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When you’re figuring out how to analyze competitors, you quickly realize that finding data is the easy part. Even a cursory Google search for material about your competitors will reveal so much that you could end up drowning in data. 

The most challenging part of a competitor analysis is making sense of the data you collect to inform your next actions. You need a robust, systematic approach that allows you to see exactly what your rivals are doing. A complete competitor analysis process follows these steps: 

  1. Decide what areas to focus on
  2. Identify appropriate data sources
  3. Ingest and categorize all relevant data
  4. Apply an analysis framework to interpret the data
  5. Provide the resulting insights to decision-makers

What’s more, this process must be scalable, repeatable, and adaptable. 

So, let’s take a look at how to analyze competitors. 

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How to Analyze Competitors in Any Market

Companies reveal crucial information about themselves every day. Your own company is probably broadcasting key data right now - everything from press releases to financial filings. There are announcements on official channels, such as your social media, or people might write about you in blog posts or newspaper articles. 

Most of this information is, quite literally, hidden in plain sight. That’s because there’s simply so much data published each day that it becomes impossible to separate the signal from the noise. If your rivals don’t have a reliable competitive intelligence (CI) process in place to analyze this data, they’ll be none the wiser. 

So, how can you filter signal from noise when analyzing rivals? Let’s say you’ve got a specific direct competitor that you want to study. Perhaps it’s an established company, and you want to challenge them for market share. Or maybe it’s a startup you want to keep an eye on. Either way, here’s how we recommend you do it. 

1. Build an Overview of the Competitor

To start, create the skeleton of a dossier for this competitor. Start with basic data, like their trading name, location, main products, and URLs for their website and social media. 

Now, with some basic research, you can start adding details like: 

  • Market cap
  • Annual revenue
  • Company status
  • Board members and their backgrounds
  • Main products

You can also add some details about their current market position based on information your company has already collected. Internal sources can also offer vital insight, so talk to your sales and product teams. Focus your attention on discovering the following about your competitor: 

  • Their main strengths
  • Their main weaknesses
  • Their general reputation 
  • Their overall brand positioning

If you haven’t already, you might perform an analysis of your competitive landscape. This involves looking at all competitors and assessing them by two criteria: 

  • Industry: The specific niche on which each competitor focuses. For instance, some might focus on business clients while others market to consumers.  
  • Capability: How good are they at delivering specific products or services? Some companies offer a broad range of general services; others have a focus on one or two specializations. 

This kind of analysis will help you see how an individual competitor fits into the overall market. It’ll also help you identify similar companies, which can act as benchmarks when you’re assessing overall performance. By the end of this stage, you should have a good idea of who your competitor is. You’ll determine if they’re a direct or indirect competitor. You’ll also see if you’re only competing on certain products or if it’s a direct head-to-head clash. 

The Complete Guide to Competitor Analysis Research, Data and Information Sources

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2. Gather All Relevant Data

The key word here is relevant. For instance, if you’re only interested in one particular product, you may not need detailed data about your competitor’s other products. 

If you’ve completed the first stage of this process, you should have a good idea of what you need to focus on. You can search for data in places like: 

  • Public databases: There are many sources of data out there that might be relevant to your research. To give some examples: the IMF database can tell you about economic and market conditions that may impact a foreign rival; Crunchbase tells you about revenue and funding; LexisNexis offers a huge library of legal documents.  
  • Competitor channels: The competitor will publish tons of high-quality data via their own channels. Keep an eye on the competitors' website, their blog, and their social media channels, and be sure to listen in on any podcasts and sign up for their newsletter. 
  • Media: Rival companies might pop up anywhere in the media. Local newspapers are a great source of small stories, such as the opening of a new office. You may also find rumors and gossip on industry discussion blogs. 
  • Public filings: Public companies have statutory requirements to file various paperwork. Much of this is available to the public - if you know where to look. Watch out for financial filings, patent filing, test results, planning applications, and other crucial documents. 
  • Primary research: You can also talk to people and find out more about the company. Prediction market research, focus groups, interviews, online surveys, and mystery shopper activities are all great ways to find quality data. If you're unable to connect with individuals, try looking at public review sites like G2 or Capterra. 

Collate and tag each piece of data. Ideally, you should have a central repository that everyone on the team can access. By applying the right tags to each data item, you’ll be able to run a simple search when you’re compiling a report and have an easier time recalling past intelligence reports. 

3. Compare Product Features 

Competitor analysis is often about getting customers to choose you, not your rival. Using the data you’ve collected, you can now get a better insight into how a target customer makes that choice. 

Product comparison is one way to step into the customer’s shoes. Look at your available products (or services) and see how they hold up against your rivals on the basis of: 

  • Price
  • Features
  • Support
  • Warranty
  • Ease of use
  • Brand image
  • Customer support

To get a full picture, you may need to perform some customer segmentation. For instance, you might find differences between consumers and enterprise clients. If this is the case, work with your marketing team to develop customer personas, and then see how competitor products align to those personas.

Do some competitor research and identify differentiators between your product and theirs. What makes your proposition unique? What makes your rival’s product unique? How do those differentiators appeal to the target customer? Competitor Overview of SWACompetitor analysis isn’t always about sales, of course. Human resources might use CI techniques to find out why more qualified applicants are accepting offers from your competitors. The method remains the same in all cases - consider your rival’s offering and compare to yours from the perspective of your buyer or candidate. 

Read the Guide: What is Competitive Analysis and How to Do it?

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4. Perform a Rival SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is a simple yet powerful tool for digging into the truth about your competition. SWOT is a simple four-box grid that looks at the following attributes of your rival: 

  • Strengths: What makes their customers love them? What attributes have allowed them to succeed? What gives them a competitive advantage?
  • Weaknesses: What makes their detractors dislike them? Are they failing their target audience in any identifiable ways? 
  • Opportunities: What’s likely to be the next big market for them? Do they have any clear advantages for the future? 
  • Threats: What’s the biggest issue they have to worry about? This could be internal, like a structural issue. Or it could be external, like supply chain problems. 

It helps to perform a SWOT analysis on yourself as well. This helps you to identify areas where you can differentiate yourself from the rival company. 

5. Communicate Your Findings to Decision-Makers

The purpose of competitor analysis is to help your business make better decisions based on the insights you have gained. Sometimes this means staying one step ahead of your market rivals. Analysis and insights are understand, not action. Taking action may require rethinking your current strategy in light of what you’ve learned. 

If your final deliverable is a report that goes to all the relevant stakeholders. This report should be: 

  • Clear: Don’t present raw data. Focus on the most important information so everyone understands the competitive landscape. 
  • Visual: Any kind of business intelligence report should have charts, graphs, and other visual devices. This helps people to understand the information that’s relevant to them in the quickest way possible. 
  • Focused: Only include information that is likely to impact strategy. If something’s not actionable, cut it out. 
  • Relevant: Everyone has their own unique focus. Sales will want a report relevant to selling, HR will want information pertaining to hiring. Custom reports are better than a one-size-fits-all approach. 

How do you know when your competitor analysis process right? The first indicator may be an increase in requests for your report. A good CI process is like a super-weapon - it’s an x-ray that lets you peer through walls and see what other companies are planning. Master the process, and watch as more of your organization will be coming to you asking how to analyze their competitors. 

When they do, it’s time to start thinking about your CI work as an ongoing, company-wide process. Rather than focus on one competitor at a time, you can start to look at the whole of the market. With every team contributing data, you’ll create an even deeper understanding of events in your markets. This will allow your organization to identify potential threats and new opportunities sooner than before.