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How to analyze competitive intelligence

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This post is the third in a series of tutorials describing how to conduct and analyze competitive intelligence to gain in efficiency and quality:

Now that you have collected and organized rich content from a wide range of sources, how do you analyze it for competitive intelligence? All this cannot be automated. Analysis is where human intelligence is needed, to make sense of information and synthesize it into meaningful intel. A wide variety of learnings can be uncovered, including impacts, next moves, SWOT analysis, profiles updates and more ways to report on insights gained.

Fortunately, Cronycle boards speed up the workflow to boil down and contextualize information. With Cronycle, you can easily provide useful and actionable insights to other teams, such as sales, product and marketing. We’ve seen CI customers reduce the time spent by as much as 75% to monitor, analyze and share competitive intelligence.

This tutorial focuses on the analysis phase, while the next in the series will address insights distribution and feedback.

Annotate to extract insights

Annotations are a key element in how to analyze competitive intelligence. They help surface important data points and updates – such as new features, campaigns, elements of language and positioning, pricing, customer wins, appointments, etc. They also make it easy to extract information.

How to annotate insights

Annotations can be added on the following board content types:

  • Articles including online posts, reviews, pages with and without media, etc – except tweets.
  • Emails such as newsletters and alerts pinned on the board (as fixed text notes).
  • PDF files: they are converted to allow annotations when saving to the board.

To annotate, open the content in the board reader, highlight an interesting portion of text, and simply click on Annotate. Try to annotate a minimum amount of text to keep your insights focussed and easy to scan through later on. Annotate key ideas valuable to you: new information, a surprising fact, articulate explanation, key phrase, etc. You can also add notes and labels.

Board content reader with text highlighted and the option to annotate to analyze competitor information

Extract to summary

If you deliver your findings with a relatively light touch analysis, summaries are the perfect option to introduce key takeaways as they get published, exported and copied. When asked how they analyze competitive intelligence, our users almost unilaterally mention summaries.

Note that uploaded PDFs and emails saved as fixed text notes are not published outside of Cronycle (you can only copy and export). As a result, if you want to publish key points extracted from annotations, don’t use the summary functionality, but instead use the option described further down, Extract annotations as notes.

Once you’ve taken a step back, or earlier while you are reading, you can use summaries to introduce your perspective or summarize the information, depending on your use case. 

You can write summaries directly, or append annotations to your summary before crafting it. For any annotation, the option to Append to summary is available when hovering over the annotated text, and from the Extract option in the annotation window. This is particularly useful to extract key quotes and complex names of product references without error. You can edit summaries later on as well.

Hover over an annotation to show the option to append to summary - a great way to quickly analyze competitor intelligence

Extract as notes

If you do a more in-depth analysis, you’ll probably find summaries too limited in terms of formatting and information hierarchy. Instead, use notes. Notes allow you to combine annotations from several pieces of content on your board, including articles, emails (saved as fixed text notes) and PDF files. Use notes to prepare a short report on the most critical updates noticed over a period of time, to easily share with stakeholders, whether execs, sales, or other teams.

You can extract annotations as notes which you can edit to craft your report. There are three levels to extract information to analyze competitive intelligence: from a single annotation, a single piece of content or several pieces of content. 

Extract from a single annotation

Use this option if everything to collect fits in one short text section you annotated. Or, like some of our users, simply generate and edit a note with the link to the source. 

From the content reader, hover over an annotation and click on Extract as a note

You can also find the same option from the annotation window: click on the annotation, then on Extract text, and finally on Extract as a note.

Extract from a single piece of content 

When an article, email or PDF has several annotations that can be extracted to give a thorough view of the update you are analyzing, you can extract all annotations together as one note.

From the content reader, in the menu, click on the blue Extract button, then on Extract annotations as a note

For a deeper competitor update analysis extract annotations as note - here for several annotations in one item, from the reader

You can perform the same extraction from the item on both the content and insights views: click on the 3-dot icon, then on Extract annotations as a note.

For a deeper competitor update analysis extract annotations as note - here for several annotations in one item, from the board tile

Extract from several pieces of content

In some cases, information supporting your analysis spans several items – articles, PDFs and emails. If that’s your situation, you can group these items together on the board, then extract annotations: they will be combined together as one note where you can reorder and rephrase. 

To start, go to the content view of your board, and make sure you can see the relevant items (you can filter to have them near the top). Now, click on Group in the board menu. Next, click once on each item you want to group and collect annotations from. When you have selected all of them (there is a maximum of 12), click on Group to confirm. 

group several items together to have the option to extract annotations from several articles as one note

When that’s done, close the story arc window, and click on the 3-dot icon for the story arc tile. Finally, click on Extract annotations as a note.

How to analyze competitive intelligence using notes (reporting and battlecards)

Notes are very popular for preparing reports with analysis, as battlecards and talking points. This is thanks to their formatting and the ability to edit them by all board collaborators. They are also easily portable to other apps.

After each annotation extraction mentioned above, a green success message appears at the top of the screen with a button to Open. Click on it to open the new note in the reader, then click on the blue Edit button to modify. 

Use titles, headings and other ways to have a structure in your competitor intelligence analysis in notes

You can also write notes from the ground up – simply click on Add content on the board, then select Note, start typing and confirm. Alternatively, you can paste text (such as rough notes from elsewhere) anywhere on the grey area of the board. A note will be created, which you can edit.

Click on the note to edit in the larger view. Alternatively, for a quick edit, click on the pen that appears while hovering over the note content.

The editor has rich text formatting – simply highlight the text to format it with headings, quotes, bullets, bold, colors, inline links, etc. Add headings to organize your analysis in sections such as what’s new, the impact, risks, etc. Many stakeholders are looking for concise information, so be succinct in your writing! Notes can be edited again and again. 

a template for competitor intelligence structure: summary, potential impact and impact timeline

You can also add a title to each note, which is optional but very useful when scanning through notes in the different views and when sharing.

A collaborative process

Importantly, a key aspect of effectively analyzing competitive intelligence is collaboration. CI requires collaborative discussions to explore the possible impacts and identify emerging trends. Cronycle boards are fully collaborative workspaces – all collaborators can add content, annotate, tag, group, write and edit summaries and notes.

Discussions are also possible at several levels in Cronycle boards:

  • On content – via the comments on the tiles for articles, files, notes, tweets, etc. This is used to share a new update or ask questions about the content, its meaning and the overall impact .
  • On annotations – via the notes board, collaborators can add to annotations. This is mostly used to quickly point a colleague to a critical data point, or to ask a specific question.
  • On boards – via the creation of Crystal discussions on boards. This tends to be used for early discussions when framing and preparing a research brief, and at the end to discuss trends spanning several items on a board.

In all three cases, mentioning other board users triggers a notification delivered via email and in-app notifications (provided the recipient hasn’t switched off notifications for that board in the board settings).

comment with a mention to notify a colleague about an important insight or update

Reflect back

An important trick to improve how you analyze competitive intelligence is to take a step back. Change perspective between micro level and macro. How do the dots connect, what does this say about the way your category and market are evolving? What about a specific competitor – does it seem that they are moving in a particular direction? 

Meaningful tags

Having the ability to step back is easy with Cronycle boards – they are fast to filter and search through, especially if you use tags.  Meaningful tags are therefore important. Depending on your objectives and board organization, you may want different tags. In every case, consider how you will filter to perform your analysis. In competitive intelligence, it may be useful to add tags corresponding to:

  • Competitor – to easily review all the insights about a specific company.
  • Specific markets (whether geo, customer category, use case) – to easily focus on a specific aspect of your industry.
  • Specific event types, such as appointments, wins, product launches and brand updates – to check for general trends.

Tag filtering can be combined with other filters, such as by time to reflect on what happened in a specific timeframe or with a keyword search to be very specific.

use tags and filters to analyze competitor intelligence

Insights view

The board insights view is designed to make the reviewing and analysis process easier. It focuses on your insights – showing summaries, tags, annotations (with notes and labels) and notes. This, combined with filtering and collaboration, really helps to give an overview and think about the bigger picture. 

To access the insights view, go to a board. From the board menu, click on the Insights button on the far right. 

When you need to check the full content behind an annotation, simply click on it – the reader will show the original article, PDF or email with the annotation visible and highlighted. This makes the insights view the best place to review annotations. It also quickly shows which items don’t have annotations or a summary and need processing.

the insights view to take a step back and analyze competitor intelligence

This concludes the tutorial on how to analyze competitive intelligence. The next and last in the series to describe how to conduct competitive intelligence will focus on sharing.

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