Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here

5 Steps to Gain Competitive Intelligence For Your Business

Gaining insight through competitive intelligence

Competitive intelligence for B2B companies is an overlooked method of research because of its complexity. It all begins with questions.

What are your competitors up to? For most small to medium sized businesses, this is difficult to keep up with. It may be something you think about only when you learn you lost a sale to a competitor. Or, when you take a look at their website to see what is new. That easily leads to questions about pricing, etc. Most B2B companies do not post pricing on their website. You either need to sign up for a demo or submit a request for a meeting through their site. There are many ways to gain this kind of B2B competitor intelligence covertly. B2B Mystery Shopping is a great way to begin.

B2B Mystery Shopping

You may be wondering what in the world is B2B mystery shopping? Traditionally, mystery shopping is used for restaurants, retail, banks and even medical offices. Business to Business or B2B mystery shopping is an excellent way to gain market intelligence for your business as well as get a good snapshot at your internal customer experience.

B2B Mystery Shopping Case Study

Let me explain by giving you some details of a recent B2B competitive intelligence study we did for a client. We were hired to reach out to our client’s competitor and initiate interest in their services. The very first step in this process is to find an evaluator in our data base that closely matches an actual customer. We interview the evaluator to be sure they are not involved with the client or the client’s competitor in any way.

Once selected, the evaluator gets briefed on the objective of the shop with exact requirements of what marketing collateral we require they capture. If a demo is needed, screen shots may be part of the report, so the client can see a step by step process.

B2B Mystery Shopping
Narrative from the report

From the narrative example above you can see that it took from November 7th – November 13th to receive an answer. It took so long that our evaluator asked if he should abandon the initiative altogether. We pressed on, and finally received the information the client was looking for.

Steps to Begin

  • Test your own process first. Mystery shop your company to evaluate any internal issues you may have that you were unaware of. This gives you a fair point of reference and you are better able to benchmark against your competitors.
  • Price is important but so is marketing. What type of information are they including in their marketing materials that are better than yours?
  • Take it a further step and conduct an audit on their Google keywords and their social media reach.
  • Listen to the buzz around your competitors in social media. Check out the review sites.
Social Media Competitive Intelligence
Example of an Ongoing Social Media Competitive Intelligence Report

One bad review online, one lost email, or an unreturned phone call message that was never returned can break any business. It gets a little trickier when you are a B2B company.


Why My Daughter and I Don’t Bank Together….


I will be the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about financial regulations and changes to policies regarding bank accounts. However, I did get an education on this last week and was surprised with some of my findings.


My 16 year old daughter just started working at her first job – this is very exciting for both of us. One of the first things we did once she received her first paycheck was talk about opening a checking account, accompanied by a discussion of how to manage money, and all of that fun stuff.


In preparation, when I stopped at a local branch of the bank we have been with for years, I inquired about teen accounts and what was required. At the time, I was told that I would need to be on her account since she is a minor, and all that would be required would be her school ID since she does not have a drivers license yet.


Fast forward to the first paycheck….I take my daughter to our local branch to open her account. She is more than excited and as we wait to speak with a banker, she is rattling on about how she is going to spend her money, asking if she will get a debit card, etc. The banker greets us and asks about the reason for our visit. After explaining, she then proceeds to tell me that she will need two forms of identification and her school ID will not be sufficient. I explain that I was in a week or two prior and was told it was fine since my husband and I were customers and we would be tied to the account. She went to check with her Manager, and we heard him say “absolutely not” and we realized she would not be opening an account that day.


Disappointed, we left the bank. My daughter, now eager to open an account, asked me what we were going to do. I was busy pondering the misinformation I received between my two visits. Being in the mystery shopping industry, I silently wondered if the bank was engaged in a mystery shopping program, as this is one of the things that would be uncovered in a traditional program.


But, my daughter brought me back to reality, and I needed to figure out what we were going to do. I could go to the DMV and purchase a State ID, but she is getting her license in a couple of months and I didn’t want to spend the extra money just for the sake of opening a bank account.
Back to my mystery shopping mentality, I put in a call to the branch on the other side of town, just to see what information I could get. Maybe the misinformation travels and this branch wouldn’t be so firm on the “two forms of identification” policy.


This gets better… this branch, they told me there was no way possible for her to open an account until she was 17 years of age, identification or not.


Okay, so clearly my daughter was not going to be banking where my husband and I do. I had to come to terms with that. I ended up doing some research to figure out the best option. We found a bank for her, and all that was needed was her school ID plus my name being on the account since she is a minor.


I’m still surprised by this series of events; it’s not something that is a “make or break” situation and would cause us to switch banks by any means, but it did give me food for thought:


1. Regulations are regulations: while there are new laws and policies to abide by, and banking institutions of course are worried about implications of not adhering to them, I can completely understand why some financial institutions may be more rigid than others. In the grand scheme of things though, retaining customers might be a good reason for really looking at policies and determining if any allowances can be made in certain situations. In many, I’m sure there is no room to bend, but in others, there may be, and that might be the difference between a new customer or one who leaves the bank all together.


2. Make sure your information is consistent across the board: establish policies that are consistent across all locations as best as you can. I’m not sure the average consumer would have thought to call another branch of the same bank to see if the same information is given, but if they did, imagine the confusion from two completely different versions of a policy on teen checking accounts. Ensure that training procedures are uniform, and that you are measuring performance on a regular basis.


3. Do some competitive intelligence: are you losing customers in a key demographic? Is traffic down? In an increasingly competitive industry, it’s not a bad idea to conduct competitive intelligence evaluations on a periodic basis. In this case, it would be interesting to see the results from a study of banks as it relates to opening teen accounts – what information is required? Does the bank cater to this age group? What types of accounts are available? What features does it offer – mobile, online, text alerts, etc? Do the options vary across a bank’s branches? This type of information can be collected in an objective manner, with results compiled in a way to help banks understand what customers are looking for, what is available to them, and to ensure that information is consistent across the board.


All in all, my daughter is happy with the bank we ended up with, and I did like how they treated her. We spent quite some time in the branch while she got a mini education on banking and maintaining a checking account. I know we will be happy there, but I am disappointed that she could not open an account at “our” branch, which would have been a bit more convenient all around.