Are you ready to tackle online competitive analysis? Let’s get one fact out of the way: there’s rarely a standard job title for the person or team in your organization who is responsible for understanding what your competitors are doing and making recommendations for how you ought to respond. Sometimes it’s a full-time, dedicated expert. Often, it’s a member of the product or marketing team allocating part of their time to this pursuit. And occasionally, it’s someone primarily managerial, working not “hands-on” but instead with a third-party service provider or software vendor who provides ready-to-read reports and dashboards.
And there’s one more variable: Sometimes, in a tech-from-birth company, you’re surrounded by people who can support you in this task. In a more traditional company — or one only now undergoing digital transformation — it’s a more specialized, isolated role.
Regardless of this individual’s title and support from colleagues, getting the job done right requires a set of baseline proficiencies to get even the most initial, simple results. And yes, beyond those basics, someone with the ambition to deep-dive in this business needs a set of more advanced skills and talents.
Let’s take a look at both tiers.
Strong research and analytical skills
Remember back in high school and college, there were students who were clearly in their element in the library or scouring the web, spending hours searching, assessing, collecting, taking notes, and building a library of data — all as background for getting to work on a project or paper? That’s the mindset that represents the basis of a good competitive analyst. It’s about patience and perseverance, as data is fluid, spread all over, written in different styles, and often hidden. You have to both track down the content, organize it, and digest it; missing too much means that your results are skewed and less useful for extracting useful inferences.
The research you conduct can’t be executed without help. You need the Product team to guide you to comparable and competing technologies and products; you need Sales to update you about what they hear in the field; you need the Marketing folks to let you know what key features and benefits need your share of voice. For this guidance, you need both interpersonal skills and connections and a mastery of the technical communication tools that expedite these exchanges. And yes, you need the kind of ego that allows you to reach out for help.
Make data-driven decisions
Some of the answers you need are not simply waiting for you. You might need to dig, explore, and interact with customer data. Sometimes you need to create new mechanisms to collect it proactively rather than passively. Knowledge of online security and privacy best practices is important tactically, as well as ethically and legally.
Understanding of data science basics
Even if you are not a techie at heart, there’s a vocabulary that you need to master in order to talk intelligently about methodology, tools, and best practice. There is a value to understanding data science basics and data analysis techniques so that you can expand your capabilities and interact with outsourced experts who can provide and customize tools you’ll use to do your job.
Advanced Skills - Taking it up a notch
Now that we’ve covered the basics, the true competitive analysis rock star expands horizons and accelerates results. These three core skills allow you not only to get the job done thoroughly and accurately, but also to justify your conclusion to management or the various teams who are taking your cues as they plan their next steps.
Familiarity with SEO
Search engine optimization is dynamic, mysterious, and, frankly, frustrating because all you can do it play by the rules you know and then hope for the best. All you want to do is extend visibility and reach … but so does the competition. With the precise algorithms and “rules” always changing in Google’s black box, it can be a full-time job to figure out what works on search engines and social media platforms. It’s worth following the bloggers, taking courses, and initially getting up to speed with consultants.
Understanding of privacy, security, and legal
While we mentioned this as a Basic skill, there are clever and complex tactics you can use to proactively collect data from users in order to understand what they need to hear to trigger the response you want. Whether you are looking for sales, leads, or engagement, these techniques involve a delicate tiptoe through the laws limiting online privacy, security, and data use and sharing. Getting it right means you have nothing to worry about; getting it wrong means everything from a reputation hit on social media, the mainstream media, or even lawsuits or fines. And keep this in mind: Even if you hire a well-known company or software vendor, the resulting next moves you deploy are ultimately your responsibility.
Get cozy with AI
For anyone in an active, broad sector full of competitors in all shapes and sizes, keeping track of the competition is nothing less than a Big Data challenge. There are so many places to look, so much content to look for, and so much to absorb and process that the solution is often based on artificial intelligence technology that can do the heavy lifting we need to get the job done. Not to downplay the human component: you need to train the deep learning engine, showing it what to look for and helping it do the initial work of modeling the results to increase efficiency. Once again, presenting a strategy to a management team can be a challenge when it's emerged from an AI engine. You need to be able to understand the fundamentals of what the artificial intelligence software was doing in order to produce this result for decision-making and predictive analytics.
Conclusion: Yes, it’s a lot. But so is the challenge.
An online competitive analytics role can be shaped in a dozen different ways, based on your resources, team, sector, skillset, and goals. But having the right person who brings — or is willing to develop — the right skillset will have a trickle-down effect on decision-making across your organization.
Brew’s AI marketing platform helps hundreds of marketers in optimizing their competitive analyses. Get in touch with us today if you’d like to see it in action!