competitive intelligence social media monitoringOnly about a half of companies actually use the competitive intelligence they collect, a new survey reveals. In an Academy of Competitive Intelligence survey, only 55% of competitive intelligence managers and analysts said that their input made a difference on major management decisions. In addition, they said executive leadership frequently turned to them merely to confirm beliefs they already reached.

Companies spend about $20 billion on market research annually and about another $2 billion on analyzing specific competitors, says Benjamin Gilad, the academy’s president. Competitive intelligence (CI) clearly improves decisions.

Common sense says that knowledge about competitors is vital business information, Gilad writes in an article for Harvard Business Review. Yet many companies ponder consumers’ reactions to their products — at considerable expense — and give little thought to how competitors’ counter actions might affect consumers.

How to Improve the Decision Making Process

Gilad offers these recommendations for involving the CI analysts in corporate decision-making.

  • Give analysts sign-off authority on major decisions. “In practical terms this means the analyst – not just the PowerPoint deck – becomes part of discussions leading to the decision,” he says.
  • Be open to perspectives that differ from the internal consensus. Management that is more open to different views is more likely to ask analysts for the “big picture” rather than just data.
  • Be more proactive. Most companies use competitive intelligence to react to competitors. However, proactive decisions are often more important.
  • Involve analysts in product launches. Insight into reactions from customers, competitors, regulators and others increases chances for success.

Competitive Intelligence for Marketing & PR

Marketers and PR pros typically review their website statistics, numbers of social media shares and other information about their own campaigns. They don’t view or even think about similar statistics for competitors.

Google Analytics can show how your site traffic compares to a broad, anonymous group of other sites. More sophisticated tools show more specific information for websites of your choosing. Social media monitoring and measurement can uncover a goldmine of data about competitors.

Companies typically track mentions of their own names and products, but may not even consider monitoring mentions of competitors. To gather competitive intelligence, marketing teams employ the same media listening techniques they use to track mentions of their own company and products. They essentially replace their search terms with those of competitors. It’s important to share the information with sales, marketing and other departments that could benefit.

Five Major Benefits

ClickZ defines five benefits of competitive intelligence.

Benchmarking compares your metrics to those of specific industy leaders, possibly revealing areas that need improvement. Even if you are the market leader, understanding your competition can help you create a wider moat.

Context. Seen in isolation, your metrics show trends but little else. Without a comparison, you don’t really know if your performance is strong or weak.

The big picture. With competitive intelligence, you can determine if your recent performance is due to your own actions is or is part of an industry-wide trend.

Successful tactics. Competitive analytics helps identify competitors’ successful strategies.

Alerts. Competitive intelligence tools can send you immediate alerts if competitors receive an increase in traffic or increase from a new channel that you should know about. Real-time alerts allow you to counter-attack immediately.

Bottom Line: Competitive intelligence gathered through media monitoring and measurement and other tools aggregates information that is vital to business success. Many companies, however, do not take advantage that information, even if they spend millions to collect it. Companies can better leverage CI to gain better understanding of the marketplace and their competitors and, ultimately, to make better business decisions.