Whether you're a small business owner or a large corporation, competitive data is key to understanding how your competition is doing what they do. It's important to know how they're going about their business and what they're doing right—and wrong!—so that you can outsmart them in the long run.

Here are some ways to do just that:

Know your competition intimately.

Knowing your competition is key to beating them, and it’s the first step to doing so.

Your competitors are the companies that provide products or services similar to yours. But don't stop there: you also need to include direct and indirect competitors—those companies that do not compete directly with you but target the same audience. If you sell calculators, for example, your direct competitors may be TI and Casio, while Apple would be considered an indirect competitor because they don't sell calculators, but their iPhone could be used for similar purposes.

Look at everything.

It's not enough just to look at your competitor's website. Their social media pages and the people behind the company are often rich sources of inspiration as well. For example, a company might have an active Twitter account with a lot of engaged followers—if that's true, what kind of content is resonating with them? Is there a common theme in their customer interactions? If so, could you learn from that on social media?

Additionally, it’s important to consider how companies engage with customers online—and not just through the comments section on their Facebook page. How do they communicate with customers who email or call them? Do they respond quickly and thoroughly? Looking at how your competitors interact with customers can reveal helpful information about what works (and what doesn't).

Then there are good old-fashioned advertising and marketing campaigns. What does your competitor spend money on to get their name out there? Are they doing something different from you that seems to be catching people’s attention? The answer (or answers) is almost certainly yes. Please pay attention: it could help you change up your own strategy for the better.

Don't forget to check out your competitor's products yourself! Just because they exist doesn't mean you should immediately start selling or offering something similar yourself. If they're winning over customers right now, it might be because those products provide real value or fill gaps in the market that others aren't addressing.

Are you on their radar?

It can be challenging to get a sense of whether a competitor has you on their radar. There are a few things you can do to look into it:

  • Check out their social media profiles. Are they following you? Do they mention you? They may not have written an entire post about you, but if they comment on one of your posts with something like "Oh, I don't know how we missed this!" or "I love what you did here," then that's also good evidence that they're paying attention to what you do.
  • Review any press releases that competitors produce. Are there any mentions of your company in them? In context, those mentions will give you a sense of where these companies perceive themselves as competing with yours.
  • Look at the blogs produced by competitors (or others in the industry). Are there any mentions of your company in those blogs? Any links or endorsements from competitors or others in the industry should be considered high praise!

Look for changes over time.

If you want to outperform the competition, you can't just track what they're doing now. You need to look at how their content changes over time to know if they're gaining or losing ground in your market. If your competitors are changing their content's tone or style, that could be a sign of something bigger going on—and it's worth paying attention to how much (or how little) the change affects things.

When looking at how your competitors' content has evolved over time, look for patterns and spikes while keeping an eye out for outliers. For example, suppose you see that one competitor frequently republishes old posts with new keywords added to them, but these posts never perform well and don't get much traffic from search engines compared with their other content. In that case, this strategy might not work for you. On the other hand, if another competitor occasionally does this and gets great results from search engines every time they do it, then maybe it's worth trying!

The key is knowing when something is meaningful and when it isn't and then acting accordingly.

What's your competition good at? What are they not good at?

It's time to assess your competition. One of the most critical parts of any strategy is understanding what you're up against, and there are probably a few areas where they're out-performing you.

The first step is to identify their strengths and weaknesses: Which products or services are they offering that you don't? Where do they fall short? What are their goals? Are these goals in line with your own? Are they driving performance at the expense of your metrics (like engagement, retention, etc.)? It might be tempting to think that monitoring data alone will reveal these insights, but it's important to dig deeper than numbers. The best way to do this is through market research.

But how can you conduct research without tapping into market research funds that may not exist for your business? By doing a little digging on your own—and using tools like social media listening and intent data—you can learn what makes customers choose one company over another (and why some never make it off the fence).

Use the same techniques you use in data analysis to understand what other companies are doing and how you need to respond.

Use the same techniques you are using for your regular data analysis to understand what other companies in your industry are doing and how you need to respond. For example, if you notice a company gaining a lot of traction in the past week, monitor the type of content, they are posting and how often they are posting it.

Second, use this information to outsmart other companies in your industry who are using clumsy methods to do the same thing. Instead of picking up on vague trends from reports or press releases (or worse, not paying attention at all), use this information as a starting place for really digging into why these changes occur.

The best thing you can do is establish a clear set of goals for what you want to accomplish with competitive intelligence and then get started.

Set clear, measurable goals for your competitive intelligence project. Collecting competitive data without knowing what you're trying to accomplish is a futile endeavor. You need to have the end goal in mind before making any progress.

Once you have a clear idea of what your goals are and how they'll be measured, then the sky's the limit with how far your imagination can take you in using competitive data collection tactics to learn more about your competitors and outsmart them.

In conclusion, I hope you've found this article helpful! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out through the website.

I'll leave you with a few parting thoughts:

  • You can't outsmart the competition if you don't know where they are, what they're doing, or how they're doing it.
  • Make sure your team knows how to use competitive data effectively and efficiently so that they can be more thoughtful about their strategy.
  • Your competitors are just as focused on improving their products and services as you are. So if you want to be smarter about your competitive data (so you can outsmart your competition), make sure your team is doing all it can to stay ahead of the curve.