The Role of Customer Feedback in CI: How to incorporate feedback into competitive strategy

A lot of competitive research is data based. In working to understand where your business stands in comparison to others in your industry, having metrics helps paint a clear picture. And those numbers can particularly come in handy when keeping your executive team invested in competitive intelligence (CI). But as important as numbers are, they’re only part of the story.

Making decisions based on data alone is a risk. Misinterpreting data is not only possible, but common. To fill in the gaps and see the full picture, you need to collect qualitative information as well. That means getting customer input.

 

Why Customer Feedback is Important for Competitive Intelligence

Data can show you what’s happening, and how often. But without customer feedback, you’re stuck guessing at the why behind those numbers. It’s important to know that your product sales dropped in the last quarter. But if you don’t understand why, your response could make it worse.

Hearing from customers fills in the gaps in knowledge. If the problem is that customers don’t like your most recent update, your product team can work to improve the features that don’t work as well. If it’s because a competitor was running a really good special, then you’ll want to brainstorm how best to position your product against theirs, or whether to consider a change in your pricing options.

And while you can learn a lot from monitoring what competitors are doing online and in different channels, you can’t truly understand how customers interact with their advertising without hearing from them directly. Talking to customers clarifies what kind of messaging they see from your competitors, how often they encounter it, and how they engage with it. Their feedback offers a fuller picture into the context in which they learn about your brand and product.

 

5 Ways to Incorporate Customer Feedback into Your Strategy

1. Talk to your sales and customer service teams.

Your sales and customer service representatives spend a lot of time talking to your customers. As such, they’re experts on what your customers are thinking and feeling. They can fill you in on what they care about, including detailed descriptions of how they use your product, and what they do and don’t like about it.

And the sales team in particular interacts with prospects considering similar products in the industry. Many of the questions and objections they encounter will directly relate to the other products they’re trying. As such, your sales team can provide insights into how your audience’s opinion of your product compares to their experience with others.

2. Check product reviews.

Customers provide a lot of free feedback in the form of reviews. In order to help their peers make more informed decisions, they’re often willing to give helpful details about specific things they like and dislike about a product. For the brand, that’s gold.

Spend time not only poring through your own company’s reviews to learn what customers have to say, but also give a look to those of your competitors. See how the customer response compares for your products, and if there are specific features and benefits people love in their product that yours lacks.

3. Monitor social media.

While you want to provide information that’s easily digestible and puts the most important insights front and center, you need to make sure every takeaway you highlight is backed up with data.

Social media is another valuable channel to learn more about what your customers are thinking. Monitor social media mentions of your brand, your competitors, and keywords relevant to your industry. You can learn a lot about what your target audience is thinking about, what their priorities are, and how they feel about the products in your space.

A good competitive intelligence or social media monitoring tool can help you do this efficiently, by bringing different social feeds into one place for easier comparison. It’s worth researching what your competitors are doing on social media, but what you learn is more valuable if you supplement it by looking at what your customers are saying about both your products.

4. Send customer surveys.

The most direct way to learn what your customers think is to ask them. Put together a customer survey that addresses gaps in your knowledge. You can ask customers questions important to competitive intelligence, like whether they evaluated other products in their search, which ones they tried, and what their top priorities were in the product search. Consider what questions your data reveals that you can only answer with the help of your customers, and prioritize those in your surveys.

5. Conduct win-loss interviews.

Setting up a win-loss interview program is a valuable way to learn from both your new customers and the prospects that chose a competitor. By having conversations with people who recently completed the sales process, you’ll learn what they like and didn’t like about not only the products themselves, but also the marketing materials they encountered and the sales approach your representatives took.

Win/loss interviews reveal insights into what customers are thinking when they’re in the thick of your marketing and sales funnel. All the metrics you have about which blog posts they read, webinars they attended, or sales calls they set up get extra life when you’re able to ask customers directly what they thought of each of those things. And just as importantly, which of them contributed to their decision to buy (or not buy) your product.

 

Share What You Learn

Collecting customer insights provides information about your product and how it fits into the industry that you can’t get anywhere else. Make sure you share the most important takeaways you learn from the process across the organization. Package it into materials that can help your sales team, marketing department, product development team, and executives better understand your audience and what they care about. And urge them all to put the information into active use.

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