As more and more businesses move their prospect acquisition into online digital marketing channels, while at the same time dissolving global barriers to doing business, competition for customers is heating up. Developing market research strategies to reveal the secrets of your competitors is now as vital as knowing what your customers want and being able to deliver.

Building a strong foundation in both areas will provide your organization with superior marketing intelligence which can pave the way to developing more relevant marketing strategies, improving performance, or knowing whether an investment in a new market, product or service is a viable proposition.

Why Develop Market Intelligence?

Marketing intelligence once referred to keeping track of the state of the competition, but analytics and analysis have also been brought into the fold.

Gathering market intelligence helps your business improve its performance and increase your projections. At its simplest, market intelligence involves visiting your competitors’ websites or keeping up with developments in your industry by reading journals and magazines. It’s also easy to gain an understanding of public perception by perusing review sites and checking up on customer feedback.

Marketing intelligence is predominantly used as a means to create a context for business intelligence and primarily focuses on demographics, what customers are buying, geographic locations versus sales, and keeping track of what the competition is doing. In contrast, business intelligence focuses more on the performance metrics of an organization, such as how many products were shipped last quarter, or the total number of sales over a month. 

When used efficiently, market intelligence can help a business find new opportunities, or establish a stronger hold on existing markets. Keeping track of the competition is but one method of finding new ways of adding value. Including the following strategies into your market research will considerably sharpen your competitive edge.

1. Gathering Market Intelligence through Competitive Analysis

The goal of a competitive analysis is to monitor a competitor’s strategies; and benchmarking takes it one step further by following the activities of market leaders, gathering metrics, and then comparing the results against a company’s performance over time.

Advantages of Competitor Analysis and How to Do it?

The digital age and the internet have created an abundance of data that can give you deep insight into your competitors’ strategies and market performance if you know where to look.

Researching your competitors gives your organization the ability to capitalize on emerging trends quickly, and adapt your strategies to counter your competitor’s campaigns, and strengthen your hold on the market. In the best-case scenario, your market research activities may even help you outpace the competition.

Competitor analysis isn’t all that difficult, but you do need to know where you have to look.

Who are Your Competitors?

Google and Amazon are by far the most popular platforms to find out who your competitors are and most likely, these are where you will perform the bulk of your research.

However, some tools listed below also have powerful ways for discovering the closely guarded secrets of the competition especially on the digital side of things.

Ahrefs

Semrush

Spyfu

Start with a simple search. Use your business name, products, and business ideas as a foundation and from there visit online communities and social media channels to root out interesting and useful information.

Find Your Competitors

You will slot competitors into one of two camps: those who have similar products or services, and those with a differing product or service but who compete for market share with the same demographic. Consider movie theatres – they don’t just compete with other movie theatres, but also streaming services, video gaming, YouTube, and other forms of entertainment delivered via a screen.

Ask questions about your competitors. Who are the most prominent players and how is the market share divided between them? How well are they performing in the marketplace?

Do your competitors cater to a youthful or older audience, does their brand compete on price or quality, how much do they charge, and what channels do they use to deliver the product? These are all questions for which you should find answers.

Browse Online Reviews for Customer Feedback

Browsing online reviews will give you a good indication of the overall perception the public has of your competitors. 

For every answer you come up with you should also be asking how you can differentiate your organization’s products and services.

Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Over time, you will gain a deeper understanding of your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and how your organization stacks up against them. They may have an advantage in lower prices, while you have excellent distribution capabilities. They may have scored some lousy feedback, while the majority of your customers provide glowing recommendations.

Once you understand where your business fits in the market, you will then be able to use this knowledge to your advantage. You may not be able to compete on price, but a cheaper distribution channel may significantly reduce your competitor’s advantage in that area. If a few bad reviews are tarnishing your record, improving your customer service will be the key to pushing them off the front page.

2. Using a Competitor’s Performance to Benchmark Your Business

Benchmarking can provide a valuable overview of the performance of a company at different levels, as well as when a competitor may be starting to struggle or begin doing well. Either scenario can provide valuable insights into how a marketing strategy may be improved or whether you need to revisit your campaign.

It can be challenging to choose what metrics you should be benchmarking, but a sensible course of action is to start with the KPIs you already have in place. For example, your level of social activity (social shares and comments, etc.) when tracked only against your past performance does not give you a clear picture of how well the platform is performing versus the competition.

When you track Facebook performance against a competitor, and you find that they have suddenly overtaken you, then this should prompt you into investigating further. Your research may well reveal that it is your level of activity that has slipped, but it is just as likely that your competitor is trying something new. As you can see, your past performance is only one piece of the puzzle, but analyzing and comparing it against the competition will help to fill in the gaps.

3. Creating Meaning from Data with Descriptive Statistics

Descriptive statistics is the term used for displaying data in a meaningful way to make it more useful as a tool for strategic decision making. Data analysis may reveal a pattern, and the pattern will tell a story that helps you make sense of the numbers.

Raw data isn’t very meaningful when attempting to use it to make business decisions. Analyzing data will often reveal trends in your demographic such as age, gender, and education, and other characteristics peculiar to the group.  

Descriptive statistics can also be useful in determining how well received a company is with a demographic. For example, a survey might reveal an overall negative perception of after-sales support. The descriptive data then becomes useful in making changes that would lead to improvements in the relevant area of customer service and subsequently restoring the excellent standing of your organization.

Conclusion

Online marketing channels have made it easier to create a global business, but as more organizations take their marketing efforts online, the competition for customers is also increasing.

Competitor analysis and forming KPIs for benchmarking your organization’s performance against the competition will help you develop strategies that improve your results and strengthen your presence in the marketplace.