Managing Competitive Intelligence in a Crowded Market
While many businesses have started to acknowledge the need for product marketing and competitive intelligence (CI), most haven’t gotten as far as building out a full department. The recent State of Product Marketing report found that 21% of product marketers are the only person in their organization’s product marketing team.
Solitary product marketers have to balance a dizzying array of responsibilities to do their jobs well. And that becomes considerably harder if they’re working in a crowded market. Doing effective competitive intelligence involves monitoring a number of channels, collecting large amounts of data, and performing a thoughtful analysis of it all. That’s difficult with three competitors, but what about when you have 15?
When performing CI in a thorough way looks impossible, you may feel tempted not to even bother. But you’ll be better off if you instead look for ways to make the task manageable.
How to Make Competitive Intelligence Manageable
While a small team of one or two people won’t be able to do the same amount of work a ten-person team would manage, you can still accomplish a lot with the right approach.
1. Make use of automation.
A portion of the work you do will always need to be performed by a human. But some aspects of competitive intelligence can be done faster and more effectively by tools that use automation. In particular, monitoring the various online channels your competitors are active on, and analyzing them to spot trends and meaningful changes is something technology can handle much more efficiently than a person.
CI products that offer automation features are available—take advantage of them! You’ll find collecting the data you need to stay on top of the moves your competitors make much easier if a product does most of the work for you. Then you can focus more of your limited time on analyzing and putting what you learn to use, the part a human’s better at.
2. Develop an efficient process.
The right product is a good first start, but you also have to figure out the best way to use it. Good competitive intelligence is an ongoing process. To keep up with it, and make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s sustainable, you need to work out a process that makes sense for you.
Figure out the specific steps you’ll take to collect, organize, and analyze your competitive intelligence. And think through how you’ll distribute the insights you glean throughout the organization so the knowledge is put to use. You may not end up sticking to your process exactly as you go—in fact, you’ll probably find ways to improve upon it with experience. But having a process in place will help you get into a groove and make sure you’re doing things in a way that’s systematic, rather than scattershot.
3. Get organized.
Competitive intelligence involves a lot of data, especially when you’re tracking the moves of a long list of competitors. One of the hardest parts of dealing with data is turning the mass of information into something you can use. Organization is key for this.
Figure out a good system for getting the information you collect into a format where you can make sense out of it. Competitive intelligence products can help with this. Along with automating much of the data collection process, a good CI software will also provide data visualization and an intuitive interface that helps you see meaningful trends in the data.
While you can feasibly use a spreadsheet for this, it will quickly get unwieldy. Consider investing in something more powerful to help you keep all the information you gather organized.
Ideally, you’d want to stay on top of every move that every competitor makes the moment they make it. Practically, when you have a lot of competitors and a small product marketing department, you may need to scale back your expectations to keep the job reasonable.
When developing your CI process, think carefully about how your work relates to your strategy. Choose which competitors deserve the most attention in your efforts. That could be the biggest competitors who wield the most market share, those whose products come closest to yours, or the ones your sales team hears from leads about the most often.
Hang onto your full list of competitors—you still want to keep an eye on all of them. But having a short list of the most important ones to follow will help you prioritize when you’re too busy to give them all your equal attention. And even knowing what’s happening with just the top five or six competitors on your list gives you a lot of information about what’s happening in your industry and the trends to be aware of.
5. Templatize common tasks and documents.
Any time you complete a process you know you’ll need to repeat, create a template to make next time easier. Using templates can cut down how much time you spend on common tasks, since they work as a head start each time you need to do it again.
While you may want to create your own templates for many purposes, you can also use pre-made ones to save you even more time. Kompyte has a few ready-made templates available for download for common product marketing and CI purposes:
Creating and using templates won’t only cut down on the time you spend on competitive intelligence now, it can make it easier for any future hires that join the team.
Hopefully, as your leadership team sees how valuable product marketing is for the business, your team will grow. When that happens, having a clear process in place and a library of templates developed will make the work of CI easier on everyone.
Make Competitive Intelligence Work for You
You don’t need a team of 20 to do competitive intelligence (although that would sure be nice to have). With a clear strategy, an organized process, and the right CI software, even a tiny team can get a lot done.
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