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Competitive Intelligence Strategy: Getting Started + 8 Essential Competitor Analysis Tools You Should Be Using

December 19, 2019

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Instead of spending a lot of time worrying about your competition, why not leverage them as a useful resource with the right competitor analysis tools?

Data from Crayon’s 2019 State of Competitive Intelligence Report reveal that 41 percent of respondents “strongly agree” on the integral part competitive intelligence plays in the success of their organization. 

Implementing the right competitive intelligence strategy can do wonders for your business. There are also dozens of competitor analysis tools that you can use to see where you stack up against the competition, and identify new opportunities to differentiate your brand.

Why Study and Analyze Your Competitors?

Competitive intelligence doesn’t have to be extremely complicated — provided you’re using the framework and tools to accurately fit the needs of your business. 

Analyzing your competitors is also a worthwhile endeavor that will help your brand grow. It will even help you achieve a better understanding of your customers. You’ll find out exactly what resonates with them and what doesn’t work. 

You can simplify the entire process in three steps.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

According to Fuld and Company competitive intelligence is the:

“…collection and analysis of information to anticipate competitive activity, see past market disruptions and dispassionately interpret events.”

In other words, the competitive intelligence gathered can help you plan a better marketing strategy, make you more appealing to prospects, and improve your online reputation.

Competitive Intelligence Step 1:‌ Identify the Competition and Gather the Right Data

Gathering actionable information from rival businesses requires you to look at the right competitors. In some cases, this might be the store next to you or a specific company based on the other side of the planet. Your list of competitors will fall into one of the following categories (we suggest finding between 5-10 business for each category):

Direct Competitors

The easiest way to figure out the competition is to create a list of businesses in your industry that attract the same customers as you. 

On a daily basis, your brand is up against these direct competitors offering similar products or services at varying prices and quality. The information you gather from your competitive intelligence strategy can help you find major differentiators to stand out in your market.

Indirect Competitors

Sometimes you’ll have businesses in the same industry as yours but you both attract different clientele. 

One example of this is fast-food chains and Michelin-star establishments. They’re both in the restaurant industry but serve different sets of diners. 

However, it’s still important to identify and keep tabs on these indirect competitors. Their tactics for maintaining a great online reputation and attracting new customers can vary in scale and scope yet still work for your brand.

Aspirational Competitors

Learning from the best can help your business grow in the long run, which makes it imperative for you to track these aspirational competitors. These are businesses that you aspire to compete with in the future (hence the name), but you’re currently not at their level of in terms of revenue, audience, or even exposure. 

These businesses built a roadmap for their success, and you can take a few initiatives from their playbook to grow your business’s exposure and reputation.

Competitive Intelligence Step 2:‌ Gather the Right Data

Now that you have an idea of your competition, you can begin to conduct competitive intelligence research to analyze and present to stakeholders. 

There are plenty of sources that contain information about your competitors, but you’ll need to narrow your scope to filter the noise and extract the pertinent data. Specifically, there are three major sources that are easily accessible and provide plenty of valuable information.

competitive intelligence

Social Media

Findings from Hootsuite show that more than 40 percent of consumers use social media to conduct research on new brands, and companies are using these platforms to meet demands. 

Specifically, businesses utilize between four to ten social media accounts, and 77 percent of brands foresee their use of social media to increase in the future.

Being on social media is one of the easiest ways to gain knowledge on your competitor’s strategies. Specifically, be on the lookout for posts on upcoming products or features, or watch how they engage with customers on various platforms. 

Keeping an eye on these trends can provide insights on the company’s overall direction, areas where they might lean on partners to make up for weaknesses in their product, and the current state of customer sentiment towards their brand.

Company Website

In some situations, a competitor’s own website contains a treasure trove of information. Approach your research as if you’re the customer and ask the following questions:

  • What is the type of audience they want to attract?‌ 
  • Which products or services are they highly promoting and why? 
  • Do they have any major differentiators that help them stand out from other businesses (including yours) in the same industry?

A great place to start on a competitor’s website are the product pages. Read their copy to see how they are positioning their product or service to customers. Pages with pricing information are also worth investigating to see if you can provide a better product or service at a lower cost to customers.

Customer Reviews

Perhaps one of the best ways to learn about your competitors is through their own customers, specifically their reviews. 

A great place to check customer reviews of a competing brand is through their Google business listing. Research shows that 63 percent of customers check Google before visiting a business. 

It’s easy to just look at your competition’s negative reviews and enjoy reading about flaws in their offerings, but it’s also worth looking at their positive feedback. Find out what customers liked about their experience with the competing brand and see if you can find ways to emulate or improve it for your own strategy.

Manually monitoring and analyzing competitors’ reviews can take up valuable time and resources. However, there are competitor analysis tools available that make the entire process easy to view and analyze. 

8 Essential Competitor Analysis Tools You Should Be Using

The entire research step can be the most time-consuming part of your competitive intelligence strategy. However, the time spent on research decreased by five percent between 2018 and 2019, and it’s due to the rise of new competitive analysis tools that make the workload easier for you. 

We handpicked some of the best competitor analysis tools that your business should be using. These are suited to help you make brand comparisons and get ahead of the rest. (Let us know if we missed your favorite ones!) 

Owler: Analyze Competitors’ Business Information

What have your competitors been up to? Find out with Owler, an all-in-one competitive analysis tool that provides a “Daily Snapshot” or update of your competitors based on multiple online sources.

Owler specializes in delivering accurate, real-time community-driven business information, which helps you uncover the latest industry news and alerts. You can also use it to get a detailed profile of your rivals and even track their changes in funding, leadership, and acquisitions.

Sign up for Owler with a basic free plan or paid Plus or Pro plans

Google Alerts: Analyze Competitors’ Brand Mentions

It’s not necessarily built for competitive intelligence, but Google Alerts can be valuable in helping you stay on top of trends and insights. It’s an essential competitor analysis tool that’s free and easy to use.  

While you may have already set up alerts for mentions of your brand, you can do the same for mentions of your direct competition, or a broader category of indirect competitors. Don’t forget to include company nicknames and alternate spellings.

Simply type in your rivals’ names on Google Alerts and the program will send you notifications when it finds new results on the subject matter. This is extremely useful when you want to easily track product changes, new content, and major news about the organization.

Google Alerts can also work alongside Google Trends, which lets you access real-time data in order to gauge consumer search interest in your brand and your competition. 

WooRank: Analyze Competitors’ Website Performance

Your list of competitors probably already includes links to their websites. Apart from visiting your rivals’ core web properties, you can gather more data on their websites’ performance by using a tool like WooRank.  

This digital marketing and competitive analysis tool lets you instantly review your competitor’s website, find issues, track keywords, and identify opportunities. With WooRank, you can see how you stack up versus competitors in terms of technical SEO, site performance, usability, keyword usage, backlink quality, and even social media engagement.

You can sign up for a 14-day free trial of WooRank, after which you can opt into its various monthly plans. 

Competitors Report by ReviewTrackers: Analyze Competitors’ Reviews

Competitors Report by ReviewTrackers helps you evaluate the performance of your top competitors on online review websites. 

You can use this data to capitalize on their shortcomings while also improving the customer experience for your brand.

The tool also allows you to track your brand reputation, compare your latest or historical activity on online review sites with that of your competitors, and create custom reports for stakeholders and decision-makers in your organization.

Competitors Report includes the new Competitive Landscape Chart, which enables you to visually track your average ratings and amount of reviews against your top competition. Running multiple business locations? The Charts also help you understand which locations are performing well and which ones need more attention.

VIsit this page to request a demo of ReviewTrackers.

Talkwalker: Analyze Competitors’ Social Media Performance

Talkwalker is a competitive intelligence tool that helps you keep a close eye on specific social media trends, identify valuable content to use for blogs, and monitor your brand’s popularity through image recognition.

With Talkwalker you can keep one eye on your brand’s growth and another eye on the conversations surrounding your competition.

It even includes a free social search tool for tracking your campaigns and hashtags (as well as that of your rivals).

If you need a more comprehensive data intelligence and social media analytics tool, you can sign up for the paid versions of Talkwalker

BuzzSumo: Analyze Competitors’ Content

BuzzSumo is a tool for identifying the content that performs best. It’s extremely useful for marketers looking to generate new ideas, create high-performing content, and engage with influencers. But BuzzSumo can also serve as a powerful competitive analysis tool.

Once you type in a topic or competitor URL, BuzzSumo’s database pulls the social media stats from the most popular channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Reddit. This type of intel is key when determining which content resonates best with your customers and prospects.

Visualping: Analyze Competitors’ Website Updates

What changes are competitors making on their websites and digital properties? Visualping is your tool for finding out.

It takes periodic screenshots of websites then compare them for any changes. If any drastic changes are noticed, Visualping will send you email alerts or notifications through its mobile app. That way, you can track if your competitor updates its seasonal promotions, product inventory, prices, or availability so you won’t have to keep track of these yourself.

MailCharts: Analyze Competitors’ Emails

It’s even possible to gather competitive intelligence on your competitors’ email marketing efforts. One of our favorite competitor analysis tools is called MailCharts, which saves you the trouble of secretly subscribing to your competition’s emails and spending hours trying to find something actionable.

This competitor analysis tool not only grabs subject lines; it also pulls data such as send frequency and helps you compare your campaigns versus that of your rivals to see where your emails stand. 

You can visit this page to sign up and create your MailCharts account.

And that wraps up our list! Once you have the data you need, you can easily export it in a PDF‌ or CSV‌ file to make it ready for presentation. Speaking of which…

Competitive Intelligence Step 3:‌ Analyze the Data and Present to Stakeholders

At this point you should have plenty of competitive intelligence data at your disposal, but you’ll need to properly analyze and present it in a way that everyone who sees it gets the most out of your research. 

When analyzing data, keep these questions in the back of your mind to make your findings more meaningful to key stakeholders:

  • How can this competitive intelligence research influence my marketing and sales strategies?
  • What insights can our product team gain from the way our competitors position their own offerings?
  • Do customer reviews reveal different ways for us to better stand out from the competition?

competitive intelligence

Present Understandable, Meaningful, and Actionable Data

Crayon’s 2018 State of Market Intelligence Report showed an overwhelming majority (84 percent) prefer to share competitive intelligence via email. Additional data shows meetings (61 percent) and internal chat services (32 percent) like Slack are also popular options for sharing your research.

Regardless of the method you choose, make sure the people you present to walk away with a clear idea of your research data and how to use it to improve your brand’s offerings, exposure, and online reputation. The worst thing to happen in these presentations is your stakeholders are confused about your findings and don’t leverage it to improve the business.

You should also update your research on a regular basis. The data gathered today might not be relevant in a few weeks or months, and outdated information could derail your efforts. 

Crayon’s findings show that 28 percent of competitive intelligence researchers will update data when they have the time to do so. However, 36 percent wish they could update their research information on a weekly basis.

Optimize Your Competitive Intelligence Strategy

Competitive intelligence and analysis is an essential step to making your business truly unique. 

By following the steps above, you can easily get started with developing and implementing a strategy. Identifying a short list of competitors and narrowing your competitive intelligence focus to specific elements of rival brands can make research shorter and more meaningful.

Over time, your competitive intelligence strategy will evolve to include new competitors, new competitor analysis tools, and different areas of focus. However, you should still focus on making your findings relevant and impactful so your team can find ways to make the brand stand out in your industry.

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