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If you’re doing competitive analysis for the sole purpose of gaining a competitive advantage, you may be missing the boat. As marketers, our primary responsibility is to meet the needs and wants of our customers. In addition to understand your customers’ pain points, you also need to know their thoughts on how they plan solve their problem. Today, customers can easily search for solutions and conduct their initial investigation without ever having a conversation with you. Over 60% of  the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.

Clearly, to be a viable option to customers and prospects, you need to gather information about the competition. This information is vital to developing a game plan for how to counter competitors’ strengths and attack their weaknesses. This is why we construct what’s commonly called a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) chart. We go through this exercise as part of an overall intelligence gathering effort.

Competitive analysis allows you to identify any holes in competitive offerings that you can exploit. Either in how your position your company and solutions or in the development of new offers that you can then successfully bring to market.  This is the proper use of competitive intelligence: leveraging what you know about the competition to attack open market space and differentiate yourself in the customer’s mind.

Outsmart the Competition With Competitive Intelligence

7 Affordable Ways to Gather Competitive Intelligence

Inexpensive Ways to Gather Competitive Intelligence

Collecting information will help you discover a great deal about your competition. There are some inexpensive ways to gather competitive intelligence. To use these approaches effectively, you will need to create some kind of Competitive Intelligence (CI) repository so the information that is gathered can be collected, analyzed, and shared.

  1. Use your sales force. The members of your sales force talk to customers and prospects every day. Theses people have a ripe opportunity to gather competitive intelligence. Arm them with one key question each week and ask them to collect answers to the question from each customer or target and send the responses back for logging. Make it easy for them to collect the information, provide the question on 3X5 cards and give each sales person a stack.
  2. Know Why You Win and Lose. Make conducting a win/loss analysis standard procedure. Every win and every loss can provide valuable competitive intelligence. Ask customers when you win why they chose you over the competition and ask them when you lose why they selected someone else and what you could have done differently.
  3. Who’s Calling? Have the sales force take a picture of the visitor sign in sheets when they make in-person calls. You can use this data to  determine the level of competitors activity and information about their targeting.
  4. Tap your partners. Often times your manufacturing and channel partners can provide insight into competitor’s strategies and tactics. Be sensitive and aware of competitive literature, business cards and price quotes lying around.
  5. Listen to your competitors. Attend competitors speaking engagements, webinars/webcasts, conference sessions, etc. that your competitors hold.  Go to their website. Follow them on twitter. Subscribe to their blog.
  6. Shadow your competitors. Monitor their trade show booth activity and pick up any new product information. Assign someone to each primary competitor to 
  7. Monitor What’s Public. Harvest press releases and publicity on each of your competitors. Set up a Google Alert for each of your competitors. Monitor all of your competitors’ social media platforms. Follow and fan them. Attend their webinars. Subscribe to their newsletters and blogs.

Each of these bits and pieces of information are not meant to stand alone.  Collect the information. Analyze what you gather.  Look for trends, uncover strategies, and discover tactics your competition is using. Diligently collect this type of information on a regular basis and you will amass a considerable view into your competition. The trick is to consistently collect and store information.

What You Should Know About Every Competitor

What do you really need to know about the competition to help your company be more successful?  Many companies produce a repository, whether on paper or in a searchable database online, that helps the organization and especially the sales team understand the competition. You need more than information about the features, performance and price of competitive offerings. Include at least the following information for every competitor.

  • How does the competitor position itself in the market? For example, is it positioned on domain expertise, total cost of ownership, unsurpassed customer service?
  • What is each competitor’s value proposition and differential advantage?
  • What are the competitor’s strengths and weaknesses? Do they have a strong channel or direct sales team? Do they have a unique set of suppliers that enable them to be more competitive? Are they new to the market segment or do they have very well established referenced customers? Do they have flexible or rigid terms and conditions? What is their reputation? Do they have strong advocates within the targeted segment/account?
  • What is the best way to differentiate your solution from those being marketed by your competition? Is there a difference in your product that that makes easier to use? Faster to implement? Requires less training
  • Are there impending events within your competitor’s organization that could help or hurt you? Are they going through an acquisition, change in management?

If this type of research and analysis is outside your current expertise, then tap ours. This work is right in our wheelhouse.

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