Competitive intelligence is crucial to keeping your brand alive – because consumers are well aware they have other options. That means you don’t.

I-spy a brand doing better than I

Of course, the biggest mistake you can make is not performing competitive intelligence at all. It’s easy to think social listening tells you enough about your audience to render “spying” on the competition unnecessary – but it’s not true.

Understanding consumers at their core means understanding how they respond to everything in their lives, and that includes your competitors. You must know if they’re having their needs met more effectively elsewhere – and you must know if they’re not.

The only way to do that is to use your social media intelligence platform to unlock every insight you can. Don’t get caught up in the following stumbling blocks:

1. Thinking a brand is too small to matter

Shrugging off competitors who seem too small to infiltrate your corner of the market is a big mistake. Brands have learned this the hard way by discounting the likes of Etsy and Airbnb – niche brands (initially) that have disrupted their categories in big ways.

Never assume anything when it comes to your brand – especially when you have the benefit of social intelligence at your disposal. Follow social conversations in your category, and if a potential competitor is revealed, track consumer sentiment to learn more.

If you feel safe at any time, you’re not looking deep enough. And rest assured your competitors are watching you, just waiting for a moment to steal away share of voice and consumer loyalty.

2. Focusing efforts too broadly

Sentiment, since we mentioned it, is the key to everything. Whether you’re monitoring the responses to competitor brand messaging, or random consumer thoughts flung in the direction of “clothing brands,” etc., sentiment is your compass. It’s how you avoid acting on insights that truly don’t matter.

So which ones do? The ones where consumers are passionately commenting, debating, and sharing.

On the positive side, focus on strong keywords like “love,” “obsessed,” “must have,” etc. and what these words refer to. Is it a product you don’t offer? A customer experience point worth adding?

Gather up all the intel you can, and design your competitive strategy around what consumers in your competitors’ audience want. Because they’re technically your audience too – they just haven’t joined your camp yet.

With regard to negative sentiment, words like “hate,” “terrible,” “the worst,” etc. clue you in to areas where competitors are lacking. Do you already offer a solution? This is a great time to let these unhappy consumers know – as long as you approach them authentically.

If you don’t already have a way to counter their negative experiences, or fill a category void, gather more data to discern whether you should make changes to meet an emerging market.

In short, fix what they hate and “borrow” from what they love.

3. Sticking to your own social channels

There’s more to competitive intelligence than stealing great ideas and leveraging customer service flaws. You may have a devoted Instagram audience, but if another brand is killing it on Snapchat, maybe you’re neglecting a channel you could be slaying on as well.

Be sure you look at the entire social landscape to find out where consumers in your category are active. You might uncover a new segment you didn’t realize was there. And they might be thrilled to discover your brand as well.

4. Not learning from others’ mistakes

As you surface for tactics to apply, be sure you take note of any competitive failures. It’s the best way to save your budget and reputation.

Your seemingly great idea might already have been tried by another brand – and if it didn’t work for them, it may not work for you either. At the very least, you should understand why it failed – something consumers will tell you.

Likewise, pay attention to brand crises brought about by bad customer service or social trolls. Think the same can’t happen to you? No one is immune – that’s why social monitoring is paramount. Learn from the mistakes of others so you don’t have to experience them yourself.

Overall, don’t limit yourself, as there’s no need to! Investigate as many competitors and consumers as you like – and act on the insights that make the most sense for your brand. When all is said and done, the only mistake left should be theirs – for underestimating you.

Want to see competitive intelligence in action? Get in touch for a one-on-one demo!

Image from Carol VanHook

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