Fast-growing companies often have similar challenges; their team is stretched and their product marketers struggle to do the job of 2-3 people. A question that we’re frequently asked is how a small, resource-strapped team can start tracking competitors to stay on top of industry trends. Tracking your competition doesn’t have to be a full-time job and you don’t need a huge competitive intelligence (CI) team to get started. While we have developed a platform to help growing teams manage intel at scale, for a company that’s small, you might not need to jump straight to a robust platform to get your CI team off the ground. With a few key tactics you can begin to keep on top of your competitors’ strategies.
Understand your Objectives in Tracking Competitors
Before you start collecting competitor data, you’ll need to identify your objectives. This will help to inform what information you’ll collect, and what you will ultimately do with that intel. As an example, your objectives could include the following:
- Equipping leadership to develop business strategy: Making sure your executive team understands the market landscape – including competitive direction and industry trends – in order to build a competitive business strategy.
- Informing product direction: Ensuring product roadmaps are developed with purpose to align to business strategy, and to position your company strategically within the market. By understanding where your competitors are heading, you can make better predictions about their next moves and proactively prepare.
- Arming your sales team to close more deals: Equipping sales teams with the best defensive and offensive tactics against your competitors in order to close more deals.
Start Looking for Clues
It sounds simple, but this really is the starting point. Start looking for clues. How we build out a full profile on our competitors is by piecing together many small insights until we can start to see a larger narrative or picture. Your goal is to start to understand their story and to gain a better understanding of where they are investing time and resources.
Are they betting big on something? Are they making a play for a certain market or shifting their customer base? These insights will begin to piece together this story about where they are headed taking clues from a variety of forms of intel.
- Check their Press Page – A good way to get up to date on your competitors is by looking at their past. Take a look on their press or news page and skim through their announcements from the past year or two. You’ll get a sense of two things. First and most obvious is what has happened in recent past. Have they made any product, partnership, integration, merger or acquisition announcements recently? Secondly, start to look for patterns in the timing of their announcements. They could fall around the time of an annual conference or major event, or in relation to their quarterly earnings reports.
- Track Their Earnings Reports Schedule – If they are a large enough company, they will schedule investor briefings or shareholder meetings well in advance. Mark in your calendar when these briefings/meetings are happening and if possible, participate in a livestream if open to a public audience. Around this time two things will be happening, companies will be giving indication of their corporate strategy, and analysts are likely to report their takes on what’s happening, what’s working and what’s not within the company. Pay attention to both.
- Add Important Dates to your Calendar – Many industry leaders host their own user conferences on an annual basis and typically save notable announcements for these events. Mark your calendar for whenever these annual events are happening and stay on top of news outlets or social media around these dates. Announcements are likely to be in the form of press release or delivered live during a keynote presentation.
- Listen to the Small Things – The first three tactics are going to give you the bare bones of competitive insights. This information is widely available and relatively low-effort to acquire. If you want to find insights into your competitors’ tactics, you need to start listening and watching for hints. Are they developing content partnerships? Are their senior executives speaking to media or at major industry events? Have they added new people to their board or made changes to their leadership team? Look at each little insight and try to find the competitive insight behind it. A board or executive change-up could indicate a new strategic direction for the company, especially if this person has experience in something that’s a departure from their core business. A content partnership could mean they are trying to reach a new audience, which they plan to target with a product or service extension from their core offering.
- Learn the Space – Strategy doesn’t happen in a vaccuum. In order to glean insights on your competitors or even predict their next moves you need to understand what’s happening to the industry as a whole. Start with an industry leader. As you get up to speed on their recent activity and start to see their strategic direction come to light, add a new competitors to your tracking process.
Do something with what you know.
In the end, all of this intel and all of this effort means nothing if you don’t give the right insights to the right people. your job is to take all of this information that you’ve amassed and filter it down to a few sentences that matter. As you collect competitive intel, your challenge becomes how to parse out what matters to the right people. At Klue, we believe a good competitive battlecard is 8 – 10 pieces of information that matter most (read our Guide to Creating Battlecards that Win to learn more). When you are preparing content to give to your sales, executive, product or channel teams, think about what eight to ten pieces of information are the most important, and make them as concise as possible.
Best of luck in tracking competitors and setting up your competitive intelligence program!