Last year, my company carried out a survey of large North American businesses (a mean revenue of $6 billion) to see what they perceived to be the biggest marketing challenges for 2015 and what marketing strategies they are using.
This finding jumped out at us: Only 27% of US B2B firms carry out competitor research, even though almost half of them cite "countering the competition" as one of their top five business challenges.
It's true that many businesses can recall the names of their major competitors and perhaps even tell an anecdote or two about them. Others keep files of rivals' brochures and press cuttings, and a minority produce dossiers on the competition that are regularly updated, containing marketing implications and recommendations for action.
However, that information barely touches the surface, and it doesn't provide the necessary insight on competitors that can appropriately inform business strategy.
If US B2B firms want to successfully counter the competition, a more in-depth analysis of the marketplace is required.
Competitor research is essential
Fundamentally, business is about beating the competition; you cannot make judgments around strategies for doing so without understanding the strengths and weaknesses of competitors. Rivals' activity affects everything from product planning to pricing strategies and even acquisition policy.
For example, determining a firm's product range necessitates that the marketer have a detailed knowledge of all competitor products—and prices—in order to make comparisons and determine options for diversification.