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Why you should be careful about monitoring competitors

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Competitive research, analysis, and intelligence are all crucial elements of an organization’s strategic decisions and direction. Understanding who your competitors are, what they are doing, what direction they are going in, as well as what kind of a risk they present to your business helps you position yourself well in the marketplace and with your customers.

There is more to competitive monitoring than simply keeping an eye on your competitors’ websites and social media (although that is part of it, too). Investments, acquisitions, media placements, and even what they are saying and where they are saying it away from their own properties are just as important, as are a host of other bits and pieces of information.

Competitive monitoring programs can’t just be thrown together to be effective. Why should you be careful about monitoring competitors? Because the risks of not monitoring them purposefully are so significant.

Competitive monitoring

Competitive monitoring is the process of identifying, auditing, and collecting data about your competitors and their pricing, products, marketing strategies, and sales processes. By doing so, you’ll have a keen grasp of what your competitors are doing today and possibly in the near future, as well as where you sit in relation to them. That information can then be used to make strategic decisions about areas to grow into or back away from, product features, positioning and pricing, customer viewpoints, and much more.

While a full look at what competitive monitoring is and what to do with that information are outside the scope of this piece, there are a few things that we want to make sure you pay attention to as you consider a monitoring strategy.

Direct and indirect competitors: It’s likely that you know who your direct competitors are and, even without a defined competitive monitoring plan, are keeping an eye on. But what about your indirect competitors? Who is market adjacent to you? Who could make a significant impact if they moved into your space? You should be monitoring them as well. More often than not, major disruptors to an industry come from outside, not within, and bring new ideas and new ways of doing things to the field.

Who uses competitor monitoring? Internal stakeholders for competitive information include marketing teams, sales, corporate strategy, product teams, business development, and organizational leadership.

What to monitor? As we talk about being careful with your competitive monitoring, you should note what areas or data points, in particular, you want to be sure you are tracking. These include:

  • Acquisitions
  • Investors in the company
  • Investments in other organizations or technologies
  • Board members
  • Messaging
  • Funding information
  • Content they produce, including articles, blogs, white papers and ebooks, website changes and social media posts
  • News mentions, quotes, and guest posts
  • Press releases
  • Bloggers and influencers mentioning your competitors

Why you should be careful about monitoring your competitors

Even if you have just a handful of direct and indirect competitors, that is a massive amount of information to keep track of. Not doing so, however, can put your organization in a difficult position or lead to unnecessarily costly decisions and mistakes.

Being careful about monitoring your competitors means acknowledging the most obvious risks and having a plan in place to surface information about these concerns:

  • Disconnected messaging and value propositions
  • Uninformed sales teams
  • Disjointed organizational strategy
  • Oblivious to acquisitions and investments
  • Etc. 

Beyond that, there are some less apparent risks that make it necessary to take care with competitor monitoring programs.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed

Thanks to the internet, there is a ton of information available on nearly every topic imaginable, and more produced every day. This includes information about your industry, and within that topic, your competitors.

Sifting through all of that content and filtering for specific information is simply overwhelming. Not doing so leaves you at risk. Clearly, you need a plan of attack that will separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Start with a defined set of goals. Which competitors do you want to monitor? What do you want to know about? What, specifically, are your goals with monitoring your competitors?

It’s better to do multiple searches for information on a narrow topic than to try to boil the ocean. For instance, if you are monitoring for price changes, that is a different search strategy, using different tools and mining different data than monitoring for investments or board member information.

It’s not just about the overwhelm of information, though. It’s also about the cadence. You don’t need to review your competitor’s website weekly, because it doesn’t change that often. But checking in on their site once a year could have you miss key indicators for strategic shifts or alterations in messaging and positioning.

Ideally, you’ll use a tool to help you monitor. Platforms like Zilliant for B2B and Skuuudle for ecommerce can help with price monitoring.* For broader information that can be filtered and shared with stakeholders, Cronycle’s feeds surface competitor info you define and can even alert you to critical information or mentions. 

A narrow focus could have you miss important information

We mentioned above that narrowing what information you want to see on a topic can help beat overwhelm. On the flip side, narrowing the sources you look at can also leave you in a bad position.

Because there is so much content produced on a daily basis, a common but misguided strategy used by many is to only pay attention to major media sources. Yet major outlets are primarily mining for content from smaller, niche blogs and expert influencers. 

Only focusing on major media sources has two primary issues. First, you’re getting information at the same time as everyone else. In other words, you’re forced to react to something that has already happened instead of being able to plan a response. This can lead to those uncomfortable Slack messages from sales asking “Have we seen this?” or difficult calls from C-levels wanting to know how they were blindsided by a competitor announcement, yet again.

Second, you’ll be inherently adopting the angle of the news producer or journalist. When your information comes from a narrow band of sources, it comes packaged with the perspective of the writer or publication. This shortcuts your ability to apply your own knowledge and experience to the information and formulate your own conclusions and perspectives.

You aren’t monitoring frequently enough

We touched on this when discussing overwhelm, above, but it’s worth a mention on its own as well. Too much information can lead to relegating competitive monitoring to monthly, quarterly, or even worse, annually.

Take product marketers, for example. In a survey by the Product Marketing Alliance, only 29.4% of PMMs said they check on their competitors weekly. Roughly 25% checked in monthly or every other month, and another 19% did so quarterly. About 7% only checked their competitors every six months to a year.

The truth is, there is some competitive monitoring that can be done regularly, but infrequently. Websites don’t change often – neither does leadership or board membership. Without consistent monitoring, however, it could be easy to miss the signs of repositioning or new product launches. In the best case, a tool that can monitor for you and send you alerts about competitor information can help you stay informed without adding to an already heavy workload.

You may not be fully processing the competitive information you do find

Monitoring uncovers important information about your competitors, and information that may not seem particularly relevant upon reading it. However, that’s all that it produces – information. You should be careful in your competitive monitoring to not stop with just information.

Don’t get this wrong – information is critical, but it’s only part of the chain. Information viewed and extracted by someone with specific knowledge and experience can become more. The right information, pulled from various sources and combined with other information, can offer insights into a competitors direction, strategy, and moves.

When combined with your organization’s own strategic vision, a particular perspective, and all of the other information available, those insights can become competitive intelligence. Information is the what, insights are the why, intelligence is the how – how do you respond, how do you embrace what you know, how does this impact sales, marketing, and the organization as a whole. Intelligence is sense-making, and sense-making is how you go from seeing what your competitors are doing to turning that information into a benefit for your business.

Giving care to your competitive monitoring program

Competitive monitoring is a key element in your strategic planning, and touches numerous fuctions, from leadership and corporate strategy all the way down the go-to-market chain. When taking the time to monitor competitors, you should take care to create a program that will be useful across your interested stakeholders. Information is only part of the equation – to truly benefit from the knowledge, it must be applied to your organization, the various roles that need that information, and your strategy.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you create an effective and efficient competitive monitoring program and drive sense-making from the information you discover, Cronycle’s platform is the answer. With customizable, focused, and filtered feeds, collaborative boards, and integrations and tools to make sharing intelligence with stakeholders easy, Cronycle is a cost-effective solution to information monitoring needs. Contact us for more information and to set up a demo and see for yourself what the platform can do for you and your team.

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