Without a clear, comprehensive and up-to-date picture of what your competitors are saying and doing,how do you compare across specific criteria? Within this context, planning or responding quickly and effectively becomes very difficult. How do you nullify the threats their actions pose, capitalise on opportunities, and ultimately protect and grow your organisation’s revenue?
Slow responses or ill-informed decision-making could see market leaders pull further away or lead to your market share being lost to rising competitors. That could have an impact on future market budgets, organisational stability and even job security.
Whether it’s competitor tracking, competitor analysis or competitor benchmarking, the practice of monitoring what rival organisations are doing and saying, and using it to contrast and understand is well-established across many industries. It can enable you, your team and your organisation to devise smarter strategies and maximise their outcomes.
In this article, we break down what competitor monitoring is, the benefits it can bring you and how to implement it in your organisation.
What is competitor monitoring?
Competitor monitoring is the process of tracking what your competitors are doing and saying. In decades gone by, that may have involved slow and steady research using manual processes and inconclusive results. More recently, it’s about using business intelligence software tools to track competitors’ online presence and mentions and market data such as league tables and review scores.
Examples of competitor monitoring
When it comes to monitoring competitors, there are multiple factors to focus on, depending on your industry and position within an organisation. However, here are 5 areas which companies in general can use competitor monitoring for:
1) Price tracking
Knowing competitor price points and who’s offering consumers the best deals can provide insight into their strategies and where you could be winning or losing. Pricing your own products and services without this intelligence means more guesswork and less confidence. Competitor monitoring makes it easy to build a clear, real-time picture of market pricing.
2) Product developments
Being the first to know about product launches, updates, withdrawals, feature add-ons and more can offer insights that inform your own product roadmaps and allow you to minimise the impact of what others are doing. If 95% of products fail after launch, learning from the strengths and weaknesses of others can help you avoid being part of that statistic.
3) Website monitoring
A competitor’s website can often contain a wealth of valuable information. Whether it’s their pricing, their products, their news and thought leadership content or even the key messages they lead with, it can all reveal a lot about their strategies and help you identify strengths and weaknesses. Competitor monitoring helps you know when any of this content changes, so you can plan or respond accordingly.
4) Financial tracking
A lot of performance data is published online and accessible if you know where to look. It can give you a clear indication of whose strategies are working or not – which in turn can help you adapt, evolve and reprioritise as an organisation. Competitor monitoring allows you to dive into specific aspects of financial performance to build up a clear and accurate picture of where the market is.
5) Social media monitoring
Seeing what topics competitors are talking about on social media, what their opinions are and how consumers are responding can give you a clear sense of their strategy and what’s resonating with your potential customers. Your voice and opinion will still be yours but competitor monitoring can help you to clean up your strategy and make informed decisions about frequency and channels.
The importance of competitor monitoring
We have already examined the different means in which organisations in general can monitor their industry competitors. But let’s summarise briefly the importance of competitor monitoring and why it’s important for all teams and companies to consider it.
Make informed strategic and operational decisions
You have a fuller, clearer picture of the market and your place within the wider industry. This eliminates a high degree of guess-work and subjectivity, and enables a higher degree of data-driven decision making.
The benefits of harnessing data was confirmed by a Harvard Business Review study that showed that companies who do so are on average more productive and profitable than their peers.
Respond effectively to threats and opportunities
By learning what competitors are saying and doing in real-time and adapting and responding quickly and intelligently. Take action before it’s too late.
Stay or get ahead of the competition
By making sure your sales and marketing functions and other parts of the organisation are the best-informed in the market and don’t lose ground to rivals who are also using competitor monitoring.
Getting started with competitor monitoring
Step 1: Outline your goals
Be clear about what you want to achieve. For example, how will you use the data you gather? How will you measure its value to your business? Can you evaluate the potential cost of losing customers and market share? Or the potential value of growing it?
You could go broad, capturing intelligence on a broad range of criteria. Or you could narrow in on one or two, such as product development and pricing. Whatever your goals are, clarifying and documenting them will keep your competitor monitoring activity focused. It will also help you tackle the next few steps.
Step 2: Choose your competitor monitoring tools
Given what you want to achieve, what tool or tools do you need specifically? There are a range of options available to you, from specialist social media monitoring tools to all-encompassing competitor tracking and business intelligence software. As well as making sure your competitor monitoring tools can do exactly what you need them to, it’s worth looking at some of the added extras and benefits.
For example, how easy is the set up? Are there experts on hand to support you through the process? Is the dashboard user-friendly and is the data presented in a way that’s accessible and easy to share? Does the tool integrate with other software, such as your existing communication platforms or the data visualisation tools you’re familiar with?
That can make your competitor monitoring intelligence more accessible to people across your team and wider business.
Step 3: Define the key metrics required
You know what you want to achieve and have chosen a tool capable of fulfilling that goal. As part of the set up, you’ll need to specify what you intend to track. The examples section above has some useful suggestions. You might want to focus on price, product, personnel changes, marketing activity, investments or a combination of a few.
This should all be driven by the goals you’ve outlined, so that you’re not handling data you don’t need. Or at least the most important data is being surfaced for easy access and analysis.
If your software tool provides market analysts as part of the set up, they’ll help you identify the competitor monitoring metrics you need and how deep to drill into them. This will help you get more out of your investment, allowing you to make smarter strategic decisions as an organisation.
Step 4: Analyse your data
Once set up, your data will start to arrive. Again, depending on your goals and tools, this may be updating on a daily basis. This is extremely valuable but only if you’re set up internally to handle and analyse what you’re gathering.
Whether you have analysts in-house or use those provided by the tool, identifying the best way to interpret and draw conclusions from the data is the key to turning insights into actions. You’ll be able to share competitive intelligence, not just raw data, making it easier for teams and individuals to use.
Step 5: Share competitor monitoring insights
If you’re part of a marketing and insights team, you may be using competitor monitoring for your own benefit – to inform your strategies and campaigns. But intelligence of this nature can have far-reaching benefits for the whole organisation.
You can equip sales teams with insights into the strengths and weaknesses of direct competitors. Help product teams validate and compare their roadmaps and launches. Or keep senior management informed on how the market is evolving and what threats and opportunities exist.
As referenced above, there are advantages in being able to integrate with your existing systems. Adopting another tool can be a barrier to team engagement, so sharing alerts, charts or graphs in formats and channels they’re working with every day can make it a smooth transition.