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Welcome to our Competitive Intelligence Software Comparison series! We are regularly asked by prospects and clients to help them compare different competitive intelligence software tools. So we decided to dedicate a series of articles to this very subject.
As they work through the decision-making process, we often see that the decision is less about comparing tools against each other, but really working to understand what they need from the tool itself.
We have found that we end up becoming more of “CI Software Therapists” than salespeople during this process. Hence, this series!
You might be asking yourself: “Is it really possible to get an unbiased comparison of competitive intelligence tools from a company that makes one of those tools?”
Let me be perfectly honest with you, we have no interest in spinning our wheels trying to convince someone to use our specific competitive intelligence software tool for whom it would not be the right fit. That would be a waste of our time and a waste of yours.
So, ultimately what we end up doing during this process for prospects is working to understand what their requirements are from the tool they need, and helping them determine which tool might fit the bill (be it ours or someone else’s).
In this endeavor, we seek to be as honest as possible, as misleading or portraying our tool to have features that it does not actually have only results in future customer churn (something none of us wants to see).
When choosing a competitive intelligence software tool, keep in mind that you will almost never be comparing apples to apples. You should instead look at it as comparing apples to oranges.
Different tools are meant to do different things, and each has its place depending upon your organization’s needs or goals. I don’t seek to pit these software tools against each other, but instead, help you recognize which tool has what you need for your specific use case.
In fruit, apples aren’t inherently better or worse than oranges. Sometimes you are just looking for the vitamin C boost of an orange or the crunch of an apple. They serve different purposes. So do CI tools
If you’ve read our high-level comparison article in this series, you already know about the four major comparison factors that we tend to get questions about from prospects and customers.
In our experience, there are often four very important factors that present themselves when making the decision on a competitive intelligence software product.
Don’t get me wrong, there are far more than just four factors to consider when making your choice, but for the purposes of this comparison, I will focus on the four factors that usually rise to the top in terms of importance.
Summarized briefly here, they are:
In order to help, we will frame the comparison of the two tools below using these four primary categories.
One very important distinction to be aware of when comparing competitive intelligence software are the two broad categories of tools you will run into when comparing options.
The business mode of each type of company is fundamentally different. Technology companies are focused primarily on increasing value via growth in recurring revenue, usually in the form of a subscription model. They tend to view the ad-hoc nature of services work, like workshops, primary research, or strategic consulting projects as something dilutes the value they provide, rather than adding to it.
Intelligence companies, on the other hand, have the opposite viewpoint. They are usually focused on increasing value by deepening relationships and offering a combination of subscription and project-based services depending upon the needs of the customer. They view project-based and strategic work as additive to their value as it helps their customers make the most out of the data they provide.
Usually technology companies are focused on providing data, and answering questions like “who, what, where, and when,” but will usually let you answer the “why” on your own.
Intelligence companies, instead, offer a combination of both. If you only need the “who, what, where, and when,” then they’ll have a set of tools available to give you that. And, when you need support on the “why,” they’ll have project-based methods of helping there as well.
Before jumping into feature by feature comparisons, it is important to understand who each of these tools is built for. More so than any of the other comparisons we’ve done, SEMRush and Knowledge360 are built for fundamentally different use cases.
In fact, I personally use SEMRush right here in our very own marketing department. As a veteran marketer, the information they provide is invaluable in my digital marketing efforts. As such, I also have a pretty good understanding of what each of the two tools discussed below have to offer.
Looking at how each software company has chosen to categorize their own tools and how they describe themselves is a great starting point. All information captured below is up to date as of this writing.
On Capterra, Knowledge360 is described as supporting the “needs of full and part-time M/CI professionals, Marketing & Sales teams, Corporate Strategy, Product Managers and Research professionals in highly competitive and regulated industries.”
On Capterra, SEMRush describes themselves as being for “SEO Professionals, PPC Professionals Social Media Managers Public Relations Professionals Content Marketers and more!”
On G2, Knowledge360 is only categorized in the Market Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence Tools categories.
On G2, SEMrush categorizes themselves in both of the above categories in addition to “Social Media Monitoring, Social Media Management, Social Media Analytics, Search Advertising, SEO, Media Monitoring, Content Analytics, Marketing Analytics, Local SEO, Local Listing Management, Content Creation, and Marketing Calendar.”
The Bottom Line: SEMRush offers access to information and data that may be of interest when examining your digital presence against competitors, but is not a purpose built tool for comprehensive competitive intelligence functions like Knowledge360.
Most organizations care deeply about the experience for individual users as it often affects adoption rates and the ultimate power of the tool internally.
Organizations are typically looking for a tool that is intuitive and easy to use. They are also looking for specific features that help users work more efficiently and effectively in their role and facilitate decision making.
Looking at reviews of user experience on external review sites show that Knowledge360 and Intelligence2day are both strongly differentiated in the area of Ease of Use.
G2 Ease of Use Comparison Ratings (as of this writing):
G2 Quality of Support Comparison Ratings (as of this writing):
Capterra Ease of Use Comparison Ratings (as of this writing):
Capterra Customer Support Comparison Ratings (as of this writing):
The Bottom Line: Based on the information available, it would appear that both tools are relatively comparable in terms of ease of use. The difference in ratings regarding support is most likely related to the size of audience that each tool is meant to serve. Because Knowledge360 is built to serve a more narrow, specific audience, offering more hands-on support is much easier.
Organizations also typically want to know, in deep detail, how the software can collect, organize, tag, and manage data.
Each organization has its own idea of what is important and how they’d like to use these features, but for the most part access to relevant data sources and having software that uses automated tagging via Natural Language Processing vs. traditional manual taxonomies are both very important.
In this case, a comparison is not really possible because the two systems are collecting fundamentally different kinds of data. SEMRush only collects data on organic search and web traffic performance, but does so very comprehensively.
Knowledge360 on the other hand is meant to pool data from a very large variety of primary and secondary sources to serve overall competitive intelligence decisions, rather than just serve organic search presence decisions.
Knowledge360® comes pre-populated with premium, timely, and accurate data covering over four million public and private organizations already integrated. Knowledge360® offers pre-loaded data aggregated from sources including:
The Bottom Line: Knowledge360 was meant for collecting multiple types of data, while SEMRush only provides data on organic search and web traffic. In this case it is a decision between depth and breadth. Deciding which type of data you need will be the most important part of your decision making process.
Another important feature most organizations want to understand in-depth is how searches are conducted within the tool.
They are often looking for search functions aided by AI and machine learning algorithms to help them discover new information that they may not have thought to explicitly search for, and how the AI might learn information about their needs over time.
Again, in this case, it is difficult to compare as we are comparing two fundamentally different things. SEMRush does utilize AI in their tool to provide predictions on organic performance, but it doesn’t use AI-based search to surface competitive intelligence information outside of web-based metrics.
Knowledge360®‘s advanced search features engage a semantic search function using Cipher’s own proprietary algorithms to identify and search against metadata on both internal and external data and information. The advanced features also enable the user to perform advanced Boolean searches as well as drill down on trends through layers of filters pre-loaded into the system, further expediting their information sorting and refinement process.
Knowledge360® supports the collection and indexing of both internal and external structured and unstructured data from sources including, but not limited to, the web, subscription databases, external reports, and internal information sources, including the latest customer and competitor reports and analysis, allowing for advanced searching, filtering and quick retrieval of information whilst providing a central archive for commercial material.
The Bottom Line: We again return to what type of data you are looking for as the most important part of your comparison. Each tool offers powerful search, you are just searching through fundamentally different information.
Perhaps one of the most important factors organizations consider is how well the competitive intelligence software in question supports collaboration across the organization.
This includes how the tool can help physically disparate and large teams communicate and share information, the ability to layer analysis on top of data, and methods for visualizing and sharing that analysis with key stakeholders.
The right collaboration features allow your team to go beyond the basics, to monitor and share not only what your competitors are doing (new hires, patent applications and more) but also what is happening to them (product recalls, lawsuits, or labor issues). Fostering collaboration around secondary sources of intelligence that includes:
This awareness is critical when understanding your vulnerabilities, mitigating risks and maximizing opportunities.
With so many different potential sources of information, a key collaboration feature also often includes looking at the Knowledge Management capabilities of a competitive intelligence software, as most tools focus solely on the CI function and do not include any knowledge management functionality.
SEMRush’s website does make it clear that there are plans built for teams, meaning there is a focus on collaboration, but doesn’t go into great detail on what the collaboration features or functions are.
The knowledge management and collaboration capabilities within Knowledge360® allow users to better interact between regions and functions, providing increased information-sharing capabilities, maximizing the overall value for the business.
Collaboration capabilities are pre-built into the system and include functionalities such as commenting on reports and data and emailing information (such as meeting notes, documents, news, etc.) directly to and from the system.
The Bottom Line: If collaboration is a key component of your decision, and you are comfortable with the data each tool provides you, make sure to get a demo of each tool before making a choice.
As we’ve said before, choosing the right tool for you is based on selecting the tool built for your specific needs.
In this particular case, we are comparing two almost completely different tools. So it really does depend on what you are looking for.
In most cases, we find that these tools are not mutually exclusive. Many customers who use Knowledge360 for organization-wide competitive intelligence also have marketing departments that use SEMRush for their digital marketing efforts.
Knowledge360 bottom line: Knowledge360 is a tool best suited for organizations with a dedicated competitive intelligence team in industries where strong regulations or high levels of competition are present, and collaboration across departments and disparate teams is very important.
SEMRush bottom line: SEMRush is a tool that offers data which is of value when comparing digital performance between yourself and a competitor, but in and of itself isn’t a wholesale competitive intelligence tool. If what you need is a very detailed understanding of how you stack up to your competitors specifically on organic search traffic performance, it is top notch. However, if you are looking for a more holistic understanding of your market, major business moves your competitors are making and financial data, you need a full-scale competitive intelligence tool.
To help you take the next step in selecting a competitive intelligence software tool, we have a couple of resources you may find helpful. First you can peruse our Buyer's Guide to learn more about the different components of competitive intelligence software.
Or, if you are knee deep in vendor comparisons, you can use our Competitive Intelligence Software Vendor Evaluation Tool to help you compare different vendors against one another.
John has more than 25 years of experience as an accomplished marketing and sales professional and is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the marketing function at Cipher. Prior to joining Cipher, John co-founded a national marketing agency providing companies with digital marketing and sales support, driving lead generation and increased sales for B2B and B2C clients.