Competitive Intelligence: A Beginner’s Guide [2024 Edition]

Illustration

TL;DR

  • Competitive intelligence involves collecting, analyzing, and utilizing info on your industry’s competition, market trends, regulations, and technology. A CI program helps predict market shifts, spot opportunities, address threats, and develop strategies to stay competitive.
  • A competitive intelligence framework includes learning about your competitors, gathering and analyzing data, and acting on the results you get.
  • There are several ways to gather competitive intelligence, such as monitoring your competitors’ websites and subscribing to their emails, but your best bet is to consider a competitive intelligence tool that could help you automate your competitor analysis.

Your competitors are probably already gathering information about you.

Don’t want to scare you, just stating a fact.

The good news is that you can control your narrative, and this is done when you use competitive intelligence correctly.

In this beginner’s guide, we take a deep dive into all things competitive intelligence and share everything you need to know to get started in no time.

Let’s get to it!

What is competitive intelligence, and why is it important?

At its core, competitive intelligence refers to the process of gathering, analyzing, and using information about your industry’s competitive landscape, including the competition, market trends, regulatory changes, and technological advancements.

With a CI program, you can anticipate market movements, discover new opportunities, neutralize threads, and create effective strategies with the ultimate goal of maintaining a competitive edge.

First, let’s have a look at the different types of competitor intelligence you and your marketing team can gather and the main benefits of having a solid competitive intelligence program.

Types of competitive intelligence

The first type of competitive intelligence, strategic intelligence, is crucial for high-level planning. Here, you and any decision maker in your business focus on collecting information on long-term developments and trends within an industry, including changes in consumer behavior, technological advancements, and overall market direction.

You then analyze the broader market environment, including demographics, market trends, regulatory changes, and economic indicators. This is called market intelligence (or corporate intelligence), and it’s essential to gain an understanding of the context in which your company operates.

You will focus on tactical competitive intelligence when you need more immediate decision-making. This includes competitor pricing information, promotional activities, sales tactics, and other short-term strategies, such as capturing market share, which is vital for sales teams and operations departments to respond quickly to competitor moves.

Another aspect most companies need intel for is innovation. This is where technical intelligence comes in. Here, businesses gather data on the industry’s tech developments, innovations, patents, and research and development activities.

Finally, you have your own product. You are doing product intelligence when you analyze your competitors’ products and services, including features, quality, performance, and customer feedback. It helps you improve your own offerings and identify gaps in the market.

Competitive intelligence benefits

Competitive intelligence offers several benefits that can significantly impact your ability to compete and thrive in your industry, and it all ties back to the types of competitive intelligence we saw above.

One of the main benefits is anticipating and responding to changes before they happen. Your company can proactively adapt business strategies by staying on top of market trends, technological advancements, and competitor strategies.

Additionally, competitor intelligence helps businesses unearth new opportunities for growth and expansion and all the finer points of a competitor’s plan, thus simplifying decision-making. Gain an understanding of your competition’s strengths and weaknesses and find ways to differentiate yourself from other companies to capitalize on gaps in their offerings.

Your 4-step competitive intelligence framework

Competitive intelligence can give you a clearer picture of the business landscape. It helps you understand where your business stands and how you can move forward effectively.

Ready to get started? Here’s a simple four-step framework that can help you begin.

Step 1: Who are your competitors

First off, pinpoint who you’re actually competing with. These could be the big companies you hear about every day or smaller players who cater to a niche segment similar to yours.

Start by listing them out. Don’t just look at direct competition; step ahead: brainstorm every company that directly or indirectly competes with you.

Here’s an example table with different businesses and types of competitors:

Table showing the 4 types of competitors you will encounter when you perform a competitive intelligence analysis

Step 2: Where do you gather data

In the next section, we’ll see seven ways to gather competitive intelligence. For now, know that you may need to collect data from different sources, such as their websites, social media profiles, reviews from customers, or industry reports.

In this regard, it’s important that companies gather information legally and ethically, that is, collect publicly disclosed information and not engage in unethical methods, such as corporate espionage, or violate privacy policies in any way.

Step 3: How to analyze your data

This is possibly the trickiest step.

You likely gathered lots of data, and now you have to make sense of it, that is, remove the noise and focus on signals that can impact your own business goals.

You could do it manually, but honestly, it’s not worth it. You’d spend a lot of time (trust us, we know!) for subpar results.

Your best bet is to invest in a competitive intelligence tool that could help you analyze your data efficiently and effectively. These tools use algorithms to identify data patterns, trends, and anomalies, providing valuable insights that can inform your decisions.

Screenshot from Unkover app, from where you can choose your competitors when starting your competitive intelligence program

Step 4: What to do with the results

This step entirely depends on the tool you chose in step three.

If you have the right signals available, it will be easier to make informed decisions about your business strategies, innovate, improve your offerings, and communicate more effectively with your customers.

7 ways to gather competitive intelligence

That’s all very well, but I’m sure you’re wondering whether you’d need competitive intelligence professionals or can get started on your own.

A bit of both, I would say. You can definitely start on your own, but my suggestion is to use competitive intelligence professionals (=tools) to help you automate the way you are doing data collection and analyzing information.

In this section, we’ll see the single actions that make up a solid competitor intelligence program and how you can delegate the boring part of competitive analysis to Unkover and focus on what really matters: your business strategy.

1. Monitor your competitors’ website pages

Keep an eye on changes and updates on your main competitors’ websites. Look for new product launches, blog posts, or any shifts in messaging. This gives you insight into their current focus and strategy.

Screenshot - Page Diff

Manually monitoring hundreds of web pages is impossible. Use a tool like Unkover to monitor high-value pages and automatically get notified when changes happen.

2. Subscribe to your competitors’ emails

Signing up for newsletters or promotional emails from your competition is a direct line into their marketing communication strategy. You’ll see firsthand how they engage with their audience, the types of offers they use to attract sales, and how frequently they communicate.

Screenshot - Email Flow

Instead of subscribing to their email lists, use Unkover to view all the emails your competitors send their audience and be the first to know when they release a new feature.

3. Read your competitors’ customer reviews

Insights from customers can tell you much about what a company is doing right and where it falls short. For example, platforms like Trustpilot, Google Reviews, G2, and industry-specific forums are good places to start. They can help you understand customer sentiments and pain points and identify areas for improvement in your offerings.

Soon, Unkover will allow you to get an AI-driven analysis of your competitors’ G2 reviews.

4. Analyze your competitors’ content marketing strategy

Take a close look at the types of content your competition is producing. For example, are they using videos, blogs, infographics, or webinars? Analyzing their content can reveal their targeted keywords, the topics they deem important, and how they position themselves as thought leaders.

Sneak peek: We’re working to give you a detailed overview of competitors’ content strategies and how they compare with yours.

5. Discover your competitors’ tech stack

Understanding your competitors’ technologies, from their website platforms to their MAPs, can provide insights into their capabilities and efficiency. For example, tools like BuiltWith or Wappalyzer can help you peek behind the curtain.

We don’t yet have mockups to show you about this, but we are planning a great feature that will allow you to see a full breakdown of all the technologies your competitors are using. Check progress on our roadmap.

6. Identify gaps in your competitors’ SEO strategy

By analyzing the SEO efforts of your competition, you can spot opportunities they might have missed and get an overview of any company’s digital market share.

Use SEO tools or outsource SEO to review a keyword’s traffic share by geography, search intent, keyword difficulty, and more to grow your organic traffic and where there might be gaps that you can capitalize on or get a thorough analysis using Unkover (also on our roadmap).

7. Automate your CI research with competitive intelligence tools

If you got this far, you’re probably exhausted and thinking about telling your sales and marketing teams that your business is ditching competitive intelligence altogether.

But you see, this would be a mistake. We tried that, too, and we ended up building an easily accessible tool to solve our strategic competitive intelligence problems.

That’s how (and why) our founder Massimo started thinking about (and then actually building) Unkover.

We’re just getting started, but there are a couple of high-value things you can do with Unkover right now, and we are working on making the others available to you in the next few months.

What you can do now:

  • Monitor company pages: Stay updated on competitors’ latest moves by keeping an eye on changes to their company pages.
  • Read all emails businesses send to their lists: Gain insights into competitors’ email strategies by accessing the emails they send out.
  • Get instant notifications: Never miss an important update with instant notifications about changes and new campaigns from competitors.

What you’ll be able to do in the next few months:

  • Read competitor customer reviews: Soon, you’ll be able to tap into feedback on your competitors to better understand market demands.
  • Analyze content marketing strategies: Get ready to dissect competitors’ content approaches to refine your own strategies.
  • Discover a business’ tech stack: Uncover the technologies powering your competitors’ operations, providing insights into their capabilities.
  • Identify gaps in your SEO strategy: This upcoming feature will help you spot opportunities to surpass your competitors in search engine rankings.

Start your free trial today and be one of the first companies to experience the future of competitive business intelligence.

What does competitive intelligence look like in your industry?

A word of caution: regardless of your business’ industry or target market, the essence of competitive intelligence lies in gathering actionable insights that inform your strategies—whether that’s refining your product line, enhancing customer experience, or innovating with new technologies.

Let’s now have a look at three macro industries and how competitive intelligence changes according to specific needs.

  • In retail, competitive intelligence means keeping track of your competition’s products, prices, and promotions. Visit stores or check online, noting layout, service, and trends. Social media reveals how they engage with customers. Determine patterns to enhance your offerings and stand out.
  • In tech, competitive intelligence focuses on innovation and speed. Watch for technological advancements, patents, and competitors’ product launches. Tech blogs, conferences, and forums offer insights into trends. Monitor software updates and features to anticipate market shifts, innovate, and meet your customers’ needs effectively.
  • In manufacturing, competitive intelligence focuses on efficiency, supply chains, and innovations. Visiting competitors may not be possible, but trade shows and reports offer insights into new technology and methods. Monitoring material prices, regulations, and global manufacturing hubs is vital. This intel optimizes production, cuts costs, and allows you to gain a competitive advantage.

Get started with competitive intelligence today!

Competitive intelligence transcends industries. Whether you’re in tech or manufacturing, understanding your competition is essential to success. By staying up-to-date on industry trends, monitoring competitor activity and advancements, and analyzing data for insights, you can stay ahead of the game and continuously improve your products and services.

Stay ahead and replace assumptions and guesswork with data. Use Unkover to better allocate your resources, save costs, and increase profitability. Start your free trial today.

FAQs

What is marketing competitive intelligence?

Marketing competitive intelligence is the process of gathering and analyzing actionable information about competitors’ strategies, strengths and weaknesses, and behaviors. It helps businesses understand their competitive environment, make informed decisions, strategize marketing efforts, and evaluate opportunities for differentiation and growth.

What type of information is provided through the process of competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence provides companies with valuable information on competitors’ product offerings and developments, pricing strategies and promotions, market positioning and target audiences, marketing tactics and channels used, performance metrics and market share, and industry trends and consumer preferences.

Which of the following is an ethical method of gathering competitive intelligence?

Companies can gather competitive intelligence ethically. Methods include reviewing public records and documents, analyzing competitors’ marketing materials and websites, attending public trade shows and industry conferences, conducting surveys or interviews where participants are aware of your intent, and monitoring publicly available social media accounts and online forums.

This way, businesses respect privacy and legal boundaries while gaining valuable insights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *