June 17, 2016 by Klue
It is often said (on this blog at least) that when it comes to competitive intelligence, the sum is often—if not always—greater than its parts. Collecting it can be so daunting, impossible even, in the face of just so much data. There’s rarely a smoking gun intel item buried for you to find and overthrow your rival with. No, it’s a loooong-game, slow pitch, puzzle of a task. The good news is that what you need is out there to find. The bad news is you have to find it. A great place to start is LinkedIn for competitive intelligence.
LinkedIn sits conveniently, for our purposes, at the intersection of professional banding and corporate promotion. Companies use LinkedIn to extend reach, establish leadership and engage partners and consumers. Individuals use it to broadcast professional achievement and position themselves for opportunity, should it come knocking.
Here’s how to use LinkedIn for competitive intelligence:
LinkedIn is a social platform for professional networking. There are over 180 million unique monthly visitors. You are connected in some way to many of them, so work those degrees of separation. Connect to competitors, customers and prospects. That’s the point; it’s not Facebook for work. Everyone is there to promote themselves and build professional equity. The very nature of LinkedIn makes it perfect for scoping out who your competitors are connecting with because little is done privately on this network. It’s where we go to boost our brand, so the more the merrier. It’s great for observing movements towards new markets or regions, and a starting point for competitor-client insights. If you’re using LinkedIn to build relationships and generate leads, then your rival is, too. There’s no reason to be coy about it.
Leaders increasingly publish long-form native content on LinkedIn. LinkedIn users who post this kind of content average over 1000 connections. Rival executives are establishing themselves as an authority, amplifying their corporate message and building engagement. Study what’s working and adapt it to your own culture and positioning. This content can also provide insight into a competitors long-term goals and leadership style. No one’s selling the secrets to the sauce here, but even anecdotal intelligence can prove valuable.
LinkedIn is the best case scenario for social CI search: it’s business focused, which means uses are broadcasting professional accomplishments and updates, yet it has a casual tone, so it’s easy to over share. This is the way to use LinkedIn for competitive intelligence that you may not have thought of, or maybe you dismissed it because it does take more time. It’s so worth it though.
It can start with something innocuous like a casual call for a qualified sales rep in a specific location. Map that to known active regions and maybe you find a potential expansion in the works.
A sales rep might list her impressive sales goals met last fiscal. With a little insight and imagination, you could probably make a reasonable estimate of larger financial targets based on region size and know clients. Same goes for sales reps actively seeking new gigs—hitting a target of $5 million sounds really impressive on a resume. $5 million in sales sounds like a very detailed intel for you to make some safe assumptions from. We’ve seen entire competitor corporate sales strategies mapped out with data gleaned from across LinkedIn.
(An extension of this is personal websites. There’s a huge crossover of intelligence that, taken alone, may seem insignificant; however, once you begin to piece it all together, it can provide a very clear, comprehensive picture of a rival’s past performance, current focus and future goals.)
If you’re really serious about using LinkedIn for competitive intelligence collection, you’ll want to check out the Sales Navigator solution that lets you sync Salesforce data for full-picture lead and customer insights. This takes a lot of the manual sleuthing out of your bailiwick and replaces it with a clearer picture of your market.
Collecting competitive intelligence can be time consuming and frustrating, so it makes sense to find the tools that work for you and maximize their outputs. LinkedIn offers primary, first-person intel from your competitors. Connect, collect and curate.
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