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7 Steps To Set Up A Successful Competitive Intelligence Process

Deciding when it’s the right time to embark on a new competitive intelligence strategy can be a challenge, but setting up your competitive intelligence process doesn’t have to be.

To recap our previous discussion on the ins and outs of competitive intelligence, one purpose of competitive intelligence is to empower your team with the data they need to target the best customers, who might be ready for a switch from the incumbent. What’s great about this process is that your competitor has already done the heavy lifting of educating your customer and highlighting the need for a solution. All you have to do is focus on how your offering can better resolve their pain points than your compeottior. But you’ll have to do some work to get to this point.

We’ve put together 7 major steps you’ll need to take to get your competitive intelligence process in place.

Identify Internal Roles Contributing to the Competitive Intelligence Process

You’ll have to identify who’s gathering all of the data within your organization. For example, your product team might have some great intel on new features from your competitors. Your sales team for sure will have some key information. You’ll need to make clear roles to make sure all of this data is being captured and shared on a consistent basis, whether you decide to hire a competitive intelligence analyst or work with your product marketing manager.

It’s not just about identifying who can contribute to the competitive intelligence process, but understanding who needs what competitor information and why.

By the end of this phase, you should be able to answer who is looking for competitive intelligence details within your organization and what questions do you want to be able to answer with your competitive intelligence.

Define Your Goals

Defining your goals goes hand in hand with identifying internal roles. I would even argue that knowing your goals first helps determine the roles you’ll need for an effective competitive intelligence team. So if you’re like the 78% of respondents from Crayon’s 2018 Market Intelligence Report who have not defined market/competitive intelligence goals, it’s time to start putting everything together.

Some competitive intelligence goals can include:

  • Identifying US competitors feature sets and creating written summaries on key differences
  • Understanding EMEA competitor’s technology stacks
  • Creating easily accessible “battlecards” for the sales team

Once you’ve defined the goals that best fit your organization, make sure you have the right players in place. Achieving these goals can be difficult for one person to do on their own so make sure you’ve identified who’ll be helping to do some of the work in meeting these goals.

Create a Plan for Each Goal

Every competitive intelligence goal will require different resources and competitive intelligence tools to get the job done. Your competitive intelligence process doesn’t just include gathering insights, but distributing them and making them actionable across your teams.

If your sales team is looking for easy-to-access information during a sales call, you might create a powerpoint featuring different points about your top competitors. You might also supplement this with additional comparison charts that your team could share with prospects.

However, if your executive team is looking for competitive intelligence about new markets, they might want spreadsheets, a deck with high-level results they can share around, and a thorough research report. It’s important to establish the final result for all competitive intelligence processes and projects and to continue to iterate as the competitive landscape changes.

Understand All of Your Competitors

You’d be shocked how many people say things like “we don’t have any direct competitors”. Organizations are solving their problems one way or another… so, your competitors might not be so obvious, but they definitely exist. G2Crowd and other B2B review sites are great places to start in gathering a list of competitors. Even doing a simple Google search might drum up a few names.

And don’t just stop at creating a list of your direct competitors. Keep track of your indirect competition as well. What alternative could a customer consider as being sufficient enough to not need to invest in your product? Indirect competition is “...competition between companies that make slightly different products but target the same customers.”

If you’re still unsure how to actually go about identifying your main competitors, Moz has some awesome tips on how to create your preliminary list. They refer to the 3-1-1 rule, which involves “3 brands that are often grouped with yours, either in roundup articles, or in conversation. Those are your primary competitors. Then choose one “dreamer,” which would be the brand in your vertical you hope to be one day.” The last steps is choosing one “newbie” who might give you a new perspective into what’s shaping your industry down the road.

Do the Work

Now it’s time to get to work. If you’ve already identified your competitive intelligence team, outlined your goals, created a plan, and have a full understanding of your competitors, you should be ready to put your competitive intelligence process into action.

If you’re creating sales battlecards, take the time to outline what information should be on the card. By creating strategic, streamlined processes, it’s easy actually do the work of creating competitive intelligence insights.

Present Results

Gathering competitive intelligence is useless if you don’t share it with your team. The tactical part to this includes putting together a presentation or report that answers the original questions you set out to reveal.

But the more strategic part to presenting your results is identifying solutions or recommendations your organization can take to gain the advantage over your competitors -- whether that’s enabling your sales team with language to discuss certain competitor features or executives who are raising money and have to quell doubt in investor’s minds.

On the backend, you should also identify how you’ll measure the progression of each recommendation for future reporting. For example, if part of your recommendation is creating a new one-pager about your product that includes updated differentiators based on your competitive research, you should be measuring the effectiveness of that one-pager by metrics such as number of times your sales team sends this piece and what happens afterward.

Measure Adoption and Results

After your competitive intelligence process has been implemented, the key to really making it successful is ensuring it is adopted by everyone who’s involved in your organization. Feedback is important so make sure you’re constantly asking what works and doesn’t work about the process. For example, if a new presentation deck was created to be used during customer demos, but only a few slides are used, consider asking your sales team how to improve them.

Implementing a Successful Competitive Intelligence Process

As Crayon’s report revealed earlier, most companies don’t have a formal competitive intelligence process in place. So, when prospects ask questions like “how do you compare to [insert company]” or “Oh, so you’re like [insert company]” you’ll be left coming up with half-baked answers that aren’t backed up by deep research and understanding.

Talk with your team about setting up a competitive intelligence project next quarter and I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

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