Getting the most out of your competitive intelligence system means investing the time and effort necessary to set-up and maintain your CI process. It also means effectively distributing the information you gain to decision makers throughout your company, some of whom may not even realize its potential value. Here are five key areas where your hard-earned competitive intelligence data can be put to good use:
Getting executives invested in competitive intelligence can be daunting for a number of reasons, but when it comes to making high-level, strategic planning, having good information to work with is key. Competitive intelligence is one several tools successful executives use to stay informed. Yet, some business leaders still rely on ad-hoc briefings and reports to keep them up to date.
Reviewing industry trends and news may not be a high priority on a day-to-day basis, but you can still create an ongoing process that will keep them up to date and ensure that they’re ready to make the big decisions when they arise. This means created targeted briefings that include only the most vital information your CI team digs up. Competitor mergers and acquisitions, for example, can signal a potential shift in the competitive landscape, even if they don’t make front page news. Making sure your leadership team knows about possible industry-changing moves is a critical function of your CI process.
Competitor documents can also offer insight into a business’s overarching goals and strategy. Investor presentations, sales decks, and financial reports provide different perspectives on how your competition presents itself to investors and potential customers. Compiling and distributing these resources in an organized, easy to digest format will go a long way towards ensuring executives are invested in your CI output.
Sales teams play a critical role in translating product development and marketing efforts into actual paying customers. Your sales people are on the front lines when it comes to presenting and defending your products. Perhaps more than any other department, they need up-to-date info about what other companies are offering. Sales meetings move quickly, and there’s rarely time for sales people to pause and research a competitor before reacting when another company comes up during a conversation with a potential customer. A good competitive intelligence process can compile that information in advance, allowing your sales team to build thoughtful, tactically advantageous responses that place you company in the best possible position.
CI for sales can be translated into daily or weekly briefings, background research, or more interactive tools like sales battlecards. Competitive intelligence data can also bring to light potential customers by flagging failing competitors, unrenewed competitor contracts, and Requests For Proposal documents.
Marketing is responsible for promoting and positioning your brand so that it stands out, no matter how saturated your industry space happens to be. Marketing teams benefit from competitive intelligence in a few ways. Knowing how and when your competitors advertise their products or services can give you insight into their strategy. To that end, tracking competitors on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will give your marketing team an edge. Blog posts, product announcements, and other press releases can also be good sources of marketing information. Gathering this type of CI on a regular basis will give your team a complete, current picture of the competitive landscape, and allow them to spot trends and potential changes in the market before they affect business.
Understanding how other companies market their products can also help you to refine your own brand and identify ways to distinguish it from the pack. One way to do so is by identifying content gaps, areas where your competitors aren’t providing the type or volume of content customers want. Identifying these gaps offers your business with an opportunity to generate content that is both distinct and in-demand, further differentiating your brand. Overall, your marketing team crafts your brand image, and their work can have an impact on potential customers long before they make contact with a sales person. It’s critical that your marketing efforts are backed by the best, most up-to-date information available on your competitors.
- Hiring and Training
When most people think of competitive intelligence, they think about applying it to external challenges—generating sales, developing products, planning a marketing campaign, etc. While these are some of the most classic uses of CI, many companies have discovered the value of applying their hard-earned CI data in as many areas as possible. That means looking at processes that are normally handled “in-house” through a competitive lens.
HR departments are using competitive intelligence data to track hiring and benefit trends across your industry. This ensures that your company stays competitive in terms of salary, benefits, and other “perks” that are increasingly in-demand among high-value employees. CI can also illuminate how your company is viewed by former, and potentially future, employees, by tracking sites like Glassdoor and TeamBlind. These forums offer anonymous employee feedback, so it is important to take individual posts with a grain of salt. However, if you notice a particular complaint or issue popping up across several posts, take it as an opportunity to address a potential source of talent-drain. Beyond hiring, onboarding teams often use competitive intelligence to acclimate new hires to the industry space and company culture. Background research on primary competitors, recent news, and product trends are all helpful, especially for employees who are new to your industry.
- Product Development
Product development is all about staying ahead of the competition to provide the best, most advanced solutions on the market. When product developers achieve this goal, they make things easy for marketing and sales team. When they fail, they create an opportunity for competitors to siphon away current and potential customers with their superior offerings. All product teams need competitive intelligence in order to stay ahead of the latest trends and technological developments. Along with product announcements and advertisements, product teams can benefit from competitor documents like product brochures, solution overviews, manuals, user guides, and technical notes.
Hiring trends are another potential indicator of competitors’ product roadmap. Tracking job postings over time can help you spot spikes in hiring that might correspond with new product developments—like a sudden hiring spree in a competitor’s engineering department. Beyond developing new products, competitive intelligence can give your product team a better understanding of how customers use and feel about your solutions. Reviews, industry sites, and social media discussions can all be tapped for insight. This gives your product team an opportunity to offer support and updates when a product or feature is struggling, and build on successful features in future releases.