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What is competitive marketing intelligence?

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We are shaped by our environment. That’s true whether we’re talking about individuals or organizations. Companies start by developing a product or service that fills a need in the market. They grow by continuing to meet market demand and the changing needs of the customer.

That’s why understanding your market and your competitors is crucial to business success. It’s also important for development and framing of your messaging, positioning, and value proposition. It’s key in determining the channels you’ll use for promoting your products and services, and which you’ll use for selling. And it’s the information used to support the go-to-market team, end to end.

Competitive intelligence is what fuels multiple levels of direction and corporate strategy. Competitive market intelligence, though, uses the same or similar information to define ways to reach the customer and inspire them to spend their money and offer their loyalty. Competitive intelligence and competitive marketing intelligence are intertwined, but they aren’t the same thing.

What is competitive intelligence?

It’s likely you’re already familiar with competitive intelligence, but just in case: competitive intelligence (CI) involves researching, monitoring, collecting, and analyzing data about your competitors and your competitive space. The purpose is to develop gain insights into what is happening in your industry and develop intelligence that can guide the organization in making informed, data-driven decisions about goals, strategies, and growth opportunities.

This isn’t just about keeping track of your known, direct competitors. It’s about understanding the competitive landscape, what gaps and opportunities exist for the company to consider, and even what adjacent markets might be available to you – or which ones might produce new competitors or disruptive products.

What is competitive marketing intelligence?

If that’s the basic definition of competitive intelligence, then what is competitive marketing intelligence?

The purpose of competitive intelligence is to better understand the landscape at the business level – what are competitors doing, what could they be doing, and what signals are they sending that they might be doing in the future?

Competitive marketing intelligence, on the other hand, looks in the other direction – at the customer. It seeks to understand:

  • How do customers use your competitor’s products?
  • What’s most important to your stakeholder audience?
  • How do customers use your products?
  • How do they feel about your brand and your competitors?
  • What are the pain points your audience is trying to solve?
  • How do potential customers view your products in contrast to your competitors?
  • Etc.

Competitive intelligence and competitive marketing intelligence isn’t an either/or scenario. They serve the same purpose – ensuring that the company can make informed decisions – but they do so with a different perspective. One is how to respond and anticipate competitor moves – the other is how to better help and speak to potential buyers and used to develop a better customer experience.

To be sure, optimizing the customer experience – from interest through purchase, use, and advocacy – is just as important as understanding the competitive landscape. Customer experience is now a competitive advantage, and sometimes the only thing – in the consumer’s mind – separating one product from another. Companies that prioritize the customer experience are more likely to weather economic challenges well – according to McKinsey & Co. those that did so in the last recession realized 3X shareholder returns.

Sources of competitive marketing intelligence

Once you understand the answer to “What is competitive marketing intelligence?” and its difference to traditional competitive intelligence, the next step is to begin acting on that knowledge. Collecting the right information to analyze requires looking in the right places. Here are a few places to source this information from:

  • Competitor’s websites: A competitor’s site is a great place to look for information for competitive intelligence, but it can also point toward competitive marketing intelligence insights as well. Watch for changes in layout or messaging on the site, as well as what sorts of lead magnets the company is using. Even the keywords they target can say much about their own customer research and its results.
  • Product reviews: These can be a wealth of competitive marketing intelligence. Customer sentiment comes through clearly in incentivized reviews, and they can also offer a sense of the impact a competitor’s messaging is having on its intended audience. In fact, even looking at who is leaving a review can point to which audiences your competitor is landing well with, and which ones they are not.
  • Third-party articles and blogs: What are bloggers in the space saying about you and about competitors? What’s the feedback they are giving? When do they mention your products and those of your competitors, and in what context?
  • Social media: Similar to product reviews, social media can be a gold mine of customer sentiment. Don’t limit yourself to just Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – also consider sites like Reddit, where consumers openly discuss a product’s performance as well as the effectiveness of marketing messages and campaigns. This can also provide insights on your own buyer personas.
  • Market reports: These third-party reports are crucial for competitive intelligence and marketing intelligence alike, especially when tied to other movements by your competitors. For example, if a report shows a growth forecast for an organization, is there a corresponding change to messaging or how they address audience needs? Are there new products, and what is the consumer need that those fill? Tie that together with later reports to complete the story.

Embrace competitive marketing intelligence for better customer alignment

Competitive marketing intelligence is a cornerstone for understanding and speaking to the needs and desires of your potential customers. The insights developed from this information can inform your marketing strategy from value propositions to sell sheets and can impact the entire GTM chain, from product development to sales. 

Get started by monitoring your competitor’s influence and reception by buyers and evaluating how your own marketing activities fit into the landscape. There are innumerable places to draw insights from – use a tool that helps you uncover and make sense of the information you find. Then, ensure that you’re able to synthesize your findings into a complete story that can be shared with the rest of the go-to-market team. Adding systematic research and review of the competitive marketing intelligence space will give you the runway to see changes coming and make decisions confidently.

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