How to carry out effective competitive intelligence?

by Brohems
E-commerce: how to succeed in your end of year sales?

With the intensification of competition imposed by digital technology, it is impossible to ignore this strategic tool: competitive intelligence. 

Insights about your competitors’ marketing activities are just as important as those you collect about your customers. These are all data that are used for decision-making to build your marketing strategy and grow your business.

Competitive intelligence helps you learn from the successes and failures of your main competitors. This is especially true if you are new to your market: you can get your business off the ground by understanding how your competitors operate. 

Our strategy experts therefore give you the keys to carry out an effective competitive intelligence, in just 5 steps, and make it a real engine of growth. 

Competitive intelligence: definition 

What is Competitive Intelligence? 

Competitive intelligence encompasses all the activities you initiate to understand your competitive environment for marketing and business purposes. It can focus on the overall strategy of your competitors as well as specific aspects (products, communication, pricing policy, etc.). It thus becomes a tool to help make strategic decisions based on the analysis of the practices (good or less good) of the competition.

Why carry out competitive intelligence? 

The objective of competitive intelligence is not to copy what your competitors are doing, on the contrary. It’s about analyzing their marketing and sales practices and using them to increase your competitive advantage.

Carrying out a competitive intelligence can thus be used to: 

  • Define the best practices in your sector of activity (common to your main competitors),
  • Anticipate the next activities of your competitors that would have an impact on your business (launch of a new product or service, opening of a point of sale, redesign of a website, etc.) 
  • Analyze the competitiveness of your brand in this competitive environment (e-reputation, consumer preference, top-of-mind, etc.) 

Competitive intelligence, yes, but for whom?

The reasons for carrying out competitive intelligence must also take into account the question “for whom?” “. This guides the actions you will take to analyze the strategy of your competitors.

Effective competitive intelligence should be a tool for your employees (sales, marketing team, management committee, etc.). It must help them to deploy appropriate actions to sustainably position the company and distinguish it from its competitors. 

Where to find information for effective competitive intelligence? 

In this article, we are going to focus on white information. These are all those available in free access, usually on the web. This term economic intelligence is opposed to gray information, the result of an investigation or indiscretion (collaborator, supplier, distributor, etc.), and black information, obtained illegally (industrial espionage).

To find information for conducting competitive intelligence, you can: 

  • Analyze your competitors’ digital communication media (website, social media, newsletters, etc.): you can use platforms such as Similarweb (freemium offer) for an in-depth marketing study;
  • Use specialized sites to obtain information on the structure of the competing company or its financial health (eg societe.com);
  • Browse customer review sites (eg Trustpilot) or employee reviews (eg Glassdoor);
  • Use Social Listening software (eg Hootsuite, SEMrush, etc.); 
  • Create feeds or alerts linked to the digital activity of your competitors (Google Alerts, Feedly, etc.); 
  • Call on mystery shoppers to make visits to the store; 
  • Buy competing products or services.

To save time, you can also call on a marketing agency and entrust them with this essential monitoring work.

5 steps to effective competitive intelligence 

  1. Defining competitive intelligence priorities

Before launching your competitive intelligence, you must first define what are the priorities. Your goal is to collect relevant, actionable information for your business. This assumes you know what to focus on. Monitoring can, in fact, apply to a specific aspect of your competitors’ marketing strategy. You could, for example, study their pricing policy (pricing watch), the launch of new products or the growth of their community on social networks. Competitive intelligence is above all a tool at the service of your own objectives: you must use it as such.

  1. Get to know your target 

To take advantage of your competitive intelligence, you must correlate it with the knowledge you have of your customers. You have to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they expect from you. In other words, ask yourself the right questions to understand the motivations of your potential buyers. Advantageous prices, recommendation of influencers, ease of use of the website, favorable customer reviews. Study all possible avenues to identify why a target consumer would choose one company and not another. 

  1. Identify your direct and indirect competitors

A central step in your competitive intelligence, it’s time to identify your direct and indirect competitors. 

direct competitor is targeting the same audience as you and offering a product or service similar to yours. 

Example: If you run an organic cosmetics store, your direct competitors are therefore all the organic cosmetics stores in your catchment area.

An indirect competitor offers a product or service that is different from yours, but fulfills the same need from the consumer’s perspective. 

Example: The direct competitors of an organic cosmetics store can therefore be all businesses that offer even non-organic beauty products (parapharmacies, supermarkets, etc.).

If you manage an e-commerce site, you can use the Google search engine to identify your competitors. Research keywords relevant to your business and focus on the top five organic results (i.e. excluding ads). 

Expert tip: You can use the query “related:yoururl.com” on Google. The results will include all companies similar to the one searched for.

  1. Analyze the communication strategy of your competitors

The objective of competitive intelligence is to help you deploy the appropriate strategy to position yourself advantageously and sustainably in relation to your competitors. It therefore goes without saying to analyze their communication strategy to plan or improve yours.

To carry out effective competitive intelligence, you can study in particular:

  • The site of your competitors: how do they present their offer? What are the reinsurance elements? Where are the call-to-action buttons placed? Is the site well optimized for mobile? etc;
  • The platforms on which they are present: the social networks chosen and the editorial line can say a lot about their communication strategy; 
  • Their visibility on search engines: which keywords lead to the sites of your competitors? How are they placed on the first page of search results? etc

The list of questions is not exhaustive: it must be correlated to the priorities you set earlier. Surround yourself with marketing strategy experts to identify those that are most relevant to ensure effective monitoring.

  1. Efficiently report the conclusions of your competitive intelligence

Carrying out competitive intelligence is only useful if you are able to report the conclusions effectively. Monitoring is a tool for your salespeople, your marketing specialists and even for management. It should help you build a successful business strategy to support business growth. 

Here are two useful tools to summarize your competitive intelligence:

  • Competitive mapping (or positioning map):

This marketing tool aims to visually restore the positioning of your company in its competitive environment. It can, for example, be used to analyze your price positioning, your notoriety, customer satisfaction, the perceived range of a product, etc.

The competitive mapping is represented as a two-axis chart. These represent two criteria defined by you, in accordance with the objectives of your competitive intelligence. Each end of the vertical axis and the horizontal axis represents a “+” and a “-“.

  • SWOT (FFOM) Matrix: 

A SWOT (or SWOT) matrix details the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a marketing strategy. Since it is based on an internal analysis (strengths and weaknesses) and an external analysis (opportunities and threats), it makes it easier to step back.

The SWOT matrix thus allows you to identify potential areas of development to integrate into your marketing plan. Thanks to its graphic representation, the employees concerned can better understand the strategic issues of your competitive intelligence.

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