Digital competitive intelligence (CI) is a growing strategic requirement for businesses seeking to monitor the business and marketing activities of competitors. This digital analysis activity should be part of your competitive benchmarking strategy that leads to enhancements of your own product, service and operational strategies. For many businesses, there is an unwillingness to pursue a competitive intelligence strategy in part because of resources, but also due to concerns about business ethics associated with the practice. But with social monitoring tools now readily available, the opportunities and necessity to track competitors has only grown in scope beyond more traditional competitive intelligence tactics.
A signal danger inherent in competitive intelligence gathering is the potential for overload – acquiring too much data that fails to result in actionable information. To avoid this, be judicious in the scope of competitors analyzed and select data sources that are most revealing.
Another outcome that befalls some companies is that while they have competitive intelligence programs in place, the analysis and distribution components of these programs aren’t complete. Without useful analytics as part of the intelligence gathering process there will be few insights gathered and actionable tactics planned and implemented. Without clearly defined recipients of relevant components of the intelligence in areas like customer support, product development, marketing communications, product management, etc. the opportunities to use the intelligence will be greatly diminished.
Competitive Intelligence Program Steps
1. Identify your competitors – Think beyond the obvious ones to emerging competitors or those in related fields.
2. Track their web domain name ownership – This can give you hints on new products, services they might be considering.
3. Subscribe to their e-newsletters and track interesting content – If necessary to cloak your interest, consider using non-business email addresses for this purpose.
4. Keyword tracking – Create a Google Alert for notifications about competitors. Track keywords that are associated with their brands, category, customers using social media tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck.
5. Event monitoring – Attend and monitor their webinars and other virtual and live events.
6. Content analysis – Track and download their white papers and other content
7. Social media monitoring – Follow them on all key social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram.
On Twitter, some additional suggestions from a recent article were to follow their lists; follow their followers; create a secret list and track them; follow their event or other #hashtags and to use the advanced Twitter search capabilities to dive deeper into tracking criteria.
8. Search engine marketing analysis – Determine the scope of and track their pay per click advertising campaigns. Monitor their keyword ad purchases and ad copy on Bing, Google or other search engines
9. Share of voice comparison – Determine their relative share of voice in comparison to yours over time by tracking social brand mentions. Competitive intelligence monitoring solutions are offered by companies like Brandify.
With the vast amount of information on the Internet, intelligence can also be gained by tracking what is happening with competitor’s employee satisfaction and recruiting activities. This can give you insights into new ventures they are pursuing.
10. Employee attitudes review – For larger companies, track what employees are saying on sites like GlassDoor.
11. Job opening analysis – Track their job openings to see new areas they are pursuing, internal discontent or other employee retention factors.
12. Financial analysis – For public companies, track their financial releases and statements.
14. Comparative pricing analysis – For ecommerce companies, track competitive price changes using tools like Upstream Commerce.
Combining these tactics with effective analysis should be part of your ongoing business and marketing strategies so that your organization doesn’t miss out on the signals and insights that come from keeping abreast of the competition. Some other tips are suggested in the Periodic Table of Competitive Intelligence an infographic created by Aqute Intelligence showcased below:
Beyond these tips, if you have the resources and critical need, consider hiring a competitive intelligence firm like Fuld & Co. or Acute Intelligence for custom intelligence. You also might find industry analysts who cover your industry that offer syndicated reports.
For additional information on competitive intelligence evaluate the resources at the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals or the Association of Independent Information Professionals. You can also find infographics, charts and other visual information on this topic at my Pinterest board.
To track trends, techniques and resources to enhance your marketing strategies follow me on Twitter @theWebChef.