Art of War- Competitive Intelligence As An Offensive Weapon

Article first appeared in Technorati here.

Competition. The very word can often strike fear in the hearts of many a business owner or executive. They get reviled, extolled, crushed, attacked, copied, grudgingly praised and even sometimes acquired. Too seldom does it get broken down, analyzed, and synthesized into something useful and leveraged as an opportunity.

competitive intelligence for marketers

Often when we decide to take a look at our competitors we start out with a loose framework based on our own brand and then start comparing and contrasting. We start with us vs. them. And usually stop there as well. A circle of one-to-oneness.

 A solid competitive analysis should encompass these three key viewpoints:

  1. Us vs. Us
  2. Us vs. Them (all of them and each of them)
  3. Us vs. Those (those dream brands who we want to be when we grow up)

There are many frameworks you can use for both general and industry specific competitive analysis. If you are knowledgeable about your industry you will be able to cut through a lot of the dross of the Internet by going right to your target competitors; at least the ones you already know about.

However it is nearly impossible to avoid either being ‘pigeon-holed’ or ‘rabbit-holed’ by the immeasurable quantity of content that rages forth from the fire hose of the Internet.  All of us are operating in some form of “filter bubble” that actively filters and focuses our searches, social interactions and content consumption.

According to Eli Pariser and Wikipedia a Filter Bubble is:

 “A filter bubble is a result state in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behavior and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.”

This same phenomenon holds true when doing competitive research and analysis especially in social media and SEO arenas. It is one thing to peruse all of your main competitors websites, social media profiles and blogs and compare, contrast and note the similarities and differences. It is an all-together more surprising and informative experience to see them all lined up together in an all to all competitive comparison. True competitive intelligence for marketers.

Imagine being able to choose as many competitors as you wanted and then comparing and ranking each of their social media platforms, metadata, keywords, top performing content and more against your own and each of your competitors. Even more remarkable if it took seconds, not hours, to compile all of the data.

RivalIQ, a startup SaaS company out of Seattle, has done this and much more.  They have taken the fire hose of the Internet, tuned it into a focused competition IQ analysis platform and made it sing with intelligent algorithms and data crunching and then presented it in wonderfully useful graphs and charts. (Remarkably they can even export it all into a fully editable PowerPoint file (or pdf or png) that you can use to present your competitive analysis)

 Actionable data personified. (In chart form)

competitive intelligence for marketers

RivalIQ says that they have built a solution that delivers “Competitive intelligence for active online marketers” and they have.  They compare and analyze a ton of smart data from the web, search, social media and content analysis. They are focused on helping marketers understand more about their brands by delivering compelling competitive analysis.

 To better understand your own brand you need to understand yourself compared to:

  1. Yourself
  2. Your competitors
  3. And best of class brands

competitive intelligence for marketers

Normally when you are searching and using the web you want the figurative “most recent” box checked so that the fire hose of data you get is the most recent up to date information you can get. (You may be drowning in data but at least it’s current data right?)

But some of the best competitive analysis comes in the form of not only the history of what your competitors used to do but even more fascinating and insightful is having a side by side comparison of what they just changed. Back in the old school days you had to use something like the eponymous Way Back Machine of Internet lore to try to find old versions of websites.

RivalIQ has a little published feature that has the power to literally change your competitive analysis into a major offensive weapon rather than a simple report. Below is a screenshot from their benignly named “Notable Activity Summary” report that tracks changes to all of the competitive content you added to your landscape.

competitive intelligence for marketers

Note that it not only shows that they changed their prices and changed a lot of the wording, but more importantly they completely changed their entire pricing model.NOT just a price change, but also the basis for HOW they price and present the price changed. Now if you are seriously on it and monitoring each of your dozens of competitors every week on every social media platform, webpage, SEO etc. then you likely already knew this. BUT how Sun Tzu is it to have the old and new pages side by side with all of the changes highlighted? How radically could this change your approach to the art of war? And the longer you track each competitor the more data and insight you get.

In summary RivalIQ is a highly focused, data rich SWOT analysis data feeder service that combines the best features of the always on, most recent updates, most-effective internet with the time traveling, knowledge exploding power of the way back internet machine on steroids.

RivalIQ is currently tracking over 14k companies in their RivalIQ databases and building a compelling ‘connected nodes’ ecosystem that will get bigger and better over time.  They are a serious platform now and they will only grow in prowess.

So why aren’t you already using RivalIQ to master your competitive intelligence? Want to bet that your best competitors are literally signing up right now after reading this article?

Thoughts and Counter Thoughts?