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Marketers don't need to be told how difficult it is to stand out in their industries. Cutting through the noise to ensure your company is leading the conversation is an uphill battle for a lot of us. And part of "standing out" is recognizing the companies that surround you that you're trying to stand out from.

That's your competitive landscape. And, these days, marketers need to keep tabs on it more than ever before.

You don't have to take my word for it, though: My company, Crayon, recently conducted the latest iteration of State of Competitive Intelligence Report to explore how businesses are using competitive intelligence (CI) to rise to the top of their categories. Here are four things we learned.

1. Competition is intensifying

Competition is fiercer than ever, which means companies are forced to be more reliant on CI than they ever have been. Nearly 60% of CI practitioners surveyed say their markets have gotten much more competitive—a 16% increase from 2020 levels.

It's no surprise, then, that 98% of stakeholders say competitive intelligence is important to their success, according to the survey. Many leaders are committed to investing in CI solutions: 42% of respondents say they plan to integrate CI into their strategies, and more than half indicate they plan to increase their use of CI technology at some point in 2022.

In short, for many companies more competition means more CI.

2. Every business―big or small―can benefit from dedicated CI teams and technology

It used to be that only large organizations were creating purpose-built CI teams and taking advantage of CI technology. Now, decision-makers at organizations of all sizes—and in all industries—are prioritizing competitive intelligence, and they're reaping the benefits.

According to the survey, teams with dedicated CI platforms are 2.5 times more likely to activate intelligence daily and share that intel across their companies, empowering them to drive twice as much revenue impact compared with teams without such platforms. A dedicated CI practice in place allows marketing teams to rely on that intelligence to build out messaging, campaigns, and strategies that will set their company apart.

When we published the first version of the report, only 22% of CI teams consisted of three or more practitioners. Today, 33% do.

3. Automation is supercharging competitive intelligence efforts

The data collection apparatus needed to facilitate a large-scale CI strategy can be complicated, and interpreting that data to glean actionable insights is even more complex. In a similar way to how automation changed lead generation for marketers, automation is easing some of the heavier lifts associated with CI.

The time teams spend on CI—especially gathering the necessary intel—is changing as technology empowers CI teams to adjust their approaches. CI teams are redirecting their efforts toward activation (delivering takeaways to the right stakeholders) as automated solutions take care of the manual tracking and gathering for them. In fact, in 2022, CI teams will spend 14% less time on research and 15% more time on activation than in 2018. That's automation put into practice.

4. The focus on KPIs, like that on influenced revenue, will continue to grow

As the importance of CI grows and companies invest more money and resources into their programs, teams need metrics to prove CI's value―and that often means showing revenue impact to leaders.

Although marketing teams have developed a whole slew of revenue-related metrics to report on their activities, CI teams are still in the early stages of creating KPIs. Similarly to marketing, more CI programs are starting to adopt some version of influenced revenue, whereby teams can help senior stakeholders recognize the potential revenue tied to a competitive intelligence program.

Regardless of the metrics your team uses, it's imperative that you focus on the KPIs that can help the business understand the value of CI's efforts. Doing so will remain critical in 2022 and beyond as CI continues to pique the interest of companies around the world.

* * *

As competition heats up, marketers across industries are realizing that scanning competitors' social media platforms, websites, and media coverage every so often is no longer enough. Businesses that do not take an active approach to competitive intelligence run the risk of falling behind.

Perhaps the most compelling takeaway from the 2022 State of Competitive Intelligence report is the changing perception of CI within organizations. Accordingly, there has never been a better time to invest in CI. Because you'll never be able to "stand atop" your industry without knowing what it takes to "stand out" from your competition.

More Resources on Competitive Intelligence

Knowing How Your Competitors Are Positioned: The Key to Competitive Intelligence

How to Beat the Competition With Market Intelligence on Content, Positioning, and Leads

Competitive Marketing Intelligence? Yep, There's a Chatbot for That!

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image of Erik Mansur

Erik Mansur is the VP of product marketing at Crayon, a competitive intelligence software company. He is a storyteller with experience in print, radio, and that #startuplife.

LinkedIn: Erik Mansur

Twitter: @ErikMansur