In our online business landscape, it’s easier than ever before to conduct competitive intelligence, research, and analysis.
You can effortlessly spy, track, and understand what your competitors are doing and what makes them successful.
On this page, you will learn:
- What is competitive intelligence? Definition and benefits.
- How to do competitive market research and analyze your competitor’s products, employees, and customers?
- How to check a competitor’s website properly?
- How to perform social media and SEO competitive intelligence?
- The key competitive intelligence questions you need to find the answer.
- Infographic in PDF: 23 actionable techniques and methods to research the competitors.
What is competitive intelligence?
Let’s define it:
Competitive intelligence is the process of collecting and analyzing information about your current and potential competitors, industry, and business environment.
Practically, you can track everything your competitors do – from products to people to promotions.
The goal is to find out what is working for other businesses in your industry so that you can make the most informed decisions and gain competitive advantages.
There are many benefits you can gain when performing competitive intelligence:
- Discover what consumers are saying about your competitors and their products.
- Identify in which areas competitors are better than you and how you can approve your offerings.
- Get new ideas to serve your customers better.
- Discover new marketing channels.
- Understand why competitors’ websites are ranking higher than yours.
- Spot new opportunities, gaps, and trends in the market.
- Understand how your company is performing and where you need to concentrate more energy.
- Determine and manage risks.
Now, let’s see how to collect data about your competitors and leverage competitive intelligence for business decisions.
How to perform competitive intelligence? 23 easy but powerful ways.
Research On Your Competitor’s Products and Services
Researching competitors’ products and services, has a critical place in the overall competitive intelligence process.
The goal is to find out what your competitors are offering, to which customers, how they update their proposals, and how they innovate.
There are industries (like tech) where companies’ products and services are in a constant cycle of innovation.
And if you are operating in such an industry, it’s even more critical to gain constant insight into competitor’s products to be able to stay ahead.
Here are some essential questions you should find the answer:
- How are your competitor’s products positioned in the market?
(low-cost products, high-quality products, products with unique features, ease of use, etc.)
- What are the key marketing channels of the competitors for distributing their products/services?
(retail, brokers, franchising, direct marketing, affiliate marketing, etc.)
- Does your sales team know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ products?
Is your team ready to sell effectively against them?
- Do competitors regularly discount their products? What is the size of the discount?
- How does your pricing compare?
- How innovative are your competitor’s products? How regularly they update features?
How to gain answers to these questions? Here are some easy but effective methods for product research on your competitors:
1. Check any of the product-related pages on your competitors’ websites.
This includes product descriptions, product reviews by customers, help articles, forum activities, product photography, etc.
For example, the forum topics can give you valuable information about user experience (UX) and show you which product areas are difficult to use.
The product description will show you how competitors explain their products and communicate benefits. You can spot what information is missing in descriptions and think why.
The key point here is to check regularly the competitor’s page to stay updated with the new movements and offers.
2. Purchase competitor products
The best way to understand how customers feel about your competitor’s products is to become a customer of your competitor.
Buy goods from your competitors on a regular basis to follow changes in product strategies.
Purchasing competitor’s products will not only allow you to check out the product itself, but also discover important details such as the time it takes to ship, the level of service, the customer experience, the packaging, etc.
3. Understand the pricing
The pricing strategy is one of the most important components of every business.
But just watching the numbers of prices is not enough for gathering successful competitive intelligence.
You need to evaluate and understand all of the features and components of your competitor’s pricing strategy (such as discounts, fees, distributing channels, additional services, pricing segmentation, etc. )
Moreover, you have to educate your sales team about your competitor’s prices so that they can best position the value of your solutions.
How you can find info about competition prices?
- Check competitor’s websites and discount announcements
- Use competitor price tracking software as Prisync and Price2Spy
- Check sites specially created for reviewing products (as G2 Crowd and Software Advice in the software industry).
4. Keep an eye on product reviews
The number of third-party review sites for sharing customer feedback is constantly growing. That’s why it’s incredibly easy to gain valuable info about your competitors.
For example, review websites such as G2 Crowd and Software Advice if you are in the software industry. They are full of customer advice, praise, recommendations, and complaining about your competitor’s products.
Other popular examples of sites where people share their experiences are Google Plus Local and Yelp.
Pay attention to how many reviews your competitors have in comparison to yours and how satisfied people are.
5. Use competitive intelligence tools
Nowadays, there are so many paid or free competitor analysis tools that allow you to monitor almost all aspects of your competition and to perform marketing intelligence on a high level with no efforts.
For example, Crayon is a powerful software tool that helps you track products and services at scale. They track 100+ different signals to provide you with a full picture of your competitors’ digital footprints.
Custodee is another tool that offers individual website monitoring and competitor tracking. You can use this tool to get notifications about availability, prices, and content changes of competitors and their products.
Research On Your Competitor’s Employees and Team
The employees and teams are one of the most valuable strengths of your competitor. Every employee has a significant influence on customer relationships and satisfaction.
The staff is the reason why your competitor’s product is high-quality, the service is good, and the customer experience is excellent (or not).
Researching your competitor’s employees will show you the skills that keep the competitor’s business running successfully.
The key questions in your research:
- How often are your competitors hiring? In which departments and regions?
- What types of skills and qualifications are your competitors searching the most?
- What do candidates share about their recruiting process?
- What do employees say about their work environment and motivation? Are they satisfied with the conditions?
- Who are the biggest talents in your competitor and why they work for the company?
And here are some very useful techniques and methods to find out the answer to the above questions.
6. Read employee reviews
Do not forget to regularly check these sites to be updated about the latest ratings on you and your competitors.
7. Research LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a very useful place when it comes to finding employee-related information.
Sign up on LinkedIn to follow a company and get alerts when updates are published on its LinkedIn page.
You also can find former employees and new hires. Carefully check the profiles of the employees – their qualifications, previous jobs, positions, skills, certificates, etc.
This is precious information about the people’s level of knowledge, experience, and professionalism.
8. Check Who’s on Quora
Quora holds a tremendous database of interesting competitive questions on various topics.
Regularly, company employees provide professional answers and they reply using their true identities to promote the company where they work.
Find the answers of your competitor’s staff and pay attention to their writing style, profile, company presentation, etc.
9. Keep an eye on the team page on the competitor’s website
Keeping track of the team page can show you not only more detailed info about the team, but also will give you a clue about the employee retention rates.
For example, if a competitor’s Sales Managers leave often, it may be a sign that employee retention rates are low or that sales are not on the desired level.
Also, research the employees who have leadership positions by reading the “About Us” page and employee bios on the company’s website.
10. Monitor hiring pages, job ads, and the key job boards
Knowing the open job positions can provide insight into where are the competitor’s efforts on future growth. Are they developing a new solution or technology?
Are they going international? Are they hiring marketing or project management staff?
Job portals like Indeed are a massive place for position postings because it compounds listings from many online job boards.
Keep special attention to the skills a company wants to hire. They’re a leading indicator of new initiatives and moves.
Research On Your Competitor’s Customers
It’s critical to perform competitive intelligence and research on your rival’s clients and prospects. It can help you arm your sales team with the best positioning of your benefits versus your competitors’ ones.
Customers are the core signal of the growth rate of any company.
Moreover, your competitors are hungry for your customers or want to attract the same customers as you, with similar offerings.
You can be sure that your competitors already deeply research and analyze your current and potential customers.
Key competitive intelligence questions you need to find the answer:
- Who are your competitors’ customers? What is their profile (demographics, interests, incomes, region, etc.)?
- What are customers saying about the competitors? Are they satisfied with the competitor’s products and level of service or not?
- Which benefits or features provided by your rivals do customers love the most? Why?
- What customer retention strategies use other businesses in the industry? (loyalty programs, gifts, extraordinary customer service, referral programs, etc.)
Let’s see some powerful tips and techniques to find out the answer to the above questions.
11. Track testimonials and case studies on the competitor’s website
To stay on top of who are the most valuable customers of your competitors and how they are winning or losing clients, you need to track and analyze their testimonial pages, case study pages, YouTube channel, and other pages where they feature quotes.
Are competitors adding new case studies or customer testimonials on their web pages?
Check these pages regularly as they are an important part of the competitive intelligence that shows how effectively your competitor builds brand strength across your industry.
12. Survey competitor’s customers
Your competitor’s customers can give you fresh and real information on their new proposals, discounts, promotions, or loyalty programs.
Does your competitor surprise their customers on their birthday or invite them to education events?
Ask clients what features and benefits do they like about their products and what they don’t.
Revise your rivals’ social media pages, where they are frequently reviewed. Learn from the reviews, opinions, and suggestions, and use them in your business.
Also, if it’s possible, try to survey high profile competitor’s customers as they can explain what keeps them loyal to the brand.
13. Survey customers that you lost to competitors
This is a critical moment in your competitive intelligence and research – to ask lost customers why they chose a competitor over you.
Is the reason the price, the product quality, the level of service?
You will find valuable information about your competitor and your business in their responses.
14. Ask your customers
Whenever you acquire a new customer, ask them who they used before, and why they turned to you. Find out why they are dissatisfied with the previous supplier.
If you collect a good number of answers from your lost and current clients, you’ll understand which benefits customers view as important and preferable.
15. Use customer intelligence tools
Today, there are powerful customer intelligence tools that show you key insights into customers’ needs, desires, motivations, and behaviors.
They allow you to track competitors’ customer updates at scale.
Qualtrics is another powerful enough platform to provide an omnichannel view of the customer experience across any digital interaction.
Research On Your Competitor’s Content Marketing, Social Media, and SEO
Do you know the phrase, “content is king”? Nowadays, few businesses dare to doubt the power of content marketing.
Content marketing is not just a necessity for any modern brand. It is one of the key weapons to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Including content analysis in your competitive intelligence process is a must, not a suggestion.
Content marketing experts attract and retain customers by consistently publishing valuable content.
From well-researched blog posts to social media, the content has the power to change the relationship between the company and consumers.
Monitoring what your competitors are publishing is a way to get insights into what type of media brings them the best results, and find ideas to improve your content and social media activities.
Key competitive intelligence questions you should know the answer:
- What type of content your competitor is publishing? (blog posts, case studies, white papers, ebooks, etc.) What is the quantity of each content type?
- What is the frequency of publishing of each content type? Twice a week? Twice a day?
- Which topics are discussed in their content? Which topics the competitor is trying to establish a strong thought leadership position for?
- How well is the content optimized for search engines? What keywords bring traffic for them, and which backlink strategies are successful?
- How are your competitors using social media? Which channels work the best for them?
Let’s see some powerful tips and techniques to find out the answer to the above questions.
16. Evaluate the content on the competitor website
Begin by auditing the website of your competitors to determine what type of content is housed.
See what types of content creation do your competitors focus on and how often they are publishing.
Different types of content can include: blog posts, white papers, eBooks, videos, podcasts, press releases, case studies, etc.
It gives you a good idea of where you should spend more effort and resources.
17. Pay special attention to their blog
Blogging is still a key component of any digital marketing strategy. Check if your competitor’s blog is an uninspiring place full of keywords, or if it discusses hot industry topics that aim to resolve consumer problems and needs.
Subscribe to the competitor blog’s RRS feed.
Blogs serve many more purposes than just improving SEO performance. Good blog content nurtures and converts customers, creates brand awareness, and engages with prospects.
Once you’ve researched their content, you can determine the frequency of publications and the quality of the text, and most importantly you can see how it compares to yours.
For example, let’s say you’re a company that offers data analytics software.
You may find your competitor has 300 blog posts (publishing once every business day), 35 case studies, 50 podcasts, and 10 videos. You also note that this competitor focuses on three topics in their content: data mining applications, business intelligence, and data visualization. But they have pretty low content related to artificial intelligence and its rising importance in our age! This is a weak place where you could easily overtake their market share.
18. Check how the competitor’s audience responds to the content
In the competitive market research on content, it is critical to check also how engaging your competitor’s publications are to their readers. In other words, how their target audience responds to the content.
Check the number of shares, comments, and likes on your competitor’s content. Determine what topics gain the most of the shares and comments and find out if the comments are negative or positive.
19. Don’t stop at the competitor’s website
Content takes on various forms, and it won’t always be only on your competitors’ websites.
While a lot of content may be shared on their website, you should analyze other powerful resources such as press releases, off-site blogs created by important industry influencers, events, sponsorships, announcements, news in magazines, etc.
Monitoring press releases is one of the easiest ways to find out how your competitors want to be perceived. A great tip here is to set up Google Alerts on their brand names to follow announcements and important updates.
Tracking news mentions is a critical element of your competitive intelligence process as the strategic press is an efficient way to create a brand and gain popularity within your industry.
Monitoring industry press will tell you what people are saying about your competitors and how they’re positioning themselves against you. Again, use Google Alerts to be informed of these mentions.
20. Research social media posts
Presence on social media is increasingly important as social media networks are a wonderful way for companies to interact with users and customers.
Evaluate how your competitors are using social media, to catch valuable social signals and determine how competitors promote their brand identity.
Visit these social media sites to see if your competitors have a profile: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+
For each social network, pay attention to the number of followers they have, the frequency of posting, the type of content, and note how frequently fans interact with that content.
21. Use social mentioning tools
Consider using social mentioning tools – they are doing a great job.
For example, Hootsuite is a social mentioning tool that allows you to see how often competitors post and how they engage with customers. Moreover, it allows you to manage your own social media presence.
Pay attention to the type of articles that people like, and don’t like. Spot the times of day when people engage the most with your competitor’s posts, and when people are less active.
22. Perform SEO competitive analysis and keyword research
Tracking SEO campaigns has a key place in the overall competitive intelligence process.
A comprehensive SEO analysis can show you how your competitor is winning organic visibility, what keywords bring traffic for them, and which backlink strategies are successful.
Finally, you can use this information to grow your own site’s organic traffic.
At the heart of the competitor’s SEO analysis process is keyword research.
You need to identify how well are your competitors using keywords. Are keywords included in the page title, H1 tags, content, internal links, etc? This will show you how serious is your competitor about the keyword strategies.
Not only should you check the keyword density of the content but it is vital to discover which keywords your competitors are using.
SEO tools show you the keywords your competitors rank for and the percentage of organic and paid traffic.
They also help you analyze how well your website is performing against your competition and which keywords are generating quality leads to your site.
23. Pay special attention to the competitor’s backlink portfolio
Besides keyword research, you will want to check the competitor’s backlink portfolio. The high-quality backlinks lead to a huge improvement of the website’s domain authority.
It is worth the efforts to target the same domains for quality backlinks. You can offer them guest posts or other values in exchange for the links.
Competitive intelligence leads to big win opportunities. It will give you insight into improving multiple aspects of your overall business results and digital marketing strategy.
With the tremendous growth of the new digital reality, marketers, and business owners have many ways to collect data about their competitors’ strategies.
Now that you’ve collected all this competitive information, you must decide how to use it successfully and strategically.
It is a must to look at all of your findings (about competitor’s products, employees, customers, content marketing, social media, and SEO) as a whole, not just one aspect – because of they all impact one another.
You also need to realize that competitors are not your enemy. Even if you are operating in the most competitive industry, don’t look at the negative side.
Think of other products, customers, and websites as ways to get better at your business.
What are your ways to gather competitive intelligence in your industry? Share your thoughts with us.