Effective Competitive Intelligence Research Questions

In order to truly understand the status of your industry and the competition within it, you need to have a solid set of effective competitive intelligence research questions. By simply asking the right person the right question at the right time, you can gather a wealth of useful knowledge. This can then inform your business strategy moving forward, encompassing everything from product development to pricing and marketing.

What are competitive intelligence research questions?

Competitive intelligence research is the practice of discovering as much as possible about your competitors in order to discern your point of differentiation and then capitalise upon it. Much of this crucial information can be found through online search, industry conferences and competitor’s published marketing material. However, in some cases, you may need to talk directly to people who have experience with your competitors. These could include:

  • Existing customers – both your own and theirs
  • Potential customers that you’ve lost to competitors
  • Ex-employees
  • Suppliers
  • Distributors

However, you should never compromise your ethics as part of a competitive intelligence research piece. To avoid committing industrial espionage, we would recommend that you refrain from contacting a competitor by acting as a customer. Nor should you ask someone else to do so for you.

So what competitive intelligence research questions should you be asking? Here are three key areas to get you started.

1. Competitor Pricing

Before you think about taking a product or service to market, it is important that you know how much your competitors are charging. If your price is higher than theirs, your marketing strategy will need to clearly explain to consumers why your product or service is worth the extra cost. It could be due to your higher quality of customer service, more advanced technology or premium materials. Equally, you may need to assuage concerns about quality if you have the cheaper offering.

For B2C companies this information is typically fairly easy to find online or in shops. If your competitors are a B2B organisation, you are likely going to need to ask someone directly. Try and track down any willing recent customers who are able to provide you with the most up to date information. Depending on how many different products or services your competitor offers, you may need to speak to multiple people. Remember to check whether or not the customer was offered a discount and if there were any conditions attached e.g. bulk discount, free delivery or installation above a certain price point.

2. Competitor Marketing

By examining your competitor’s marketing material (website, brochures, print and digital adverts etc.), you can generally ascertain who their target audience is and how they are seeking to position their product or service. Go one step further and ask members of the target audience how they feel about your competitor’s marketing and what their response would be i.e. would they purchase the product or make an enquiry about a service? With that information to hand, you can then decide whether to target the exact same audience with a compelling counter offer or go after a different group of people.

Don’t only look at the content of the advertising but also where it is being placed and how frequently it appears. If you are seeing a particular advertising campaign everywhere, it is a good indication that your competitor is prioritising one product or service. As a result, other areas of their business could be vulnerable, presenting the perfect opportunity for your own company to make a concerted move.

3. Competitor Structure

If you suspect that a competitor may be planning to release a new product or service, changes to the competitor’s structure can be a big giveaway. New additions to the board could indicate that a significant change in strategy is about to take place. Examining the expertise and past experience of these new hires can tell you what direction your competitor is moving in e.g. does the new board member have a history of cost-cutting? Similar inferences can be made from an influx of new hires elsewhere in the company.

You should pose these competitive intelligence research questions to all of your competitors, not just the more established ones. New arrivals to the market may not feel like a threat right now but don’t underestimate them. Younger companies tend to be more likely to innovate and take a risk on unfamiliar technology.


What Market & Competitive Intelligence Means to Us

Our insatiable appetite for discovery continually leads us to become more aware of what’s happening and makes the opaque become very clear.

We have a saying, ‘in evidence we trust‘, but it’s not just about the cold hard facts. It’s about creating a composition of both facts and context to create a sixth sense of what’s really going on across our markets.

This level of intuition means we can take the truths which sit on a hazy periphery, move them into sight, and render complete clarity to us and our clients.

To learn more about how our global Market & Competitive Intelligence capabilities can support your needs, get in touch.

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