Competitive intelligence plays a critical role in a product marketing and customer marketing strategy. It highlights the activities of your competitors under the spotlight and can be the difference between success and failure. The process is time and labor-intensive, not to mention costly, so it’s important to share information and make the most of your findings.
What is competitive intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is when companies gather information on their competitors, customers, and the overall market, using their findings to introduce appropriate strategies, as they strive to gain an upper hand in their respective markets.
Why is competitive intelligence important?
Competitive intelligence allows PMMs to identify key trends and behaviors and pre-empt the behavior of competitors to maximize their offerings and keep them at arms length.
In doing so, they can create a product or service that fulfills the customer needs of the target audience. Greater customer satisfaction goes a long way, having a positive impact on customer retention and reducing the likelihood of customer churn.
However, if competitive intelligence is ignored, not only are you missing an opportunity to improve your product but more importantly, you’re extending an open invitation to competitors to take advantage of prospective customers who may not be satisfied with the level of service they’re receiving.
To make the most of competitive intelligence, product marketers need to communicate and distribute results throughout their company.
How to share competitive intelligence results effectively
To make the most of competitive intelligence, you need to communicate your findings so that your teams can use the information to develop and evolve your offering.
After all, if you owned a restaurant and knew the secret ingredient for your rival’s best-selling dish, you wouldn’t keep it under wraps - you’d use your know-how to make the same dish (but better!)
Results are useless if you keep them to yourself - share the knowledge.
Our Competitive Intelligence Trends Report 2020 revealed 86% of product marketers share their findings with Sales teams, closely followed by Product (83%).
Previously, it’s been suggested there’s room for improvement in relations between product marketers and leadership teams. However, it was encouraging to see a significant proportion of people taking part (77%) saying they discuss their findings with executives and leaders.
When we dug a little deeper and explored the preferred methods for sharing competitor intel findings, we found knowledge was shared in-person on a team-by-team basis, and by segmented emails to each relevant team. Both of these areas accounted for 34% of responses, while a further quarter indicated they send blanket emails to relevant teams within the organization.
Of the 25% of people who fell into the ‘Other’ category, the likes of battle cards, Slack channels, and tools such as Klue were identified as the chosen method of communication.
With so many different ways of sharing information, we spoke with Matt Powell, Product Marketing Manager at Docebo, to get an insight into how competitor intel findings are shared at his company:
“I don’t think there is a silver bullet for effectively sharing competitive intel - it’s completely dependent on the realities of your business. I do, however, think that it’s all about creating a culture internally in which everyone is as actively involved in gathering and sharing competitive intel as possible.
“That’s a big behavioral change when it becomes less about having one or a few people gathering and sharing intel, and instead extending it as a responsibility of everyone in the revenue organization. That’s when good things start to happen - the activity becomes more collaborative and is focused on problem-solving rather than just information sharing.
“We share our intel on a team-to-team basis leveraging our competitive intelligence platform to develop regularly cadenced newsletters. They’re good and they’re actionable, but we find the juicy stuff is the intel that happens in real-time. But, I’ve found the most effective way to share intel and have great conversations in the flow of work around competitive intel is through Slack.
“Our company is a big-time Slack shop - everything happens there. However, there was a lot of good intel being lost in the scroll of conversations. To combat that, we turned it into an opportunity by installing a two-way integration that allows us to send competitive intel to our CI platform directly from Slack.
“This has been a bit of a game-changer in making sure that as much information as possible isn’t lost. The great thing about these kinds of Slack channels is that the intel is only the tipping point, the conversations that happen in the threads afterward generally end up being the context you need to make the intel actionable.”
Competitive intelligence tips
Competitive intelligence can be worth its weight in gold. Product marketers who’ve collected and shared insights gave us advice on how to kickstart the process:
“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 Insights Manager at BigCommerce
“Job postings reveal a lot about your competitor's product/growth strategy. They’ll often disclose which areas they're trying to invest in on a technology perspective or which customer segments they're trying to grow the business in the most.” Julian Clarke, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Team Lead at Lattice
“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 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 proposition 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
“Keep an eye on your peers, but don't lose sight of why your company is unique. That's the story you want to focus on getting in front of your customers. We've found that when we check all of the right boxes, our customers spend less time comparing us to others and more time asking us what else can we do together?” Jessica Munoz, Senior VP of Product Marketing at LiveIntent, Inc.
“Hearing what customers say has been the most fruitful competitor intel - using tools like Gong and G2 help to gather that info.” Andrew McCotter-Bicknell, Product Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo
“Read the cons on all the reviews - even the 4-star review has something they don't like. I analyze this for trends so we can rebuke any objections to sales pitch.” Maureen West, Director of Product Marketing at 6sense
“Communicate with your customers who have switched from a competitor. They're the source and can articulate pain points which are more valuable than market-facing positioning from the competitor.” Miles Price, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Sailthru
How often should competitive intelligence be completed?
When it comes to frequency of research, every company is different. Product marketing never stands still. Customers buy into new trends, pricing strategies constantly need to be adjusted, and competitors are always looking for new ways to get the upper hand.
So, how often are product marketers monitoring competitors to solidify their understanding of the market and strengthen their own strategy?
The Competitive Intelligence Trends Report 2020 revealed over one-quarter (29%) of product marketers surveyed said they’re currently monitoring their competitors every week, while a fifth (21%) track the behavioral patterns of their rivals every month.
Amine Ammar, Business Development Director at Advantage Industrial, said he uses several mediums to keep updated about his competitors:
“I try to keep informed consistently, by letting the information come to me; I subscribe and try to take part in everything our competitors are throwing out, such as newsletters, webinars, industry events, etc.”
Competitor intel is a continual process; it’s a constant work in progress. There isn’t necessarily a definitive timeframe in which to complete the process. Frequency will be decided by factors such as how many companies are being scouted.
When product marketers spend more time completing the process, this opens the door to more insights, enabling PMMs to make more well-informed business decisions.
Priya Doty, VP of Product Marketing at IBM, discussed why continually gathering and analyzing insights is pivotal to sustaining quality intel:
Getting started with competitive intelligence
For some product marketers, starting with competitive intelligence is as daunting as sharing the actual results. Thankfully, there are a range of tools available to help PMMs begin understanding the true extent of the market.
Many tools are being used by small-medium companies and large-scale organizations, and many of these can be found in the PMM Tech Stack - our comprehensive round-up of recommended product marketing tools.
When we surveyed PMMs to establish favored tools on the market, Google and Google Alerts were the most popular, while product marketers are also fans of Crayon.
Product Marketing Core is also a popular tool among PMMs keen to propel their competitive intelligence.
Within the certification's 11 modules, product marketers can improve their knowledge of competitive intelligence with the aid of tuition from leading industry experts.