Updated: Sep 21, 2021
If you’re in business, you’ve heard of B2B competitive intelligence or CI right? According to Crayon, a leading CI platform company - it is the “process of tracking, analyzing and activating information related to your competitors.” Truth is you do not operate in a vacuum and you have other businesses with similar product offerings and maybe even same potential target prospects that are competing with you. Why should a buyer decide to do business with you over your competitors? How do you outperform your competitors? What is your competitive advantage? How does your product compare to your competitors? How do you enable sales? How do you ensure continuous growth and market lead? These are some of the critical questions detailed CI can help answer.
There are various kinds of CI you can gather, which kind to collect depends upon your goal.
Are you launching a new tech offering?
Are you building a content plan and interested in knowing what your competitors are doing?
Did you just lose a client you worked hard for to your competitor and now want to know what happened?
Are you re-doing your sales and marketing planning?
These are just some of the scenarios. It's best to get clear and narrow down your intent before you look for where to collect information.
There are many AI powered competitive intelligence tools/platforms available on the market today that can help you gather intel on your b2b competitors from hundreds of sources. You can analyze, act and measure the effectiveness of your efforts. But if you’re just getting started and not ready for them yet, here are some free but great sources you can tap into right away -
1.Field staff - Your field staff such as - sales reps and customer service teams are a goldmine for intel. They interact with prospects and current customers daily and therefore are likely to hear what they like or don’t like about your competitors' brand, offerings and service. Perhaps your competition has a stronger product than yours or they aren’t delivering well on their brand promise. Maybe you are better priced than them. Or you heard a client mention how great their after sales service is. Details like these that come out during interactions is a great source for CI. Talk to them to see what kind of information you can collect.
Plan with your customer facing teams how you can make intel gathering an intentional process in the future. What kinds of questions should they ask your customers and prospects? Where and how should they organize all the information they find?
2.Website - A company’s website is a place to find out about their products and services. It's also where customers and prospects stop to gather information on a brand. Visit your top competitor’s website and review relevant data such as - user experience they provide, tech offerings, technology stack they use, brand promises, marketing content, branding, blog, pricing, promotion, website traffic, keywords they are ranking for , target audience and so on. Put on your customer’s hat and then review these again, you might be surprised what else you find with that new perspective that you didn’t have the first time around. There is a wealth of information to collect that will give you a good amount of intel that you can analyze and use for your purposes later.
Make it a practice to review competitor’s websites regularly.
3.Social Media - Reviewing your competitor’s social media accounts on platforms such as - Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, Twitter will give you a good idea of their content strategy, offerings, company news, brand engagement and reputation. Spend some time looking at what kind of content they post, what kinds of interactions with customers they have, what customers say about them, how they promote their products and services and what kind of messaging and brand tone they use etc. This will be valuable for you as you are defining your content and social media strategy.
Keep an eye out regularly on their social media postings.
4.Press Release - If you are interested in news about product launches, hiring, mergers and acquisitions, expansion etc. a company’s press releases is a great source to consider. Set up Google Alerts to hear when your competitor’s name is mentioned online. Look out for media mentions.
Monitor their digital PR initiatives regularly.
5.Mailing Lists - If there is an option to subscribe to your competitor’s newsletter and join their mailing list, definitely take advantage of it. This will give you a peek into their products, services and promotions.
6.Product evaluation - Is there a way you can try out your competitor’s offerings? Free product trial accounts perhaps? This is a great way to put on your customer’s hat and experience the quality and service of your competitors. What do you like and not like? How well does the product resonate with target market preferences? How well do you stack up against them? What kind of pricing structure do they have? What kind of customer service do they provide?
7.Virtual Events - Since in-person conferences and industry events such as trade shows etc. are on hold in 2021, attend virtual events and webinars to see if there is any intelligence you can gather that might be useful to you.
8.User Review Sites - In a digital first world, B2B customers rely on online reviews as an information source. They also post reviews online. Visit websites such as G2 crowd, finances online and Trust radius and see what you can find on your competitor’s brand and its offerings. Get an understanding on what customers think and feel about them. Look at their social proof.
Actionable insights gathered from B2B competitive intelligence is critical your internal teams - executive, sales, marketing and product. They can use it to discover value propositions, define market position and make strategic decisions to drive sales.