Let’s kick things off with a key question: are you communicating internally with your PMM team? 🙋‍♂️

Yes? That’s awesome. But what we wanna know is are you looking further afield and keeping a beady eye on how rival companies are occupying their time? If not, then you oughta take a long, hard, look at yourself and begin giving competitive intelligence the credence it deserves.

Why? Because it ranks alongside product messaging, market positioning, buyer personas, etc. as one of the most important duties of a product marketer.

So, with that in mind, let's take a moment to refresh our memory and remind ourselves of the basics.

What is competitive intelligence?

It's a process in which companies gather information on their competitors, customers, and the overall market, before using their findings to introduce appropriate strategies, as they strive to gain an upper hand in their respective market.

It’s like spying - PMM style. 🕵️‍♀️

When it comes to gathering research, there are two forms of research methods to consider: internal research and external research.

But how do they differ, and which do PMMs prefer?

Research methods for competitive intelligence

What is external research?

As the name suggests, external research involves gathering information from sources outside of your company, for example, newspapers, websites, social media, etc.

When we completed the Competitive Intelligence Trends Report 2020, we decided to explore exactly how product marketers were collecting their CI insights, and we found many were turning to external sources as their main source of information.

A collection of the most popular external research methods when product marketers are conducting competitive intelligence.

After taking a closer look at some of the methods being used by product marketers, we found a number of diverse methods were being used during the competitive intelligence process.

(76.5%) of PMMs said they check out press releases and media mentions to understand the current activities of those within their market, with 74.3% taking the relatively old-fashioned approach and heading straight to the source itself, checking out websites and marketing activities.

What is internal research?

With no end of external methods available to those planning competitive intelligence, this doesn’t mean internal methods can’t be used, instead, and as we’re sure you’ve guessed, internal research involves turning to research methods from within the company.

Internal communication is a fundamental part of product marketing in any circumstance, but it can also be the difference between getting mediocre material for your competitive intel or comprehensive insights from people in your organization. The good news? There are several avenues for PMMs to explore in their bid to gain a competitive advantage. 👇

Methods used by PMMs to collect internal data.

When we surveyed our sample, we found product marketers were making the most of resources under their noses to learn more about their competitors, with simple means of communication such as emails and conversations among peers emerging as the most popular form of internal competitive intelligence research.

In terms of which specific teams PMMs were liaising with most when conducting competitive intelligence, our research indicated the sales teams were identified as the port of call for many PMMs, with 86% saying they turn to them for CI support.

In some corners of the product marketing world, it’s suggested that leadership figures and executives either, A) don’t support the PMM function, B) don’t understand the role of a PMM or C) ignore the role altogether.

So, we’re sure you’ll share our enthusiasm in hearing 45.6% of product marketers we spoke to about competitive intelligence said they’re able to gain competitive intelligence insights from members of the executive/leadership team; a marked improvement on some of the PMM perceptions we discovered among some members of the C-Suite, as we outlined in our C-Suite perceptions report.

A breakdown of where PMMs source competitive intelligence from within their company.

How to share competitive intelligence results

If you were a sports coach and knew exactly what the Achilles heel of the opposition was, would you keep your mouth shut and watch your team struggle?

Of course, you wouldn’t, and the same principle needs to be applied when you’re conducting competitive intelligence.

Sure, you can collect thorough competitive intelligence results, but what good are they if you’re not spreading the word among your peers and putting your knowledge to good use?

With that sentiment in mind, we burrowed even deeper into the CI habits of a product marketer, checking out preferred methods for sharing intel, once they establish what their rivals have up their sleeve, and here’s what we found… 👀

A breakdown of who competitive intelligence is shared with by PMMs.

The very best product marketers need no encouragement when it comes to sharing their competitive intelligence findings with their teams - and this stretches far beyond the product marketing team.

When we completed our research survey as part of our report into competitive intelligence, we found that there were as many as four departments product marketers turn to when sharing results, ahead of product marketing itself, with sales (86.8%), product (83.1%), executives and leadership (77.2%), and marketing (75%) identified as the key quartet as far as information sharing is concerned, before product marketing even entered the fray.

Graph showing ways in which competitive intelligence is shared internally.

As for the most common methods for spreading the good CI word? In-person/team-by-team feedback and email segmentation were both earmarked as being the two most popular methods for feeding back to product marketing teams.

Competitive intelligence tips

We’re not going to beat around the bush: collecting and sharing competitive intelligence can be time-consuming, but there’s no doubting the benefits it can bring to the fore; a heightened understanding of others vying for your precious customers will equip you with an opportunity to improve your product offering as you bid to stave off competition.

Following the release of the Competitive Intelligence Trends Report 2020, we popped together a list of 30 competitive intelligence tips from product marketers who’ve been there, done it, and continue to flaunt their CI shirt.

Here’s a sneak peek into what you can expect from our list, with the following snippets of advice sure to alleviate the strain and help you navigate the path to CI perfection.

"Competitive intelligence is an incredibly important activity for every product marketing team. Every customer-facing team within your organization will likely hear bits of information about competitors, and collecting that in one place is crucial.

"From my experience, a shared Slack channel for competitive intel where people can post updates they are hearing is useful. PMMs can vet those, and update battle cards or different assets as needed.

"If there are a small number of competitors you compete fiercely with, it can also be worth establishing a group like a tiger team to discuss things like objection handling, differentiators, and real-time advice on how to win. All of the information within this team is naturally fed back into core competitive assets as well."

Jeffrey Vocell, Director of Product Marketing at Iterable

“Don’t be afraid to get help from other parts of your organization. Being able to get help from a sales engineer or a developer while you’re reading technical documentation can save a ton of time and help you better understand different personas.”

Mindy Regnell, Marketing Competitive Intelligence Manager at BigCommerce

“Job postings can detail info about their tech stack. For example, if they say ‘looking for an IT manager with experience in Oracle, Kronos’, then you know the company uses these tools.”

Laura Massingham, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing at HotSchedules

“Make sure to leverage your entire company and look for a way to integrate information-sharing into your teams' daily tools (be it Slack, or a Sales Enablement tool, etc).

“Whenever someone new starts at Showpad, we hold a session dedicated to Competitive Intel and how each Showpadder plays a part in gathering and sharing that information. Our Product Marketing team is not big enough to do all the research ourselves so we've set up a system to source info gathered by BDRs, AEs, CSMs, etc.”

Lara Verlinden, Product Marketing Manager at Showpad

“Spend time getting to know the competitor from all angles: explore their website and gated assets as if you were a prospect, but also understand from their existing customers if the true product experience matches the initial marketing.”

Megan Magee, Product Marketing Manager, IoT at ServiceNow

“Start with your value proposition not mentioned by you, but by your customer. From there understand why you don’t live up to that value prop and where you can improve. Know your segment, know your buyer and persona.”

Hien Phan, Director of Product Marketing at Formation

“Social media is a goldmine of information.”

Avi Goldstein, Manager of Vendor Relations and Product Marketing at Hertz Furniture

“Job postings reveal a lot about your competitor's product/growth strategy. They will often disclose which areas they're trying to invest in from a technology perspective or which segments they're trying to grow the business in the most.”

Julian Clarke, Senior Product Marketing Manager | Team Lead at Lattice

“In a non-transparent market, get creative. Current clients can be great sources of information. Also, think about other players in the ecosystem that can share stories and data.”

Jill Dornan, Director of Product Marketing at HealtSparq

“Don't ignore customer reviews and prospect calls.”

Ruchita Shah, Product Marketing Manager at Mavenlink

Competitive intelligence tools

Thought our insights into competitive intelligence were finished, finito, finite?

Well, you’re mistaken, because as a parting gift, we’re steering you towards our PMM Tech Stack, where you’ll find a collection of competitive intelligence tools designed to help you improve the effectiveness of your research.

What are you waiting for? Start as you mean to go on, set new habits.

Have a nosy.

Don't want the CI learning to stop? We've got a course for that.

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