In B2B sales, the ability to gather, document, and distribute competitive intelligence is critical — you need a competitive intelligence program.
Sales Reps need to understand the competitive advantage over the vendors selling against them.
The marketing team needs to leverage competitive insights in their messaging and copy.
And other members of the go-to-market and product teams need this as they work to understand the market landscape.
Before we go too far, let’s cover a couple of the basics.
What is competitive intelligence?
Competitive intelligence (CI) gathers and analyzes all available information about your competitors.
This research often uses both public and private information gathered through:
- Competitor websites.
- Press releases
- Win-loss reviews with current and potential customers.
- Past employees
- Industry experts and analysts
- Social media posts from the vendor and their employees
- Competitive Intelligence tools like Crayon, Klue, and others.
Starting a Competitive Intelligence Program (CI Program)
When you’re ready to get started with competitive intelligence, there are some essential steps and best practices you should follow.
Define what competitive intelligence means for your organization
How will competitive intelligence fit into your business strategy? Is the goal to identify emerging trends, understand brand perception, drive more revenue, etc.?
Who will own the gathering of the information? Will this be in solution or product marketing? Will you create a CI team and hire seasoned competitive intelligence professionals?
How will you measure the success of your efforts? Consider your business goals and review our article on key business metrics to determine the answer to these questions.
Understand what information you need and who needs it
Based on the goals you set for your CI Program, what information are you looking to capture, and on what frequency?
Who are the key stakeholder groups internally? Your sales team? Marketing? Product?
Will this information be used by executives to shape strategy, or just tactically in the field as you work with customers?
Set up a process for gathering intelligence
How will you gather information?
We discussed many options above, ranging from using search engines, one of the many tools available for CI, public data sources like competitor’s websites, etc.?
Gathering competitive intelligence is part science and part art, document the processes you are using.
Which competitors will you monitor? Just your closest competitors or will you go broader and include indirect competitors?
Will your market research include analyzing specific industries for emerging trends, spending time with analysts in your space, gathering data at events, etc.?
Collect data from all available sources
Go collect the data.
Analyze and interpret the data you’ve collected
As you look at the competitive landscape and the market intelligence you have gathered, you must determine what it all means.
And what you are looking for will vary based on the goals of your competitive intelligence efforts.
Distribute your findings to the appropriate people
Depending on your goals, deliver an overview of your competitive intelligence findings to key stakeholders and ensure you provide actionable information to those teams.
Are you recommending a change to your sales process? Ensure sales leaders, operations, and enablement teams are involved.
Is your sales cycle longer than necessary because your competitors are pointing out weaknesses in your product, weaknesses you were not aware of in the first place?
Or has your competitive intelligence identified new pain points in your target customers, and you need to move before your competitors solve this problem and take a leadership position in the industry?
Review and iterate
Your efforts are like any other program you run.
Continuous improvement is required to achieve long-term business value and stay ahead of your competitors.
At least twice a year, if not quarterly, review your program and make appropriate improvements.
And if you are losing market share, make sure your focus your competitive analysis on the competitors currently beating you up.
Popular Competitive Intelligence Tools
There are many options for competitive intelligence tools on the market, and the solution you choose should fit your specific needs.
Here are a few popular competitive intelligence tools:
Gain competitive insights, track competitors, and benchmark against them with Crayon.
Klue competitive intelligence tool gives you the ability to see what your competitors are up to and understand how they win.
Meltwater competitive intelligence software provides real-time insights into your competitor’s online activity.
Owler is a competitive intelligence platform that offers company reviews, news, and insights.
Crayon vs. Klue vs Meltwater vs Owler
How do these platforms compare to one another?
- All four platforms offer competitive insights, tracking, and benchmarking capabilities.
- Crayon, Klue, and Meltwater all have real-time updates of competitor activity.
Are There Any Good Free Competitive Intelligence Tools?
If you are looking for free market intelligence tools, consider these options.
Google Alerts is a free competitive intelligence tool that monitors the web for mentions of your competitors and delivers them to you in real-time.
The free version of BuzzSumo is limited but capable of tracking competitors, terms, and more.
Final thoughts on your competitive intelligence program
Competitive intelligence is not a project you run every so often — it is an ongoing part of your go-to-market strategy that is always-on.
The processes used, including win-loss analysis, reviewing changes to landing pages on your competitor’s websites, and similar activities, allow your business to make informed decisions, continuously improve, and better serve your customers.