It’s understandable and indeed critical to focus a marketing campaign on the strengths and distinctive benefits of the products or services in question. However, something that’s easy to overlook is how your business and its offerings differ from — and are preferable to — the competition.
Making this distinction isn’t as simple as, “Well, we’re better because we say so.” When you can present prospective customers with accurate data and solid reasoning behind why your products or services will fulfill their needs better than other options, you’ll stand a much better chance of turning those marketing dollars into revenue. This is where competitive intelligence comes into play.
Determine what you do better
Competitive intelligence is the process of legally and ethically gathering and analyzing information on your competitors. It can help you collect valuable data on their:
- Financial positions,
- Business practices and reputations,
- Products and services,
- Strategic directions,
- Growth or expansion plans (as well as any closures or relocations), and
- Mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances.
This information enables you to not only recognize your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, but also better identify and anticipate market trends. As a result, your marketing campaigns can emphasize what customers need, how you can deliver it and where the competition falls short.
Gather good info
Gleaning intelligence is relatively simple. At the most basic human level, chatting with customers and prospects, bank reps, financial services providers, and other business contacts can help keep you in the know about what’s going on in the marketplace. You might encounter these individuals in the regular course of business or seek them out at trade shows, conferences and networking events.
Relying on fortuitous conversations alone won’t get the job done, however. You (or an employee) will need to gather information regularly. Scan major news providers — as well as relevant business publications — for updates on your competition or industry in general. Your competitors’ brochures, catalogs, press releases, annual reports and other collateral also contain valuable information. And, of course, don’t forget to regularly visit their websites and blogs, as well as their public social media accounts.
In addition, there are a variety of powerful search engines and online resources that can boost competitive intelligence efforts — though some do charge for a subscription. For example, Dun & Bradstreet offers industry, market and company-specific intelligence for both public and private businesses. The Securities and Exchange Commission (sec.gov) provides free financial reports on public companies.
Be sure to fact-check and verify any information you find: Inaccurate data can skew your observations, negatively affect your business decisions and hurt your reputation in the marketplace.
Make a strong case
To succeed at marketing today, you need to make a strong case based on accurate and timely data relevant to your company’s purpose or industry. Competitive intelligence can help you find this information and integrate it into marketing campaigns. Contact our firm for help evaluating your marketing efforts from a return-on-investment perspective.