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Competitive intelligence is literally ‘reverse engineering the competition’ in order to understand their strategies, approaches and the factors which drive their success.
Crayon’s 2018 ‘State of Market Intelligence‘ reports that 77% of businesses claim that competitor intelligence around their competitor’s products, marketing and customers is critical to winning market share.” Quite simply, competitor intelligence solutions are helpful for brands who want to accelerate their revenue.
What are competitor intelligence solutions?
Competitor intelligence is the outcome of a company’s efforts to collect and investigate data about it’s competitors. Competitor intelligence solutions are the methodologies and tech solutions that deliver the data and enable the analysis to happen. Competitor analysis may include:
- Website technology
- Paid-for search marketing (PPC)
- Social media strategy
- Customer service / experience
- Content strategy
- Advertising strategy
The main purpose of competitor analysis is to help the brand identify their competitive strengths and the weaknesses of their competitors in order to develop highly competitive marketing strategies.
Gathering competitive intelligence is a crucial part of any business operation because:
- It helps to improve awareness of market dynamics. It also helps brands to know if they are getting ahead or being outperformed by their competition.
- Competitor intelligence helps brands to gather knowledge about the external business environment. This can aid in the creation of marketing strategies which, in turn, can help the brand achieve it’s long term growth objectives.
- Through competitor intelligence, brands can assess risks by understanding what is happening in the market.
- Opportunity analysis is the art of identifying viable marketing tactics ignored by the competition in order to promote the brand.
How to collect competitor intelligence
Gathering data for competitor intelligence requires brands to invest time and effort. Anything from observing a rival retail store to monitoring the competitor’s advertising efforts are huddled under the umbrella of competitive intelligence.
Plan metrics and goals
The foundation of any competitor intelligence solution is to set out the goals and metrics. Brands should consider the following:
Who are the competitors?
Brands should do their best to know how many competitors they have – and who they are. Consider putting together a list of competitors by regularly researching. In any industry, you can expect competing brands to come and go regularly so it’s easy to miss a new entrant.
Consider the industry
To get the best competitor intelligence solutions, make sure to study the industry that the brand belongs to. For example, if the competitors are being discussed online, consider performing social media monitoring.
While there may be similar approaches, in general, a local café will have different priorities than a global clothing brand. Understanding the industry helps brands know what “success” really is. As a café may enjoy a significant ROI from Facebook marketing – a big clothing brand may not.
Consider the metrics
Data will also differ from business to business. Brands that are analysing the competition with competitor intelligence solutions can use their own performance KPIs as a benchmark to compare their performance versus their competitors. For example, if a brand is looking at traffic flow to the website as a key KPI,, it’s worth analysing the competitor’s site to establish the origins of their traffic in order to identify overlooked opportunities that the competitor is using to drive their website traffic.
Beat the competition with these competitor intelligence solutions
To maintain an advantage in our fast-moving digital world, brands should use the right tools to develop competitive intelligence. These tools can give brands a snapshot of their competitors’ digital marketing tactics. Here is a run-down of tools that you can use to develop competitor intelligence:
Open SEO Stats is a free Chrome browser extension which can help brands grab data from a competitor’s domain. Through this tool, brands can review the brand’s search rankings. The tool also gives an overview of the competitor’s backlink profile as well as the number of pages that they have on their entire website. This is useful for businesses who wants to see how a competitor’s website stacks up against theirs on both content as well as search optimisation.
Brands can take advantage of BuzzSumo’s free services to discover the best performing content relating to their topic. BuzzSumo also has paid tools which can be used to collect competitor intelligence. Brands can now find out which content is giving the competitors their highest engagement rates. For content marketing, BuzzSumo is the best choice. Monthly prices range from $99 to $699.
This tool allows the comparison of referral traffic, visitor behaviour, search rankings, social shares and paid ads. Kompyte also allows tracking based on performing keywords. Kompyte starts at a monthly rate of $95.
SimilarWeb allows brands to gain analytics for a competitor’s website and mobile apps. This tool allows brands to see referral sources, track traffic numbers and origins, view engagement metrics and more. SimilarWeb allows brands to get to know the competitor’s audience. It also gives information on relevant content ideas and partnership opportunities.
This tool allows a brand to measure the impact of it’s marketing campaigns in comparison to the competition. Brands can identify the “when” and “what” by gaining useful information on audience intent and emerging trends. It can also inform the launch timings and key message of campaigns to ensure that campaigns more strongly resonate with customers.
SEMRush gives brands information on which keywords and site links are performing for a competitor’s website. This tool is amazing for brands who want to improve their pay-per-click strategies since it provides estimates for keyword rankings. It is a free tool but brands can get more features if they opt for the paid monthly services which range from $99 to $399.
This tool helps brands to see where their competitors are in terms of advertising – how ads look and how effective their campaigns are. It also allows access to marketing campaign data from more than 150,000 top-performing publishers. Whatrunswhere monthly rates start from $299.
Alexa is the go-to tool for domain rankings. Additionally, it provides other data which can help in better understanding competitors. The Audience Overlap Tool helps brands to discover upcoming competitors who may not yet be on the brand’s radar. It also helps to identify guest blogging opportunities, develop partnerships and select websites for media buys. Alexa is a great bargain for small to medium businesses offering monthly prices that range from $9.99 to $149.
This tool helps brands by revealing their competitor’s search marketing tactics by identifying the keywords that the site is successfully ranking for. iSpionage features a Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI) which identifies which keywords a brand should be working on. Additionally, this tool is able to analyse competitor ads, showing which ones are performing best. Data from this tool allows brands to, in essence, copy the tactics that are working for a competitor. iSpionage has a free version but brands may find more features if they use the monthly paid version which ranges from $29 to $299.
TrackMaven provides personalised competitor data based on the metrics that matter to your brand. Brands can set up a competitor’s activities such as the publication of new content. This tool also allows brands to track performance on different channels for easy comparison. It also brands to test various messaging tactics to see which message performs better.
Brands can learn a lot just by looking at the audiences that follow a competitor’s social media account. This tool analyses the follower’s behaviour and demographics. It is also possible to see who the brand’s influencers are and the type of content that they share.
Searchmetrics is a powerful tool which helps in the SERP ranking of a brand. Searchmetrics has several paid options available. It can help in providing information on SEO visibility. It also shows how a website is ranking on search engines. Brands can add their competitors into the mix to see how well their website is performing in comparison.
Feedly is the best choice for brands who want to monitor the latest news within their industry. Feedly allows users to segment the sites that they are following according to industry trends, competitors and clients. For $5.41 per month, users can get a Pro account that will help monitor the latest content.
Ahrefs is an amazing tool for SEO and keyword research. Brands can use it to see the ranking of competitor sites. Information like how much organic traffic the site gets and, the kind of content that is performing well will also be available through Ahrefs. Other features include allowing brands to see any content gaps, tracking of specific keyword performance and keyword information on sites like Amazon, Baidu and Youtube.
Steps in designing a successful competitor analysis
Identify your competitors
Brands should ideally have a list of all their competitors. Start with the top five direct competing brands. It is also good to take note of indirect competitors and upcoming brands. While unlikely to compete for customers, indirect competitors are important players within the brand’s industry. Upcoming competitors in the meantime are leading companies within the same industry but who do not directly compete with yours. This type of competition can provide inspirational marketing strategies that can be used in the brand’s tactics.
Know the areas of interest to track a competitor’s digital movement
Once competitors are identified, analysis should come next. Brands should ideally choose specific areas focus on since there will be so much data available online. If brands narrow down the information that they have to what is useful for their strategy, the data will then most likely align with current tactics.
Gathering data is the most exhaustive part of any competitive intelligence development programme. Take the time to review the competition’s online presence, its products, teams, social media, website, content and everything in between.
Prepare a competitive analysis
Breaking down the information is the initial step in data analysis. Here brands will be able to pull out important trends and essential pieces of information to help organise their findings. These findings should ideally be communicated throughout the organisation. Competitor analysis can be done in different ways:
- Benchmark or baseline analysis – This allows brands to compile data and create a competitor profile. These profiles are useful in revealing findings on each competitor which are kept within a centralised document.
- Analyse competitive intelligence on an ongoing basis – Brands can track competitors continuously by setting up alerts on everything the competitor does. This way, the brand can stay ahead of the competition.
Once data is gathered and analysed, the results can be communicated to key stakeholders within the organisation.
Prepare actionable goals
Once data is prepared and communicated, it is important to make the information actionable – and to use the findings to benefit the entire marketing strategy.