Competitive Intelligence: As I'd Explain It
by Robert Snipes, on April 3, 2020
I was at a marketing conference recently, and I was listening to one of the keynote speakers give their presentation. The speaker was sharing their daily struggles as a marketer. They were sharing things such as the overwhelming amount of tools they have to use on a daily basis, the amount of work it takes to consolidate their data into spreadsheets, the efforts their team has to make to analyze all of this data in one place. And with an eye rolling expression, he began to speak about how to understand the competitor. He went into detail about how competitive intelligence is such a strange territory and a tiring task to collect all the data available.
Next thing I knew there was a slight touch to my shoulder and the gentleman sitting next to me whispered to me “What is Competitive intelligence?” At this moment, part of me smiled as I wanted to share with him what it was and help what appeared to be someone who was either new to the world of marketing, a small business owner, or at the very least making a transition in his career. I politely whispered back to him “well it’s pretty complicated, why don’t we grab a coffee after this and I can explain it to you?”. He agreed and we continued listening to the speaker.
As I tried to listen to the rest of the presentation, I was distracted by my thoughts. What is the best way to describe competitive intelligence to someone? What are the most important things to share? Am I about to give a competitive intelligence 101 class over a coffee? Where should I recommend a company start gathering competitive intelligence? Or, what tools could I show him to use?
I decided that no matter what I do, I do not want to bore this guy with something straight from Wikipedia. According to them, “Competitive intelligence is the systematic collection and analysis of information from multiple sources, and a coordinated CI program. It is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in strategic decision making for an organization.”
The speaker ended the keynote and everyone proceeded out of the theater. It was time to go grab a coffee and give a run down on CI.
We sat down at a small table and two comfortable chairs. We formally introduced ourselves and learned a little about each other. I learned he is the new VP of Sales and currently the acting Marketing Manager of a SMB e-commerce company that sells a variety of clothing products such as gym wear and accessories, business suits, all the way to wedding dresses, and children's school uniforms.
They were different as they used only recycled materials and were going for the “organic” consumers. They even have a subscription box option in every category. He knew a ton about their product and was excited about it. He mentioned that he came from more of the digital transformation side of things throughout his career working for companies such as IBM, Deloitte, and most recently Salesforce.
After I shared with him some facts about myself and where I was in my career and how I also made a recent change from the world of Salesforce to the digital marketing world. We got down to the time for me to share with him what exactly is Competitive Intelligence.
My mind was still racing with all of the information I wanted to share with him even more so now that we had made some personal common connections and got to know each other, so I started and it went something like this.
What is competitive intelligence?
Competitive Intelligence is data and analysis gathered from all over the place to give you a leg up on the competitors. It gives you insight into things such as what they are doing content wise, ad wise, where they are spending their money to gain traffic, what their products do, how well they are selling, all the way to the managers strategies to be successful.
Then I paused for a second and he replied “every company would love to have the ins and outs of all of this information of course but how does one go about obtaining this information”. I already was not happy with the way I was framing up this lesson or description of CI, so I broke the frame and changed up the way I was going to present this. The way I did this was I replied to him “Let me backup for a second and first apologize for two things 1: the way I described CI was basic and list-like, and I want to give you a better understanding. 2: I apologize for what I am going to do next as I don’t normally do this in situations like this and don’t want to come off like I am selling you a product or a service but I think this will help.”
I then began to explain to him exactly what DemandJump does and how we consolidate the third-party data the keynote speaker was talking about as well as run our software to gather live data around exactly what consumers are searching for and what they are asking. I followed that with how DemandJump can show how a company is lining up with those searches and questions being asked, along with the top visited sites, top advertisers, top videos etc.
We endearingly call this part of our Consumer Insights product the Consumer Behavior Map (or CBM). So I showed him an example of a CBM. I showed him the #1 ranked search query around a specific topic. Then I pointed out how next to that search query it showed what the companies best position is (it was number 27) meaning it was probably on the second page, yet the competitors best position was number 3. I then proceeded to go to Google and type in that exact search query we found who was at number 3 and then went to the second page and sure enough there was the company.
He was taken back that this information was even out there to gather and he could not wrap his head around how long it would take for someone to manually gather this data. I shared with him that it takes a long time and can be a very cumbersome task. I explained the scarier aspect of all of this is that it takes so long to gather the information and build it all into one place - by the time that is all said and done the data may have changed.
I began to go into details around the other things to consider. We’re not just talking about what terms their competitors rank for in search engines. We can show you the videos, blogs, news articles, and websites consumers are visiting when they’re interested in any topic or phrase.
I then asked “what if you could see all of this in one place with live data? Knowing what the consumer cares about most, what the competitors are doing and where they are gaining the most traffic, what searches they are missing on or gaining on. Better yet what if you had all this information and then had a guide of what to do next? What would that mean to you or the growth of your company?”
He sat back and said “Well that would make my job so much easier and probably take out all the guesswork that is being done with our marketing budget and ad placements, it would also give me a huge leg up on the competitors and how to out maneuver them. I feel like that would give me the full picture. It would help me understand the full marketing strategy book. Right now, I feel like im blind and have no idea where to start in order to improve.”
I followed that by explaining the importance of everything we talked about whether you use a tool such as DemandJump or find a way to gather the information accurately without consuming too much time. I told him that he was hitting all the selling points I normally share in his description of how it would add value to him and his teams, and that our motto at DemandJump is exactly that. “Get The Whole Story”
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