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This article is a part of our competitor analysis resource center. Visit the complete competitor analysis resource center for more content like this.

Competitive analysis has benefits for virtually every business. And yet, many businesses abandon competitive intelligence initiatives soon after they’ve begun. This stems from what we call the CI cycle of death, a faulty approach to CI that quickly becomes the elephant you can’t eat (not even one bite at a time). 

The sheer quantity of available and monitored data outpaces the team’s ability to glean insights from it. Teams grow without providing any additional value, budgets are called into question, and ultimately efforts are abandoned altogether. This is both common and avoidable.

At Cipher, we’ve worked with thousands of businesses in a CI consulting capacity. As experts in this field, we’ve found that the right competitor analysis template can at least assist in shifting the trajectory, landing teams at a place of meaningful insight rather than hopeless dismissal. In other words: success is well within reach. And here’s how it’s done.

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How To Do Competitor (or Competitive) Analysis

As a quick reminder: the difference between competitor analysis and competitive analysis is:

  • Competitor analysis is the practice of identifying a specific competitor's weaknesses, predicting their movement within the market, and planning methods to outpace them.
  • Competitive analysis is the practice of executing a competitor analysis across all of your primary competitors.

A competitive analysis framework, kept in place with the competitor analysis template we’re about to illustrate, makes a world of difference in assuring you are getting all the way down to the insights required. We’re giving you a peek behind the curtain and a real world illustration of how a competitive assessment works.

Start with a FREE download of Cipher’s competitive analysis template!

The example we have provided below follows a competitive analysis for a cybersecurity company that develops products for the cyber forensics market.

  1. Competitor Landscape

The first (and most obvious) data you are after in such an analysis is how your organization is placed in the competitive landscape. A competitive field is established with the following activities:

  • Identifying competitors
  • Labeling strategic groups based on industry and capabilities

Those two action items provide the foundation from which to build competitor profiles and competitor positioning later.

Example:

The sample competitive landscape analysis for our example cybersecurity company yielded the following information:

Fourteen players identified in the landscape. These break down into five strategic groups based on their respective product capabilities and industry coverage:

  1. Cyber hunting and visualization analytics tools
  2. Cyber hunting tools
  3. Cyber threat tools
  4. Network visualization analytics tools
  5. Integrated analytics platforms

Our analysis further identified each named company (A-N) and their correspondingly named products with unique takeaways. Some of the takeaways that were noted include:

  • Product A (from Company A) appears to be the only offering thoroughly covering all five of the critical capabilities assessed.
  • The next two most comparable offerings were Product L and Product M.
  • No other provider in Product A’s immediate peer group and the next two most relevant groups possess the same presence or reputation strength as Company A in the market.
  • Product A is a lesser known capability with fewer customer relationships.

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In addition to these summaries, overarching industry insights can be gleaned that are true across most of the competitive landscape, such as the fact that “configuration tends to be costly and challenging” or that “the training of personnel is time-consuming and difficult.” The latter is based on data that is more subject to interpretation and may come from information written by the respective company.

Customer Analysis

Once competitors are segmented and analyzed, many competitive intelligence analysts will then collect customer analysis data as well. This is important because rivals are only labeled so when they are interested in the same goal; in this case, the same customer base. Customer analysis is also used to create customer segmentation, profiles and is useful for tracking marketing efforts and consumer behavior.

2. Competitor Details and Differentiators

In some ways, this second step is an aggregate of the previously performed exercises and collected data. Within the competitor analysis template, there is a graphic layout for inputting these data points. While it repeats some of the earlier insights, it’s vital to lay out data in a tabled format. If skipped, you will later realize you have no true, apples-to-apples comparison between competitor products, capabilities and customers.

Example:

Taking the defined fields, we would create a table that is setup like this:

Visualizing the data this way takes the product capabilities that matter most for this analysis, as well as the segmented customers, and analyzes each competitor. Especially helpful for teams, this format provides meticulously harvested data at-a-glance, aiding strategic decisions and providing a good base of understanding for the rest of the work.


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3. Competitor Strengths and Weaknesses

While the competitor analysis gives a broad strokes view of who’s who and doing what, more detail on each competitor sheds light on competitor strengths and competitor weaknesses. In this case, use a simple column format to list information on your company’s product and then similar lists for competitor products. This allows for more extensive detail.

Example:

 

While columns like this are part of our competitor analysis template, a CI analyst using a visualization tool may be able to take data mapping further with charts or graphs. Below is an example of competitor analysis visualization included in a dashboard built with Knowledge360®.

Competitor Analysis K360 Visualization

Depending on the scope of your analysis, this may be useful for competitor analysis that exceeds a handful of competitors.

4. Competitor Profiles

Solution provider profiles are the last part of our competitor analysis template. This is a simple mapping of each competitor, along with details about their product feature or category, important facts about the product, product name, etc. Profiles can be set up and then shifted to compare to different providers. The listed products may also be extrapolated for comparison on separate tables.

Example:

Final Thoughts

To conduct valuable and useful competitor analysis requires a commitment. This is not a single point in time activity. You’ll need to regularly revisit each of your analyses  and consider how the market has changed.

Even with our helpful template, you are still going to find your team spending too much time on data collection and organization and too little on the analysis of the information you have. Augmenting your team's work with one of the many tools available is a must. Failing to leverage AI, machine learning and natural language process tools increases the odds of your competitive intelligence team falling victim to the CI cycle of death.

Once you establish your analysis cadence and operationalize your process, continue to challenge yourself and your team to find new ways to minimize time spent low value activities like data collection and increase time spent on developing meaningful insights. The right competitive intelligence software might make all the difference.

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