How competitor insights can help you stand out and stay ahead
Get to know your customer; their needs, likes, dislikes, how to capture their attention, and what makes them tick. This is something that time and time again, organizations will be told is the ultimate key to success. Of course, this is true – and important for the development of any business, but it should not be the sole focus. Other areas should also be closely monitored to help build a well-rounded view of your entire market, including your competitors.
Ever heard the phrase, “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”?. A wise saying, coined by Chinese Strategist, Sun Tzu (and used by Al Pacino, so… pretty serious stuff) and is an approach that should be utilized when it comes to staying not only on top, but ahead, of your competition. So, why does this matter? Many businesses are wary of getting too ‘close’ to their competition. Not in a friendly way – more in terms of their product offering, strategy, or how they’re seen in the eyes of the customer. And inevitably, when it comes to planning your organization’s strategy for the year ahead, one of the top priorities will always be how to ‘stand out’ from the crowd and especially from your competition.
In this blog, we will delve into why keeping your competitors just as close as your customers will play an integral part in developing a strategy that enables you to stand out and stay ahead of the competition.
Digging for gold
First things first, what do you actually know about your competitors? There are various analysis tools, such as perceptual mapping, that can help you visualize your competitive landscape. But, these are largely built on, well, perception. If the information used to plot these maps is not accurate, then relying on them can negatively impact your strategy. To really understand your competitors, you need to monitor their actual movements.
This means keeping on top of their business activity, what they’re doing, who they’re doing it with, and how they’re doing it (as, and when, it happens). It sounds like a lot to keep up with, and it is. While there are tools that can help you with this, the biggest task is filtering out the valuable insights from the ‘noise’. It’s said that by 2025, the amount of data available will amount to 175 zettabytes. To put that into perspective, if you tried to download this amount of data it would take you around 1.8 billion years to download. So, when you’re looking for tools to combat this information overload, make sure they have mechanisms that are capable of surfacing those valuable insights from the raw data.
Consequently, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the information that matters to your organization, much like ‘finding a needle in a haystack’. No one wants to manually crawl through various content sources in a bid to find that golden nugget of information, it’s laborious and time-consuming. Besides, by the time this is found, it’s usually too little, too late.
This is where investing in technology and artificial intelligence can really make a difference to an organization. Many companies are starting to make significant investments into automated processes as part of their digital transformation, to reduce the burden of information searching from their workers. Instead, giving them back the time to focus on what really matters – something that is incredibly valuable, especially to those in intelligence roles.
A lot of the information that is valuable to your organization is likely already at your fingertips. The challenge here is that this is often trapped in silos and organizations don’t have the resources to identify the critical insights they hold. So how can technology help uncover these?
- Integration: As mentioned, searching multiple content sources is far from efficient. Technology has the ability to bring these together into one place, in real-time. This can save workers time and enable them to focus on other tasks.
- Surfacing: By utilizing AI-driven technology, only the most relevant insights for your organization will be surfaced, ready for use. This also reduces the time that would usually be spent doing this manually, as well as reducing the risk of missed information and maximizing return on investment on your content sources.
- Delivery: Another crucial step is the delivery of critical information. What use are these insights if they aren’t delivered to the relevant stakeholders? (Spoiler, not much!) Again, automated systems can enable you to control who receives what information in real-time, so those who need to act on it can do so instantly.
Insights have been surfaced and delivered, and now you’re sitting on some very juicy information. But now what? Well, now it’s time to turn all of this data into opportunities.
Create your competitive advantage
Depending on what you’ve uncovered, there are a number of opportunities that can present themselves to your organization – all of which can be used to your advantage *insert fist pump here*. Let’s take a look at a few examples of what this might look like…
In essence, all of the valuable insights uncovered will influence your strategic decisions, but when it comes to something as important as pricing your products or services, knowing exactly what your competition is up to means you might want to adjust your tactics accordingly. This is very common in highly competitive industries such as tourism, where airline companies are constantly upping and lowering their prices to attract eager bargain hunters and cash in on ‘in demand’ destinations simultaneously.
One of the biggest desires for organizations is the ability to come up with the next ‘best thing’, whether a tweak to existing offerings or something new altogether. It’s great when you’re the one who has come up with something shiny and new, but no one likes to be blindsided by a competitor and left wondering… “how didn’t we see this coming?” We all know what happened to the likes of Nokia, Blackberry and Sony Ericsson thanks to Apple. Being ‘in-the-know’ with what your competitors are building and testing is crucial to your own development, so make sure you pay very close attention.
You may also uncover that competitors and companies in the wider market are all suddenly looking into ramping up their investments into a particular area of their business. What’s it to you? Well, it might signify what’s to come, for example heavily investing in Marketing means they are probably about to reach audiences they haven’t been able to before – potentially including yours. Or, acquiring a smaller firm with excellent R&D facilities may indicate that they will no longer be ‘behind’ you in this area. This doesn’t mean you should copy what they are doing, but reflect on what this might mean for you and how this might influence your investment decisions.
Okay, hear us out on this one. Sometimes, collaborating with even your most direct competitors can be extremely beneficial. Perhaps you each have something the other doesn’t, and rather than spending $000’s on trying to fill that gap, you could opt for a partnership and bring your strengths together, like when Pfizer and Merck joined forces to help bring new cancer treatments to market. This may unlock the chance to offer a special product or service, knocking other competitors out of the park.
The ability to surface competitor insights and conduct effective competitive analysis is integral in your ability to make well-informed strategic decisions, investments and innovations as an organization. There is a lot of information out there at your fingertips that is waiting to be uncovered and used to create a competitive advantage. The trick is to find it, and to do so on time, which in today’s digitalized world is becoming harder than ever before. What you use this information for is up to you, but if your goals are to keep your customers happy by offering them the crème de la crème then, yes, know your customers. But know your competition too.