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The Best Ways to “Spy” on Your Competition

5 Critical Factors to Success with Competitive Intelligence

By Ellie Mirman

Companies across all sizes and industries are using competitive intelligence to beat their opposition, a new market intelligence study from Crayon reveals. In fact, a whopping 94% of large companies do some competitive intelligence, and 80% have whole teams dedicated to the function.

But how do you actually use competitive intelligence effectively to win against rivals? This new research identifies the best practices, challenges, and opportunities as it relates to getting the best intelligence and using it to win in a crowded market. Here are the five key qualities of a successful competitive intelligence program.

1) Timeliness

The most important factor in the success of competitive intelligence is timeliness: 79% say it’s critical to get intel in a timely manner. After all, once intel is outdated, it loses its relevance and the company loses its speed advantage to use it before others. The ability to gather intelligence in real-time, share and discuss the developments, and ultimately develop a plan of action quickly is key to capitalizing on opportunities.

Imagine a competitor is having issues with keeping up with customer service issues — intel you learned from a pattern of recent customer reviews — perhaps you can run a marketing campaign to highlight your quality of customer service to win over their customers and new prospects. Moving fast allows you to take advantage of this opportunity before that competitor acts to fix this weakness.

2) 360 Degree Intelligence

No single source of intelligence provides a silver bullet to beating your competition. 77% say getting a holistic view of intelligence — a complete 360 degree view — on your competitors is important. This includes analyzing the company’s marketing messages on their website and social media accounts, the company’s customer feedback through online reviews, and their product details hidden in support sites and forum threads.

By combining intelligence from multiple sources, you can decode a competitor’s strategies, strengths, and weaknesses to inform your own plan of action. For example, if a competitor removes a partner from their website and there are mentions of similar functionality in a customer forum, you can learn that the company is expanding into this new product area before any formal announcement.

3) Defined Goals

It may be obvious that a company should have goals for any initiative, let alone a competitive intelligence one, but few have taken the time to do so. Only 22% have defined goals for CI, yet 72% say it’s important to have clearly defined goals to use CI effectively. Without goals, there is no direction for a market intelligence program — goals provide the focus necessary to see results.

4) Defined KPIs

Similarly, businesses recognize that it’s important to have metrics to measure CI, and 63% say it’s crucial to define those key performance indicators (KPIs). The companies that do have defined KPIs frequently use a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, a reflection that market intelligence can have direct and indirect effects on the business, and both are valuable.

5) Company Alignment

Finally, the last ingredient to competitive intelligence success is company alignment. Market intelligence is not just relevant for sales to win competitive deals, but also product management to develop a superior product, marketing to craft more effective campaigns — every department can benefit from understanding what’s happening in their market. So it’s no surprise that 71% say it’s important to get all relevant stakeholders involved before a CI project kicks off.

Who are those key stakeholders? Most often, marketing or strategy teams lead the charge but need to involve sales, product, and, of course, executive leadership.

To learn what other best practices, challenges, and opportunities exist with competitive intelligence you can see the complete Crayon’s 2018 State of Market Intelligence Report.

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