No matter how you do competitor research, you’ll need tools to organize the market intelligence
you gather. For small businesses or those in the early days of doing competitive analysis, that may be as basic as a spreadsheet. But many businesses will quickly realize that their needs are more complex than that.
SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) competitive intelligence tools make the process of collecting, organizing, and analyzing market intelligence data both more efficient and effective. But as with any piece of software, making the decision to invest in competitive intelligence (CI) tools isn’t enough on its own. How you use them is just as important.
Competitive intelligence isn’t something you do once and you’re good. Market intelligence is in a constant state of change, and you need a way to make sure your information doesn’t fall behind the reality of what the competitive landscape looks like. That means developing a solid plan for maintaining your competitive intelligence tools over time.
1. Get to know the competitive intelligence tools you have.
This mostly comes into play if you invest in a CI platform (if you’re sticking with spreadsheets, hopefully you know their capabilities). But if you have purchased any CI products to help with your process, you need to fully understand the features available to make the most of them. Take some time to learn what types of data they offer, what organizational options are available to you, and any features they have to help you disseminate information to the people in your organization that need it most.
When you know what’s possible, you’ll be able to craft a strategy that enables you to accomplish more with less time and effort.
2.Create a competitive intelligence strategy.
If you haven’t yet, you’ll get more out of your CI tools if you formulate a clear overall strategy first. That means clarifying your main competitive intelligence goals, identifying the different categories of information you want to collect, and developing clear steps for getting it all done.
Determine if your CI tools will help you track the right metrics to measure progress on reaching the goals established. Then devise a system for organizing the different categories of information you plan to collect, organize, and create. You may want a way to view data divided by:
- Marketing and sales channels
- Different tactics and messaging approaches
- Audience segments
- Different products you sell
- Different features and benefits of your products
Having a good way to organize the information enables you to see trends in the data and pull out key insights to bring to your own marketing efforts.
3. Assign clear roles.
For things to get done, people need to know which part of the process they’re responsible for and understand the steps they’re expected to take. Be clear about who’s in charge of collecting information, updating records in your tool, and putting the information to use.
Make sure everyone involved is given time to learn how to use your CI tools effectively. And consider how to ensure they can fit their CI tasks in alongside other work responsibilities. If you’re asking people who already have a full workload to add something to their list, it won’t get done unless you scale back other responsibilities or find ways to introduce efficiencies.
Remember that CI is an ongoing process. This isn’t a one-time project, it’s a new part of their ongoing workload. It’s important to account for the time and work required to maintain and update your CI tool in the months and years to come—not just right now.
4. Create clear guidelines for using your CI tools.
When a lot of different people will be working within the same product, it’s worth creating guidelines so everyone is on the same page. Create instructions on how to use the tool, how to update information within it, and what information to include. You don’t want to end up with the same competitor listed multiple times because people spelled the name differently. Guidelines help you bring consistency to the overall process.
5. Make updating your data a regular process.
Sticking with ongoing work is a challenge, unless you figure out a good system for staying on top of it. Make updating your CI tool a part of your typical work process. Put it down as a recurring to-do item on the calendar, and figure out how to set aside the time needed to get it done.
If the time involved makes it difficult to keep up with, look for ways to automate parts of the process. This is what makes finding the right CI tool so important. A good product will automate a lot of the work and simplify the overall process for you and your team.
6. Devise a plan to get current information to relevant employees.
If your team works to keep your tool up-to-date, but most of sales and marketing sticks with outdated materials, they’ll still be working off old information. Consider the best way to get current data and insights to everyone in your organization who benefits from having them.
That will mean using different formats for people in different roles. Executives will want a quick overview of how you fit into the market, while salespeople will need product comparison details they can understand at a glance.
All of these materials will need to be updated every time you gain new information. That can potentially be a daunting task. This is another instance where understanding your CI tools’ functionality can pay off. Do they provide a means of updating materials automatically rather than manually? If so, it can cut your work down considerably.
7. Revisit and revise your strategy as needed.
Keep monitoring metrics as you go to determine how well you’re achieving your goals. And continue to look for ways to improve your processes. You may want to implement changes in how you use your CI tools, which metrics you focus on, or who’s in charge of what. Or you may need to rework your system based on new competitors or products that enter the market.
Every strategy is a work-in-progress. You’ll get better results if you adapt as you go based on what you learn.
CI Tools Can Help You Go Further
Spreadsheets are a perfectly acceptable way to organize information. But finding and updating that information continually is still a huge job, especially if you’re in a growing industry that changes fast. A good CI product can take a lot of the work of competitive intelligence off your plate. Kompyte automates the process of collecting CI data and puts it into formats that make drawing insights easier. And it allows you to skip a lot of the manual work of creating up-to-date materials by automatically updating changes in multiple relevant places.
As with any product, you still need a strategy to use it well and keep it maintained and current. But the process of doing so is much easier when the product is designed to do much of the work for you.