The relationship sale is on its way out. I know this sounds like blasphemy, but hear me out before you start throwing sarcastic memes my way.
All I mean is: the way people buy has changed drastically.
In the past, strong relationships were the main way to get in front of a prospect and close a deal.
Now, data, media, and technology allow us to get in front of prospects and convince them that a complete stranger has a better solution than their incumbent partner.
The decline in business travel for dinners and golf, caused by COVID-19, has only sped up this process. Clients have more time to reevaluate their current vendor relationships and for digital-savvy salespeople to slide in and win new clients.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence allows you to leverage your competitor’s weaknesses against them to take market share.
Competitive intelligence has been used to build buyer personas, disrupt industries, create business moats, and build offerings that others can’t compete with.
This makes it much easier for your salespeople to convince companies to part with current vendors.
How to Get Started with Competitive Intelligence
To get started using competitive intelligence, you have to have a clear understanding of your goals, competitors, and tools that will help you get the right data.
1. Identify Your Goals
First, identify your main objective. This will help you pick the right tools and data sources.
Here are a few goals you can look to accomplish:
Messaging: Update your messaging to better position your product or service in the market (I go into more detail about this below).
Pricing: Adjust your pricing so that you’re more competitive.
Channel Selection: To get the best return on your investment, you have to understand where to spend your marketing dollars. Finding white space for advertising is important.
Buying advertising where your competitors are not — or where they aren’t maximizing the channel’s opportunity — gives you a strategic advantage.
Product Launch: You’re launching a new product, service, or company, and you want to know which markets to launch in and when to launch. Walmart famously used location-based data to launch stores just outside large markets (cities). This made them the only option in town and helped them grow quickly.
Now they dominate larger markets as well.
Partnerships: Find good partners to join forces against your competitors to help your business grow.
Talent: You want to hire the best talent in the industry and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Offering things like sales and marketing training, 401k match, unlimited PTO, perks, and other benefits will be key. Knowing what your competitors are offering to prospective employees will give you the ability to counter with a better package.
Case Study: Gong vs. Chorus Messaging
A great example of competitive intelligence in action is the messaging/positioning move that Gong.io pulled on Chorus.ai.
The two sales enablement tools, Gong and Chorus, have been jockeying for positioning around the term “conversational intelligence.” In this snapshot from the Way Back Machine, you can see that Gong.io had it big and bold on their website.
However, Gong has now made the switch to “revenue intelligence” to differentiate itself and focus on selling the solution vs. the feature of conversion.
They have even gone as far as trademarking the term, which prevents Chorus from using it.
Now Chorus can only speak to how they help increase revenue vs. using the strong term, “revenue intelligence.”
Gong wouldn’t have been able to get ahead of Chorus if they weren’t paying attention to their competitors and using data to determine the right move and messaging.
2. Identify Your Competitors
Most companies have a basic understanding of their competitive set. This is core to starting a business. However, competitors can change drastically, depending on the market and advertising channel.
For example, on search engines like Google, you compete with everyone ranking for your target keyword. Some of these businesses you might not consider part of your competitive set, but because you jockey for position with them when customers search, they are.
Circl.es is a video-based peer to peer communication platform. They can be used like Zoom but are built to facilitate small groups of learners and have powered forum groups for TED.com, Harvard Business School, YPO, and others. They don’t really consider Zoom a competitor.
So when potential customers search for “video conferencing tools,” which is a keyword that Circl.es should rank for, they don’t — even though it would put them in front of thousands of potential customers.
You can also see that Zdnet.com and Techradar.com, which are publishing sites, outrank Zoom for the term because they focus on the SEO term much more.
Use tools like SEMRUSH and others (I examine more of these below), to understand what search terms your competitors are ranking for. And learn what words your customers are using to find solutions like yours. If your competitor is ranking for a term that describes what you do, then you should target it as well and use SEO to rank for it organically.
3. Find the Right Tools
Competitive intelligence relies on good data, and good data relies on good tools.
Let’s look at a few of my favorite competitive intelligence tools that I use at JumpCrew.
10 Data Sources & Tools For Competitive Intelligence
Dstillery: This custom audience tool lets you build your own custom audience data.
The first thing I use Dstillery for is to understand the audience that comes to my websites and build customer journeys to help refine my digital marketing targets.
The second way I use them is for competitive analysis. I use them to understand what types of people are going to my competitor’s websites, what keywords are related to their site, and what other websites my competitor’s audience visits so I can get in front of them with advertising.
SparkToro: This is an audience intelligence tool that I use to help understand what content I should be creating. It helps me identify what resonates with my audience and my competitor’s audience.
SEMRUSH: This is a Robust tool for competitive analytics, especially related to search engines, marketing, and content.
I use SEMRUSH to understand what keywords my competitors are ranking for, which of their website pages are performing well, what ad copy they are running on Google Ads, and what websites are linking to them.
BuiltWith: Use this tool to lookup service that will let you know who uses what technology.
It is an amazing tool that I use to get an understanding of my competitor’s technology stack. This can be really useful if you’re building a tech stack from scratch or needing to update your stack.
I have a Chrome browser plug-in that I trigger when I visit my competitor’s website to give me a pretty good picture of what they’re using.
AppAnnie: This tool gets you a wide range of mobile app data, from sales, to app rankings, keywords, and more.
I use App Annie to help clients understand how they and their competitors are performing in App Store search.
CrunchBase: This site lists detailed business information on various companies.
I use CrunchBase to get funding and other data on my competitors, but the depth of data they have makes it extremely useful regardless of what you’re looking for.
SimilarWeb: Use this tool to collect website statistics and more for competitors and industries.
I use this tool to get site traffic and other data on my competitors. The data is not 100% accurate, but it gives you a sense of how your competitors are performing.
DeepDiveDuck: This tool monitors changes on your competitor’s website like pricing page, press page, etc.
This can be invaluable in keeping tabs on your closest competitors and market trends. If you don’t want to get left behind, it’s hard to beat this tool.
Owletter: This tool gives you an insight into what your competitors are doing with email marketing.
Email is one of the most important marketing challenges, and understanding how your competitors use it is important.
monday.com: You can use monday.com to plan, organize, launch, and manage your campaigns based on competitive data.
I use monday.com to build dashboards to track and manage my competitive data. I like to have this data in one place, so I’m not jumping from tool to tool. I also use monday.com to run projects and Growth Skills as a company.
Competitive Intelligence Takes Time
Having a competitive strategy is core to business growth. And competitive intelligence should be the foundation of this strategy.
Getting started takes time, but you should now have a good list of steps to follow when starting out. You need to set your goals, choose your competitors, and use the right tools.
What tools are you using for competitive intelligence and analysis? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll check them out.