CEO at RightMetric, a subscription-based competitive marketing intelligence firm.
As marketers, we have more information about our consumers than ever before. This has occurred because of the rise in popularity of the internet and the digital world. Many businesses have evolved and started using data to help make informed decisions. From customer relationship management systems (CRMs) to social media management tools, brands can collect, analyze and act on insights derived from consumer data.
That said, I can’t help but acknowledge that by only analyzing internal marketing data, marketers have only been seeing half of the picture. At RightMetric, we help brands uncover competitive marketing intelligence so that they’re seeing the full picture when building and refining their marketing strategies. Using this type of data-backed insight can help brands reach a larger audience, plan more impactful activations and outmaneuver competitors.
Before getting started with competitive marketing intelligence, there are are some do’s and don’ts marketers must keep in mind.
Do: Gain alignment on how competitive marketing intelligence can benefit your brand.
The purpose of competitive marketing intelligence is simple: Derive insights from competitors and leaders in your industry to help improve your marketing activities. While it’s a simple concept, the topic of competitive analysis can be delicate within some organizations.
Be sure that you communicate the benefits to relevant stakeholders in a clear and consistent manner. That way, they will better understand why you’re investing resources and what the business will get out of it.
Do: Ensure you identify a mix of both direct competitors and industry leaders to analyze.
To make the most of the insights you gather about your competitors, you need to establish a list of entities to keep tabs on. None of your competitors should be an exact copycat of another, nor should your business be an exact duplicate of your competitors.
Make sure to choose a mix of direct competitors and industry (or category) leaders. This enables you to benchmark your efforts to better understand how your brand stacks up while also enabling you to learn best practices from leaders.
Do: Get clear on the platforms and metrics that relate to your brand.
This depends on the overarching business objectives of your brand. Brands either focus on brand-focused metrics, such as audience sentiment, demographics, etc., or performance-focused metrics, such as digital ad budgets, keyword rankings, web traffic, etc. It’s not enough to only know what your competitors are doing. You should also want to know how they’re performing across the marketing channels that you’re currently using, or want to use in the future.
By understanding what your competitors are doing and whether it’s working or not, you can get a better understanding of their effectiveness. If you find that their marketing activities aren’t working as expected, you know what mistakes to avoid.
Do: Look at both the strategies and tactics used by competitors and leaders.
With all the data available, you can understand both the high-level strategies, like which platforms competitors are investing resources into, and the tactical elements. For example, if your competitors are investing in social media marketing, you don’t only want to know that they’re active on social media. You also want to know which platforms they’re investing the most in. Taking it a step further, your competitors may have insights into new social media tactics for a specific platform that you’re not aware of yet. If you find that your competitors are investing in a platform you’re not, consider why.
The fact that your competitors are investing in a specific area does not mean that you have to. But you may want to consider whether you need to increase your own efforts in that area. As you take a closer look at your competitors’ marketing activities, you can often learn about how you can refine your own approach.
Don’t: Only look at one or two areas of digital marketing.
One of the challenges with competitive marketing intelligence is that many marketers look at each dataset by itself. This means they only see a piece of the puzzle without taking into consideration the whole picture. By using multiple data sources, you gain a holistic view of the whole picture. This holistic view enables your marketing team to make more informed and accurate decisions.
Your competitors might be making the most of a wide range of marketing channels: paid search, display ads, blogging and more. Look at all the digital channels used by your competitors and how they’re focusing on them. There is so much that you can take advantage of for your own brand.
Don’t: Have a one-night stand; instead, make it a habit to focus on trends over time.
If you’re going to invest the resources into competitive marketing intelligence, do so in a way that allows you to analyze trends over time. While one-time analysis work can be useful for some applications, such as a new market or product launch, ongoing analysis is best.
The easiest example to illustrate why this is the case would be if you decided to deconstruct your competitors’ marketing activities during December. No matter what you look at, all the marketing strategies, tactics and metrics would be completely inflated due to the lead up to the holidays.
Competitive marketing intelligence is one part of the equation for building a better marketing strategy. It makes sense to use all the information available — both internal and external — to better understand your target consumer. By doing so, you’re giving your brand a better opportunity to create something that will make an impact on your target audience or consumer.
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Author: Charlie Grinnell, Forbes Councils Member