Did you know that 90 percent of companies have concluded that their niches have become more competitive in the last three years? This increase in competitiveness cuts across industries irrespective of the businesses and industry’s size.
Why is this?
The answer is simple. You’ll likely share your domain with a competitor. It also means your company needs to be above the fold and ahead of the curve in your industry.
Luckily, some strategies help you understand your competitive environment and make informed decisions that’ll keep your company on top. That’s where competitor intelligence comes in.
Competitor intelligence (CI) is the collection and analysis of data on your competition. CI tells you the strength and weaknesses of your competition, their strategies, and basically what makes them tick. This information comes in handy when you’re looking to stay on top of your industry.
This article will discuss the important components of competitor intelligence and identify some techniques you can employ to keep you on top of your game. Let’s get to it.
Identify Your Competition
First off, you have to know who you’re dealing with. You can’t win a battle if you don't know who you’re fighting in the first place.
Some companies may have more than one competitor. What you do, in this case, is to identify your top five direct competitors. Yes, direct competitors. Some competitors have similar solutions for problems to your target audience.
The easiest way to find your competition is to do what you’d probably do if you were searching for something. Just Google it. Your target audience is more likely to search for your business on Google than check your local directory.
Did you know that internet users visited Google over 89 billion times in the past month alone?
You can find your competitors the same way. Simply search for “your solution” + “your city name.” For instance, Italian restaurants in San Francisco. Here are the results that showed up for this search on Google.
This result shows you the top-ranked Italian restaurants in San Francisco. They’re your direct competition.
Your next step should be to list these companies and rank them according to their threat levels. You can further identify your indirect competition, but your primary focus should be on your direct competitors.
There are other ways to identify your competitors as well, including:
Compare Products or Services
It’s a great idea to make a product or service comparison between you and your direct competitors. It helps you identify how your solutions differ and how you can boost the appeal of your product or service.
There are simple steps in making a product or service comparison. Let’s see how.
Identify Competing Products
You need to know what products are in contention with yours on the market. You also need briefs on these products like product descriptions, special features, and pricing.
Do Some Research
After identifying your competing products, you’ll have to gather more information on them. You may not have the time to go out and try all your competing products to make a comparison. So, most people turn to online tools or marketing collateral for research.
Marketing collaterals are digital prints used to promote a brand’s products or services. They include:
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
Create a Comparison Table
There are different types of comparison tables you can create. Two of the most popular are qualitative and quantitative tables.
The qualitative comparison tables work on a scoring system where the best product feature gains a score of 1 and the other product receives a score of 0. Here’s an example from WP Data Tables:
Typically, the product with the highest number of wins is the best.
However, the quantitative comparison table gives your audience a more in-depth look at each product and its features. It also works on a scoring system of one to ten, ranking the product's features.
Here’s an example:
Here, the features are also assigned weights that display each feature's relative importance. Ultimately, the scores are added and then multiplied by the weights to decide which product is most suitable for the user.
Do a Competitor Keyword Analysis
If you want to set your brand apart online, there’s no getting by keyword analysis; essentially, SEO. Every business development strategy needs one.
As we saw earlier, your prospective customer will probably search for your business online. You’ll want to be on the first page of their search results.
Ranking number one in a Google search result typically comes with a 39 percent click-through rate.
The prospect of ranking number one for start-ups may be unrealistic in the short term, but you want to be on that first page, performing competitor keyword analysis can get you there. What’s more, there are amazing tools like Ahrefs that can help you get going.
With Ahrefs, for example, all you need to do is input the competitor's website URL, and Ahrefs takes it from there. It shows you the competitor’s organic keyword, the volume of those keywords, and the traffic those keywords generate. Here’s an example:
You can also look to other competitor analysis tools like Moz and SEMRush to spy on your competition. And mind you, they’re probably doing the same.
Here’s a competitor analysis template you can use.
Analyze PPC Spend
Pay-per-click advertising is a model of online advertising where you pay the advertiser when people click on your ad. That’s a great deal, wouldn’t you say? It’s a great way to promote your brand while generating leads.
Analyzing your competitor’s PPC gives you insight into how much they spend on these ads, what keywords they use, which ones work, and which ones don’t. You can use this information to streamline your PPC strategy then.
The simplest way to analyze a competitor’s PPC spending is to use one of the aforementioned analysis tools. SEMRush is a popular choice among the bunch for PPC analysis. It gives you the competitor’s budget, top keywords, and all.
Do a Social Media Analysis
You know it, and so does your competition. Social media is an essential lead generation channel for your business. Another effective strategy in competitor intelligence is monitoring their social activity.
What are they doing? What platforms are they doing it on? Is it working? Performing a social media analysis is easy. Here’s how:
- Using the competitor's list you compiled, find out which social platforms your competitors use.
- Next, check how active they are on these platforms. What is the interval between their posts? Are they responsive to their community?
- Now, you need to check the type of content they post. You can go deeper and identify what percentage of posts are promotional. Simply check their last ten posts and do the math.
- Determine your competitor’s social media voice. That is the tone and point of view of their posts. Do others post on the brand’s behalf, or do they use the brand’s perspective (using the pronoun "we")?
- Finally, compile the data into a spreadsheet so you can analyze it.
Instead of going at it manually, you can employ social listening tools to do the hack work for you. Here’s an example from the Sprout Social platform:
Here, you get insights into your competitor’s engagements, impressions, and more. Handy, right? You can find more social listening tools here.
Analyze Content Strategy
The content you publish can be a game-changer for your business. This is why it’s important to monitor your competitor’s content strategy. You need to know what is working and what isn’t.
What content are your competitors posting? Are they more inclined to send out infographics or create explainer videos for their products? Monitoring your competitor’s content strategy helps you identify the gaps in their campaigns.
You can use that knowledge to create content that fills that gap and brings value to your audience. That tells your audience that you put them first.
Also, look into your competitors' offerings. Are they giving away some freebies or maybe some discounts? These offerings can pull the audience in their direction. You can then do some giveaways or create engaging content that is worth your audience’s dime.
Competitor intelligence has to be an integral part of your business development strategy if you’re looking to be a big dog in your industry. Even though competitor intelligence can be tedious, it is worth the sweat as it boosts your company’s appeal.
It all begins with identifying your competition and analyzing the strategies that make them who they are. You can then identify the gaps in those strategies and make informed decisions that put you ahead of your competitors.