Going from data and insights to a competitive advantage  

Going from data and insights to a competitive advantage

For a while now, one of the big buzzwords in business has been “data-driven.” We’ve seen an explosion of tools that help companies collect data to better understand their customers, processes, and marketing results. But a recent Forrester report found that while most companies are using data, 57% struggle to turn their data into a true competitive advantage. 

In fact, only 8% of the firms in their research have succeeded in gaining a competitive advantage through the use of what they call “mature systems of insights.” The implication is clear: having data isn’t good enough. Businesses that achieve the best results are those that take things a step further to become insights driven. 

What is an insights-driven business?   

Most businesses today have data, and lots of it. Fewer have a top-down system for effectively putting that data to use. Insights-driven businesses have a system for analyzing their data to turn it into actionable insights, then actually implementing changes based on those insights. 

Some businesses may be managing this at departmental levels, which is a start. But the companies seeing the benefits Forrester reports go further and create a system that works across all parts of the business. Instead of analyzing data in silos and developing insights derived from a limited view of the full picture, their system allows for big-picture analysis that influences strategy at a higher level.

3 benefits of implementing systems of insights

Getting a system of insights into place at your business is no small feat, so you have to know the work of coordinating it all will pay off. According to Forrester, becoming more insights driven has three tangible benefits.

1. Increased revenues. 

If there’s one thing every business has in common, it’s the desire for higher profits. Forrester found that firms that had advanced systems for insights were 2.5 times as likely to grow revenue at rates of 20% or higher. That’s not too surprising. It just makes sense that using your data to genuinely learn how to perform better across your entire organization would lead to higher efficiency and increased sales.

2. Greater agility. 

No matter what industry you’re in, the fast-moving pace of technological advancements guarantees your business will change from year to year. The shifting landscape of digital tools and consumer trends ensures that businesses capable of evolving quickly will be in a better position than those bound to a set way of doing things. Forrester’s report found that advanced insights-driven businesses were 228% more likely than beginners to be good at adapting with agility to customer changes. 

3. Competitive advantage. 

Unsurprisingly, better insights and an advanced system for turning those insights into action lead to businesses being more competitive in their industry. When you have the means to easily implement data-proven improvements, it puts you ahead of others without that capability. Insights-driven firms were 240% more likely than beginners to create a competitive advantage.

4 tips to get started 

Based on the Forrester report, the ideal is to have a top-down approach. But what if your C-suite isn’t pushing for this yet? It’s not hopeless, there are steps you can take at the departmental level to move toward a more insights-driven approach.

1. Prepare a case for your higher ups.

The stats Forrester shares in the report make a compelling case that may help you get the support you need from the top. You’ll have an easier time breaking down any silos that currently exist in your business and gaining cooperation from other departments if you have the backing of your shared bosses. Use the data you have, along with any case studies you can find for your industry, and prepare a pitch for your executives.  

2. Create a strategy.

Creating an insights-driven business isn’t something you can do piecemeal. You have to approach it with a larger plan in mind. Sit down and work out the specific goals you have, and what steps you need to take to reach them. Create a plan both for getting a system of insights into place to start with, and for continually putting the insights your data reveals into practice in the way the business is run. 

3. Make sure you have the right tools. 

Creating an insights-driven business depends on having the tools you need to both gain the proper insights, and to implement the strategies they inspire. That includes tools that help with data collection, competitor research, customer communication, and collaboration between departments—for a start. Analyze what your tech needs are based on the goals and strategy you’ve established, and work on identifying the best products to meet your needs. 

4. Reach out to other departments.

Becoming insights driven within your own department is a good goal to have. But to really reap the rewards of building an insights-driven business, collaboration with other departments is an important part of the equation. Contact the heads of other departments in your company. Make a case for combining your data sources to get a bigger picture, and collaborating on a strategy to make sure everything each of you does supports what the others are doing as well.

Your customers and prospects don’t perceive each interaction with your brand as something unique—for them it’s all connected in one brand identity. To make sure the work each department does works in harmony with the whole, so you’re building a consistent brand identity that satisfies every step of the way, a more collaborative strategy is key.


How to use competitive intelligence to be more insights driven

A lot of becoming a more insights-driven company will depend on the internal data you collect from a range of sources. Knowing how prospects and customers interact with your website and marketing materials, and understanding how well your internal processes are working is a key part of improving on both counts. But your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

To gain the competitive advantage Forrester cites as a result of creating a system of insights, you need to know where you fit into the larger industry. For that, you need to supplement your internal analytics with data and insights on what your competitors are doing.

That means paying close attention to their marketing activities and analyzing the actions they take. Create a strategy to continually track:

  • Website updates 

Every change your competitors make to their websites can tell you something about their strategy. Are they adding new products? Have they changed their positioning? Have they updated all their calls to action? You want to know about it, because it might tell you something about what their data shows them is working for your audience.

  • Search engine results 

One of the main ways people find products and service providers of all types is by typing what they need in Google (or less often, Bing or Yahoo). The search engine results page (SERP) is valuable online real estate, so you want to know which spots your competitors claim on the SERPs for relevant keywords—both for the organic results, and the paid ads they bid on.

Tracking SERP results will help you spot new keyword opportunities and catch changes to competitors’ pay-per-click (PPC) strategies, both insights you can put to use in your own search marketing campaigns.

  • Social media activity 

Social media is both a good way to drive more traffic to your website, and a place where you can interact directly with your prospects and customers. But it can be notoriously difficult to do well. Pay attention to what your competitors do on different social platforms, so you can note what works for them (and what doesn’t). That gives you more data to work with in building out your own social strategy.

Share your CI insights

Gaining clear competitive intelligence insights will put you ahead of a lot of brands, but as the Forrester research makes clear, if you only put them to use within your marketing department, their value will be limited. Take what you’ve learned and present it to your colleagues in sales and upper management.  

The takeaways from your CI data can add value to the company at all different levels, from high-level company-wide strategies, to the day-to-day interactions your salespeople have with prospects. Understanding precisely where you stand in the market is just good for business.


Make it easy on yourself 

Tracking every update and change in each of the three channels listed would be overwhelming to do manually, so this is one of the steps in building an insights-driven business where it pays to find the right tool. A good competitor analysis software will automate the process of tracking changes in each channel in real time. Just as importantly, it will help turn that information into data you can more easily process, and therefore turn into insights you can use to strengthen your own strategy.

Competitor analysis is just one part of becoming an insights-driven business, but it’s an important ingredient in achieving the results that will set you apart in your industry.


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Liana Calicchia

Liana Calicchia

Product Marketing Director

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