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Competitor analysis is often done on a project-by-project basis. You might build a report on a rival when you’re thinking of launching a new product, or if you notice a new competitor enter your market. And then, when the report is complete and delivered, you file it away and close the project. 

But your competition is always evolving. Just like you, other companies are continually adapting to a dynamic marketplace, looking for their next opportunity and trying to anticipate customer needs. Next week could be the week that they launch their new surprise strategy. If you’re not watching, you may not see this new threat until it’s too late. 

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The Value of Ongoing Competitor Analysis 

Great competitor analysis is never just a project. It’s an ongoing process that runs in the background, always monitoring changes in your target market(s). With a comprehensive process, you should receive notifications each time a direct competitor: 

  • Launches a new product or sunsets an old product
  • Changes their pricing structure
  • Issues an important press release
  • Goes viral on social media (for positive or negative reasons)
  • Makes structural changes, like appointing new board members or launching a recruitment drive
  • Expects a financial boost, like announcing a new round of funding
  • Hits a roadblock, like running into regulatory challenges

When a competitor’s circumstances change, your circumstances change too. It might mean there’s an opportunity to move in and grab some of their audience. Or it could mean that your rival is newly positioned to threaten you in a way not seen before.  

It's often typical for Competitive Intelligence (CI) to receive less attention (and resources) than say Business Intelligence (BI) or Market Intelligence (MI). This can be the result of the way CI work is performed, usually on a project-by-project basis. The very nature of project based work often means more energy is needed because each project includes scoping, approvals, funding... Performed this way, the work can be very time-consuming and the reason that it only produces results around 25% of the time.  

But a long-term, organization-wide process can provide enormous rewards. BI and MI tend to be ongoing processes, and they provide a clear return on investment. The same is true of CI. For example, companies that use Knowledge 360 to manage their M/CI processes save an average of $315,000 over five years

Also, when you have the right competitor analysis tools and the right ongoing process, your work becomes more efficient. Doing competitive analysis requires less effort over time while providing increasingly valuable rewards. 

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

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Read the Guide

How to Build a Long-Term Competitor Analysis Process

To get the most out of competitor intelligence work, you need your whole organization behind you. Here’s how. 

1. Talk to Stakeholders

One of the most common mistakes in a combined market and competitive intelligence M/CI initiative is to treat it as a department-specific project. This narrow viewpoint is limiting in several ways, just think of all the teams that benefit from competitor insights. 

Marketing wants to know about rival’s differentiators and brand positioning

Sales wants to know about a competitor's product benefits and pricing structures.

Operations wants to understand features of rival products so they can best answer customer queries.

Strategic leadership wants to know about threats and opportunities related to other companies in their target market.

HR wants to know who they’re competing against in the recruitment marketplace.

Each of these teams might already be conducting their own smaller version of a competitor analysis, duplicating effort while missing the big picture. Bring together representatives from each department and talk about how you might all collaborate on a unified M/CI initiative. 

This conversation should tell you information is needed and what each team is able to contribute. This data helps define the scope for your ongoing competitive analysis function.

2. Establish a Competitor Analysis Team

In some companies, mostly large enterprises, a single department might own the M/CI function and offer M/CI services to other departments. For instance, marketing might run M/CI and provide regular pricing reports to sales. 

Another approach is to build a cross-functional team with representatives from different departments. In many companies agility is the name of the game when it comes to internal resources. Market and competitive intelligence teams would be wise to consider how to improve and expand services without adding headcount.

Today’s hyper-competitive markets like the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, continued push for growth, often drive the adoption of what Rick Marchetti, AVP Strategic Research at  The Hartford  calls a “Mission Based” Community of Practice CI model. 

As job positions, markets and service offerings all become more specialized, M/CI teams will recognize the need to harness the power of employee collaboration to provide early warning/insights on competitor actions in support of key decisions and strategic actions. Leveraging SMEs from within the organization brings together cross functional business expertise for a common purpose. This approach is more complex but may ultimately be more productive. 

Regardless of your team structure, you’ll need clarity about how the team communicates. You'll want to appoint a M/CI leader or what we call a CI Quarterback, who can assign tasks and coordinate with department heads. 

3. Implement an M/CI Platform

The key challenge with doing competitor analysis is the effort required to do it. Sure setting up Google Alerts to collect new information about the competition takes but a few minutes. Collecting information is rarely the issue, analyzing data and developing meaningful insights your company can take action on, are time consuming activities. This is also where the value of your work is born. Automating your necessary, but low-value, tasks is a must for today's CI teams and the right software is a big part of this.

Knowledge 360 isn’t the only option, of course, but a leading independent research did recognize it for the collaborative tools built into the platform. A tool like K360 can: 

  • Automatically collate data from thousands of disparate sources
  • Use artificial intelligence to analyze and categorize each item of data
  • Uncover important trends in new competitor data so that you can identify what’s important
  • Share dynamically updated findings with all stakeholders so that they can act accordingly

You can perform all of this with a manual process if need be. Or you can take a semi-automated approach, using a constellation of tools to perform each step in the process. 

But consider this: time-consuming processes never last. If people are spending a couple of hours each day on competitor analysis, they’ll soon start to ask if this is the best use of their time. Eventually, your competitor analysis work will return to a project-by-project activity. 

Automated processes have a higher level of stickiness. When people experience performing competitor analysis with a few clicks needed to take them to the information they need, they’re more likely to get onboard. 

4. Provide Everyone with the Outputs they Need

Deliverables are the big incentive to keep any process going. Your competitor analysis process will produce regular reports on rival company activity, and these reports will encourage adoption of an ongoing M/CI strategy. 

So, what makes a good report? There are a few rules to remember: 

  • Make it relevant: Everyone should get a report that’s strictly relevant to their needs. The CMO might want to see sentiment analysis of the competitor’s social media replies, but that might be less useful to the head of HR. Create focused, bespoke reports that help the reader make decisions. 
  • Make it simple: Analysis is often about breaking a large file of information into a couple of sentences that provide knowledge. “Our competitor is launching a new product in October” is an excellent piece of actionable information. 
  • Make it visual: Charts and graphics are the best ways to distribute complex information. Use visuals to highlight key information and to represent important trends. 

If your M/CI team continuously delivers high-value reports, they start to become must-have items for leaders. At that point, you’ll find a greater impetus behind M/CI and a willingness to invest. 

5. Review and Refine

Competitor analysis is not a set-and-forget process. You’ll need to keep an eye on your progress to ensure that you’re still meeting requirements, even as the market changes. 

It’s a good idea to schedule a regular M/CI meeting and talk about some of the key indicators of success like: 

  • Are you catching the most relevant data for each competitor?
  • Have you missed any important competitor activity in recent weeks? 
  • Does co-workers know how to contribute data they obtain? 
  • Is your discovery and analysis process producing the intelligence your company needs to make decisions?
  • Is the M/CI team finding it easier to network and collaborate with colleagues? 
  • Are stakeholders getting reports that suit their needs?  

If you adopt an agile approach to your competitive analysis process, you can measure these outcomes and adjust your protocols as required. 

Competitor analysis is like the radar on a ship. You don’t just turn it on whenever you’re considering a course change in direction. Your competitor analysis like radar needs to be on all the time - and make sure that you’re watching closely. That’s the only way to spot rival movements and prevent unwanted surprises.