Recent analysis indicates that the business landscape is becoming more competitive. How will companies be able to stand out in the face of this heightened competition? By refining their products, services, tactics, and organizational structures, they can maintain their momentum or carve out a space. But it won’t work if marketers are unable to express that unique value, not only in clear and compelling ways, but in highly dynamic, data-driven, real time. Nimble, technologically-enhanced strategies will allow businesses to identify customer pain points and explain their solutions through personalized messaging.
Crayon, a company offering market and competitive intelligence tools, completed a survey on competitive intelligence, which tapped into the expertise of over 1,000 professional respondents. Businesses reported an average of 25 competitors in their market. And according to those surveyed, it wasn’t always that way. Eighty-seven percent shared that their market has become more competitive in the last three years, and 49 percent characterized it as much more competitive.
I asked Ellie Mirman, CMO of Crayon, if there might be a difference between a company’s perception of the number of competitors and the actual reality. Sometimes, illusions get created. A company might become aware of another competitor by paying closer attention to the Google Ads market, but that competitor could have existed all along.
“I think classically the way companies find out about competitors is the sales cycle. Is your potential customer also looking at solutions from other companies?” said Mirman.
She added, “And keep in mind, it’s an average. Some businesses are seeing fewer, some even beyond the average.”
Although there are a lot of different ways to discover competitors, including AdWords and search results, it’s important to compare things accurately.
“There’s definitely a wide universe if you want to look at every competitor in your space,” said Mirman.
But by listening to potential or current customers, businesses can get a sense of the way they’re being perceived. In the customer’s mind, who were they up against?
“Different companies think about their competitor list in different ways,” continued Mirman. “Some companies stick their heads in the sand and pretend that they don’t have competitors. Some companies are hyper-aware and staying on top of everything in the market.”
As they attempt to contend with new threats, companies can also stand out by researching their competitors, gaining a thorough understanding of their tactics, products, revenue, pricing, and brand. They can spot advantageous gaps in the market. As a company in the competitive intelligence space, this is part of Crayon’s own unique value proposition.
By figuring out your competitor’s content strategy, their customers, and your own, you can seize upon great opportunity, according to Mirman. Her company’s survey findings note that competitive intelligence can go by many names, including market research and business strategy. I asked Mirman to clarify the ways in which businesses are using these terms. Mirman said that larger businesses are more likely to have competitive intelligence teams. With smaller companies, it’s something more integral, with blurred lines.
“It’s almost like it was woven into everything else they do,” she said. “Some people just said ‘business strategy’ or ‘strategy’ or ‘research.’ They didn’t see it as a distinct thing separate from everything else they do, because it is so critical to understanding what to do.”
Crayon itself is poised for growth. “A lot of companies are just starting to tackle competitive intelligence in a bigger way,” said Mirman. Consequently, the company has completed a $6M Series A to fuel expansion.
Eric Stromberg, partner and co-founder at Bedrock Capital, led that round. As part of his VC strategy, Stromberg scrutinizes popular narratives around specific startups and sectors. He isn’t afraid to buck conventional wisdom if he spots what he refers to as a “narrative mirage.”
With millions of companies collecting and acting on internal data, there is a general sense that business intelligence is a very crowded market, said Stromberg. But Crayon’s software-driven approach to competitive intelligence caught his interest, and he believes that it could help businesses to identify meaningful developments likely to impact them. This value is substantiated by a diverse customer base. The platform also yields cross-functional benefits, augmenting all divisions of businesses. Sales teams are able to close more deals, and businesses might also make changes to their product roadmaps based on intel.
“Most of the focus has been on internal data,” said Stromberg. “Crayon helps solve the other half of the equation.”