5 steps to implement a successful competitive intelligence strategy

15 Apr 2022 5 min read

Written by

Nicoleta Binca

, Marketing Specialist

This article is an updated version of an older one.

Your business doesn't exist in a vacuum. Whatever industry or sector you operate in, however unique your product/services might be, there always are and always will be other businesses competing for the same customers. What this means is that today, more than ever, you have to know your competitors in order to gain the upper hand and stay ahead. And in order to do so, it's essential to develop a comprehensive competitive intelligence strategy that can get you all the information and results you need.

In this article, we'll take a look at what competitive intelligence is, why you should implement your very own, and how to do it by following 5 quick and easy steps.

What is competitive intelligence?

But first off, what exactly is competitive intelligence (CI)? To put it simply, competitive intelligence refers to the systematic monitoring and analysis of your competitors' actions to determine what they're doing now and what they're likely to do in the future.  This type of information contributes to a better understanding of your own competitive position, which, in turn, helps you make better strategic decisions and business practices.

Why do you need competitive intelligence?

The answer is as straightforward as you think - to gain insight into your competitors, and understand the competitive environment along with the opportunities and challenges it presents. Competitive intelligence helps you anticipate changes, spot opportunities, and detect threats. With innumerable products and services fighting to attract customer attention for more than a fleeting moment, it's important to understand why a customer might choose a competitor over you. What did they do better? How does their product stand out? Are there any aspects you might have overlooked that your competitor took advantage of? And finally, what can you do to improve and up your strategy in a way that yields results? These are questions you should be asking yourself and which can be answered by creating your competitive intelligence strategy.

To help you out, we’ve outlined a five-step process on how to do it well and tailor it to your own business and needs.

How to implement it in 5 steps

1. Identify

Essentially, to get started, you should ask yourself the following set of questions:

  • What information do you already know?
  • What information do you need to know?
  • Why is relevant?
  • What will it cost you to gather it?
  • What will you do once you have it? 

These will help provide a clear understanding of the process and resources you will need along the way. A good way to kickstart the process is by picking your top five direct competitors, then slowly expanding to indirect and aspiration ones as you progress.

However, the main challenge in gathering competitive intelligence is knowing what to track, how to source it, and ultimately, which information matters the most. Wanting to list everything is a bad practice because in most cases it drifts the competitive intelligence project away from its original objectives. What this means is that you have to take your time and explore your competitors' online presence through websites, products, social media, and everything in between. Remember, a lot of this information is public and easily accessible, you just need to know where to look for it. You want to gather as much intel as possible in order to be able to get valuable insight out of it.

2. Analyze

Competitive intelligence is valuable only if the raw information collected is enriched by several analyses, which are then synthesized, broadcasted, and capitalized in order to help decision-making. Untreated information makes your competitive intelligence practically useless, seeing as your work will be difficult to capitalize on. You have to break down the data, pull out the key points, and highlight the essential pieces of information that can then be easily communicated throughout your organization.

There are various ways to do a competitor analysis - you can create a competitor profile based on benchmarks or even a SWOT analysis. Keep in mind that completing this step isn't enough, and it's just as valuable to continuously track your competitors - set up alerts on product updates, news, customer reviews, and more. In the end, being proactive, rather than reactive, is what will help you stay on top of the competition.

3. Share

The results of your analysis should be thoroughly shared across your organization. This is information that can empower your teams and give them the upper hand. In a 2020 State of Competitive Intelligence report, it was revealed that 78% of companies share their competitive intel via email, 64% opt for meetings, and 28% for internal chats. While any of them can work, it is usually advised to store this type of information in a secure place that is easily accessible, without scattering it across chats or email threads. A collaborative website (company wiki or intranet) is a great option as it enables you to centralize it, edit it, update it, and share it with the right people.

4. Capitalize

Now that you've gone through all the steps - identified your competitors, gathered the relevant information, analyzed the findings, and communicated your findings within your organization - it's time to capitalize on all of it. Make your data actionable by using your findings to make better decisions, shape up your strategies and benefit your overall business.

5. Evaluate

After a period of time, you should be able to compare the results of your competitive intelligence with its initial objectives to see what worked, what didn't, and what could be potentially improved. It's also important to take feedback from different teams on the usefulness of the strategy. However, be aware that competitive intelligence means different things for each department. For a sales representative, the information that matters most is how to gain an advance over a competitor when trying to close a sales deal, while for marketing it's insights into different campaigns to attract a wider range of customers. Make adjustments based on the teams' assessments and be ready to update your strategy as you go. 

Bonus: The wiki, the key tool to capitalize on competitive intelligence

As we've briefly touched on, an internal wiki can be a great way to store your competitive intelligence and make the most out of it. To use it to its full potential, it should be stored in a secure place that is well organized and easily accessible across the organization. Take advantage of knowledge management to empower your competitive intelligence strategy.

Before you choose the right tool to manage your competitive intelligence, it's necessary to identify the features that are essential to helping you do it operationally:

  • Manage/create knowledge with the ability to Edit/Modify/Save the content
  • Find information using a search engine (possibly multi-criteria), tag, cloud words, etc.
  • Store in a knowledge database
  • Share knowledge through features such as social networks, emails, or document exports
  • Secure content by defining who has access to what (rights management)
  • Keep your employees up to date thanks to a notification system and alerts
  • Access information from anywhere, at any time
  • Exchange on different topics through comments, annotations, forums, FAQ
  • Extend it with various apps, add-ons to enhance its functionalities as per your needs
  • Integrate it into existing tools through an open API, and compatibility with industry standards

If you are ready to get on board and boost your competitive intelligence strategy with a knowledge base, XWiki ticks all the boxes and could be the right tool for you. Try it for free or get in touch with one of our experts to discuss a custom project.

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