The brands arms race: How competitive intel is pushing marketing performance
When your competitors can track your company’s entire digital footprint and use it against you, you really have no choice but to do the same
A large part of digital marketing is based on collecting and analyzing the digital footprint of customers and prospects. We take for granted the fact that every digital action leaves a trace, and that by connecting the dots we can often produce actionable insights and intelligence.
What we often neglect to see, however, is that the same is true of brands.
If anyone took the trouble, they could create a digital snapshot of every aspect of your brand. The events you’re attending and sponsoring; the positions you’re recruiting for and what your employees are saying about you; your pricing and packaging changes and tests; your customers opinions, likes and dislikes; design changes to your website; new landing pages you’ve launched; your traction on different social channels; your CTAs; the A/B tests and promotions you’re running; your best performing content—it’s all out there, free for the taking.
And the thing is, someone is taking the trouble of connecting the dots and creating your brand’s digital footprint.
That someone is your competitors.
Keeping up with the Jones's
Before the digital revolution, competitive data gathering was an haphazard activity, undertaken manually and only loosely connected to strategy.
But information technology radically changed that.
The availability of competitor data at large created an incentive to collect that data. Business leaders realized that actionable intelligence can create a key competitive advantage. A growing arsenal of CI technology emerged, becoming exponentially more powerful, automated and far-reaching. Today more than 75% of brands consider holistic competitive intelligence (intel on every aspect of a competitor’s marketing, products, customers, etc.) as critical to winning against rival solutions.
When your competitors can track your company’s entire digital footprint—everything from a pricing change, customer reviews, marketing campaigns, and more—and use it against you with AI competitor intelligence platforms, you have no choice but to do the same. Platforms that enable you to get better and faster CI become a must.
Competitive intelligence has become a great force that’s pushing marketing technology adoption, and no brand can afford to stay on the sidelines.
Technology is now helping to accelerate and amplify competitive intelligence processes to create an even bigger impact on the business through real-time, multiple source CI.
Crayon’s 2019 State of Competitive Intelligence report, which surveyed +1,000 CI professionals, found real-time intelligence to be the most sought after feature. Real-time competitive intelligence insights, enabled by advanced ML platforms, create a competitive advantage by enabling brands to act on market threats and opportunities as they form, and inform their marketing, sales and product teams on the go.
Multiple source intelligence is crucial for creating a comprehensive, unbiased intelligence map, with each type of competitive intelligence providing its own insights into a company’s strategies, strengths, and weaknesses.
A great use case comes from customer experience and support platform Zendesk. To win over or win back opportunities from competing platforms, Zendesk created a competitive intelligence work cycle that enables the brand to target personalized messaging and offers at prospects who are actively searching for software in their category.
The Zendesk loop is based on three steps:
1. Build a highly qualified contact list based on multiple sources. Zendesk used these platforms in their process:
- Real-time search data: G2 Crowd, to identify companies searching for software in the relevant category and provide frequency of page visits.
- Intent data sources: Bombora, to create an intent score for businesses that are looking for customer support software, and reading about “customer experience” or “customer relationships.”
- Technographic data: HG Data, to identify backend technology installs and pinpoint competitive product users at the company level.
2. After establishing the relevant contacts within the target companies, Zendesk used Clearbit to enrich the data by identifying multiple decisions makers within each target company for a multi-touch entry strategy.
3. Next, Clearbit is leveraged again to enrich the prospective companies for the employee count, revenue, an overview of the company’s tech stack, so that Zendesk can identify which should go into a self-serve flow, and which require a call from the sales team.
4. In the last step of the process, all of the data collected in the first three steps of the loop feeds Zendesk’s personalized outreach program.
A win-win-win proposition
Zendesk’s is a great example of how combining intelligence from multiple sources and using it in a creative and methodological way enables brands to beat their competitors and get there first. Establishing personalized communications with audiences who are actively looking into competing solutions is a play for market share, an approach that focuses on customers who have already shown intent, and a tactic that takes into account the prospects’ current technology stack and can therefore talk directly about specific challenges and needs. So not a win-win proposition, but rather a win-win-win one.
Of course, it all relies on an agile, real-time, multiple-source CI strategy. So if you’re still relying on static or occasional competitive analysis, getting in with the times by using advanced competitive analysis tools should be an important consideration for your business.
As Adam Singolda, founder and CEO of Taboola.com, mentioned recently: “if you have no competition, you’re probably offering something that has no market.” We hope that you have a market, and assume that you have competition. You should assume that your competition is hard at work trying to get the lead, and proactively build the edge that will get you there - first.