivals, but ask about the reasons they’ve stayed with the competition, too.

Gathering competitive intelligence isn’t just a smart idea. It’s a vital part of becoming (and remaining) a market leader.

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