Competitive Intelligence

The Ultimate Guide to Competitive Intelligence Strategy

August 14, 2018 by Katie Berg

It’s Time For a New Take on Competitive Intelligence

Competitors are moving faster than ever and new ones are popping up like weeds. If you manage a competitive intelligence program, you know this pain all too well.

The markets we compete in have shifted (even this one), and we’re faced with the challenge of building a modern competitive intelligence program. One that is dynamic in capturing and sharing out intel across the organization with two purposes – to enable better decision-making, and bring in more revenue. The competitive intelligence program you’ve inherited, built on old workflows with set times for collecting data, reviewing research, and making updates to competitive content is no longer a viable competitive strategy.

Building a Competitive Intelligence Strategy: The Five Pillars Of Your CI Program

Competitive Intelligence Guide - Five Pillars

To help tackle this challenge, we’re kicking off the Competitive Intelligence Expert Series: The Ultimate Guide to Building a High-Performing CI Program where we’ll share weekly in-depth advice on the following five foundational pillars of building a competitive intelligence strategy:

1- Measurement & Evaluation of Your CI Program
2- Conducting Research & Competitor Analysis
3- Developing Your Competitive Strategy & Sales Battlecards
4- Content Distribution & Knowledge Sharing
5- Building Engagement & Buy-in

Subscribe to our Competitive Intelligence Expert Series to fill your toolbox with new strategies, tactics, and templates to improve your competitive intelligence practice. We’ll provide in-depth advice, examples, and share best practices from industry leaders (and market share killers). To get you started, here are some of the best resources from own analysts & across the web on each of the five pillars of building a competitive intelligence system. As our series progresses, we’ll add links to new resources below.

PART 1: Measuring your Competitive Intelligence Program: Identifying Objectives and Evaluating Performance

How do you currently measure your competitive intelligence program? We’ve seen many answers to that question. Some measure the total dollar value of deals influenced. Some measure the number of sales requests responded to. Some measure the lift in sales performance in deals where competitive content was used. Some use win-loss rates. There’s no one-size-fits-all method, but there are, however, plenty of considerations to explore when you’re identifying objectives and building your key performance indicators.

Whatever your measure of success is, the first step to evaluating your competitive intelligence program is understanding its purpose and building cohesion across your organization around shared goals.

Evaluating Your Current Competitive Intelligence Program

Evaluating your current competitive intelligence program requires gathering internal feedback and quantitative sales performance metrics. There are multiple methods for gathering internal feedback from your Sales, Product, and Executive teams. Whether through surveys, direct interviews, or by analyzing common requests from your sales reps, the purpose of collecting this feedback is to get a sense of how others in the organization view the value of the competitive intel your team is currently delivering. This provides guidance on areas for improvement. Analyzing sales performance metrics will give you a baseline for win rates, sales cycle length, and average deal size to measure against over time.

Choosing Performance Metrics

Once you’ve identified objectives of your competitive intelligence program and received buy-in from your stakeholders (Exec, Sales, etc.) around those goals, you’ll decide on which key performance indicators to track to measure your success and the frequency in which you’ll report out on those metrics. This will likely include both qualitative and quantitive measures of performance. We’ll share examples of CI reporting structures and templates for you to use. For now, check out the resources below to get started.

Competitive Intelligence Tips

Further Reading From our Blog:
Competitive Intelligence Metrics: A Dashboard to Track your KPIs
Competitive Sales Analysis: A Template for Analyzing your Competitive Deals
10 Metrics to Measure Your Competitive Intelligence Program
The Warning Sign That Your Competitors Are Closing in on You
3 Measurable Advantages of Sales Enablement
5 Ways to Improve your B2B Sales Win Rate
Insights Hidden Inside Your B2B Sales Data

Other Resources:
How to Measure Strategic Market and Competitive Intelligence Performance [SlideShare]

PART 2: Conducting Competitive Research and Competitor Analysis

Tracking Your Competitors: Data Collection Methods

Data collection is a top priority for many of the Product Marketers that we speak to. We get it. Collecting intel on your competitors can also be incredibly time-consuming. It’s rarely the fun part of competitive intelligence. The fun stuff for someone like you – who’s driven enough to be reading about how to improve your competitive intelligence program – is more likely building competitive strategies and curating insights on how to position against competitors in your market.

The challenge in collecting intel is knowing what external data to track, how to source internal knowledge, and ultimately, understanding what intel actually matters to move the business forward. In this Series, we’ll explore best practices on how to track your competitors and conduct competitive research.

Competitive Analysis: Templates and Strategies

Once you’ve collected your raw competitive data, it’s time to surface insights. To do this you’ll use a competitive analysis model or and framework. Many of the tools built decades ago, still hold up today. We’ll review our favorite approaches for surfacing where your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses lie. The point of analyzing your competitors is to identify what your best opportunities to beat them are and to identify where you’ll fall short.

Competitive Intelligence Tips 2

Further Reading From our Blog:
Competitive Product Analysis Template: How to Analyze Your Competitors’ Products
Expert Series: Researching Tier 2 Competitors
How to Start Tracking your Competitors in 5 Easy Steps
5 Insider Tips for Uncovering Competitive Intel
Where Competitor Analysis fits into Account-Based Marketing
How to use LinkedIn for Competitive Intelligence

Other Resources:
Gather Competitive Intelligence: 5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace [Marketing Sherpa]
Porter’s Five Forces Model [PDF]

PART 3: Developing Competitive Strategies & Sales Battlecards

Building Your Competitive Strategies and Positioning Messages

Collecting intel on your competitors, analyzing, and curating into usable insights, and delivering those insights to the right people, at the right time, is no small task. Building a strong competitive intelligence program requires building strong positioning messages and competitive strategies.

One of our clients, a fast-growing B2B SaaS company, is tripling their sales reps over the next year. One of the biggest challenges this presents is ramping their sales hires onto their own products, and making sure they understand how these products are positioned in the market. Your competitive intelligence program aims to arm sales reps to deposition competitors, and also to prepare them to accurately speak to their own products.

By creating positioning strategies and supporting messages, you quickly ramp new reps on your own products and make sure they know how to position your products in the market. Delivering battlecards with competitive messaging ensures reps correctly speak to key points of differentiation using research-backed messages and value propositions.

Once you have developed a strong positioning strategy for your product and have a strong grasp on who your buyer is, you can start to look to your rivals to see where they fall short of your customers’ needs. This is where the de-positioning strategy is born. Sales Battlecards will become your primary tool for distributing your de-positioning strategies to sales reps, a critical tool used to increase win rates against common competitors.

Further Reading From our Blog:
How do you Know When it’s Time to Reposition?
Competitive Battlecards 101: Positioning Battlecard Template

Other Resources:
Getting Into Your Competitor’s Head [McKinsey]
Strategic Communication: How to Develop Strategic Messaging and Positioning [Myk Pono]
Value Propositions vs. Positioning vs. Messaging [Centerline]

Sales Battlecards And Other Competitive Content

Competitive battlecards, playbooks, competitor decks, kill sheets. Whatever you call them, they’re integral to your sales process. Given today’s increasingly competitive markets, being able to effectively de-position a competitor is critical to closing deals.

Enter the competitive, or, sales battlecard. You need a tool to deliver insights to sales reps to coach them through competitor de-positioning strategies, and to ramp them on your own product. We cover the basics of building this content and get into the nitty-gritty details of how to do it with our semi-regular weekly series, Competitive Battlecards 101. Subscribe to the series for battlecard templates delivered directly to your inbox. It’s concise. 2-4 minute reads without marketing fluff. Just the goods on what each battlecard does, when to use them, and how to build them, using real-life examples built by our own competitive analysts and experts from leading B2B enterprises.

Competitive Battlecards 101: Sales Battlecard templates and examples

Further Reading From our Blog:
Competitive Battlecards 101: Templates to Improve Your Battlecards
Sales Battlecard Templates: Tactics to Attack and Defend
4 Key Roles in Your Organization That Need Battlecards
5 Tips to Improve Your Sales Battlecards
The Anatomy of Winning Sales Battlecards
The Trouble with Battlecards | An interview with Tim Rhodes
The 8 Rules of Awesome Sales Content

PART 4: Content Distribution and CI Workflow

Content Distribution & Knowledge Sharing

How does each of your stakeholder groups prefer to communicate? What channels do they use? Your sales reps may prefer Slack or Chatter. A place where they can have short and direct conversation to get the answers they need and move on with their day. Your executive team may use email heavily and prefer communication with graphs and charts that help to visualize issues at a high level.

When you’re building a plan to distribute your competitive intel, it’s critical to take your stakeholders preferences into consideration. Treat your stakeholders as you would your buyers – like customers. Whether you build content for Product, Sales, Exec, or Marketing, the success of your competitive intelligence program relies heavily on your ability to effectively communicate your insights to them.

The CI programs of yesteryear haven’t made it easy to build a workflow around updating data and distributing real-time content. Your program needs not only good content but a strong content management strategy in place so that you are delivering fresh content and continuing to build trust with your stakeholders over time. It’s critical.

Maintaining Intel Relevance and Managing Your Competitive Intelligence Workflow

Your program is only as good as the quality of content you produce. The phrase “Garbage in, garbage out,” seems fitting here. Point being, the upkeep of your data and content is very important to the performance of your competitive intelligence strategy. We’ll share modern strategies for maintaining intel relevancy and other considerations on how to best manage your CI program.

Competitive Intelligence Tips 3

Other Resources:
The Knowledge Value Chain: How to Fix It when it Breaks [PDF – The Knowledge Agency]

PART 5: Building Engagement and Buy-In For Your Competitive Intelligence Program

You need buy-in from all departments about why your CI program exists and how you will measure its effectiveness. This may seem common-sense, but this is a critical piece of building your program and often a challenge for the teams we work with. We’ll cover how to get buy-in from your boss, across departments, and from your executive team.  If you don’t have it, your intelligence will go unused, you won’t be impactful in helping decision-making or enabling your sales reps, and you certainly won’t get access to budget.

Other Resources:
How to Prep Your Sales Teams with Competitive Intelligence [Marketo]
How to Garner Executive Buy-in for Competitive Intelligence [Competitive Intelligence for Dummies]

Competitive Intelligence Expert Series: Resources and templates on how to build a competitive intelligence program