Competitive Intelligence: B2B’s Secret Weapon

By Erik Mansur, VP Product Marketing, Crayon

Running a successful company comes with its share of risks. Nowadays, businesses need to contend with cybersecurity threats, the proliferation of new technology, challenges related to work-from-home arrangements, and so much more. While the list is lengthy, one of the most overlooked risks to B2B businesses is competitors. Unfortunately, many companies don’t consider their direct and indirect competition when assessing their risk, despite the strategic advantage keeping tabs on those brands can offer. And research indicates that a competitive advantage is something most professionals feel they could use.

According to Crayon’s recent State of Competitive Intelligence report, 59% of survey respondents believe that their market has gotten “much more competitive” in recent years, an 18% increase year-over-year. Whether due to the rapid changes necessitated by COVID-19 or the lower barriers to entry for new incumbents (or a bit of both), companies are feeling the heat. With this increased pressure, the role of competitive intelligence (CI) has expanded from a sales enablement tool to an integral facet of a company’s strategy—quite literally, every employee in an organization is “competing” against their opposite number who works for one of their rivals. Growing businesses need to stay ahead of the curve, because innovation can’t happen in a vacuum. This makes CI a must-have instead of a nice-to-have.

How CI Boosts B2B Business

Competitive intelligence is a multi-step process that a practitioners can use to track, analyze, and activate information about their competitors to give their company an edge. During the process, businesses gather data from various digital channels―like competitor websites, review sites, and social media platforms―to understand how their competition operates, what solutions they offer, and how customers feel about their business. Analyzing and delivering these insights to the appropriate stakeholders empowers teams across divisions to make better decisions.

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Having proper CI intel at the ready can help B2B companies:

1. Give sales teams a leg up.

The sales process without CI is akin to sending a team into a dark cave without a flashlight. Providing sales professionals with accurate insights helps them plan more effective calls, meeting leads’ expectations. Sales professionals armed with competitive intel are better equipped to discuss offerings with prospective clients as they know what their competitors can offer―and why their own offerings are superior. It can also help these professionals field objections, address concerns from a place of authority, and dismantle landmines.

2. Make your mark on crowded markets.

Deep insights into the state of the market and how a B2B business measures up allows leaders to develop informed marketing strategies dictated by market demands. CI insights around competitors’ pricing, packaging, news releases, press coverage, events, content marketing, and social strategies can help develop more successful marketing strategies. CI helps marketers differentiate their messaging, spark new ideas, and make sure their business is the one driving the industry’s conversations.

3. Keep product teams in the know.

The sheer speed of technology coupled with customer expectations can often overwhelm a product management team. Even the most innovative product professionals need to keep tabs on what’s happening in their market. Providing product teams with up-to-date information is integral to the research and development process, and comprehensive CI programs can help businesses do it at scale.

4. Stand out to job seekers.

Any good business starts with the right people. However, the current labor market is making it difficult for recruiters to attract and retain top talent. HR professionals can use CI insights to understand the hiring landscape for specific roles and tailor job descriptions to better attract top talent. They can also use CI intel to see what competitors are offering to new hires and adjust current employees’ benefits and compensation to encourage them to stay rather than pursue opportunities elsewhere. Finally, as a company’s culture and policies evolve, these shifts can result in bad feelings shared on employee review sites, or a large amount of roles suddenly opening up. Recruitment professionals can use CI to understand those signals, helping them target high-quality employees who may be looking to make a job change.

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Proactive CI Makes a Difference

Scanning competitors’ social media platforms, websites, and media coverage twice a year is no longer enough to stay ahead of the curve. A proactive approach to monitoring rivals’ websites, news mentions, marketing messaging, and other essential parts of a company’s digital footprint,  lets businesses know what’s happening in real-time, so they’re never caught off guard.

The prospect of building a competitive intelligence program can seem daunting. Collecting the sheer volume of data is no small feat, and interpreting that data to create insights that are actionable can be even more complex. However, the benefits of investing in comprehensive CI speak for themselves―and the right technology and partners can simplify the process. Modern CI platforms incorporate machine learning and advanced research tools so teams can keep a finger on the pulse of the market through real-time and historical analysis. These insights ensure that businesses of all kinds are always two steps ahead of their competition. Because after all, part of being risk-averse, is being risk-aware. Competitive intelligence can be a tool that helps companies succeed despite an ever-growing number of business challenges.

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