With clients getting savvier in their decision making and more “noise” across the marketing landscape, it’s getting harder and harder for law firms to stand out amongst the competition. That’s why, along with effective marketing and thoughtful pricing structures, firms should use competitive intelligence to enable strategic decision making. Here, we’ll talk about what competitive intelligence is. We’ll also dive into the competitive intelligence tools that enable law firms to capture, analyze, and take action on their competitive landscape.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence allows you to make smarter decisions by learning from your competitors and surrounding business environment through data collection and analysis. Law firms can identify trends or untapped gaps in the market and forecast their competitor’s next move using competitive intelligence tools. With the amount of data available in today’s digital world, law firms can leverage the efforts of others and build upon their success. Ultimately, this saves your firm time and resources since you’re also able to avoid making the mistakes they’ve already made.
How Law Firms Can Conduct Competitive Intelligence Research
Here are a few simple steps to take to begin obtaining the key competitive data that can inform your law firm’s marketing strategies.
- Identify competitors. The process overall is very hard to start if you don’t know who your competition is. Begin by narrowing down your top direct competitors (or firms that offer the same services and target the same persona). Then, add firms that compete indirectly. Rank the list by threat level.
- Set objectives. Before you begin the in-depth research, your team should ask itself “What do we want to know?” This will better help you decide which avenues to pursue and which data to to focus on.
- Decide on data collection strategies. Once you’ve determined goals, you can set up data collection channels. You’ll likely look at websites, landing pages, blog posts, content, downloadable offers, and social media. You’ll also want to participate in social listening to better understand what competing firms are putting out, and how people are responding. Have a specific plan of action, and make sure you’re not casting your net too wide to be useful.
- Gather the data, and then analyze. This part can take weeks or even months, depending on your goals. Determine which CI tool you will use to compile data, and make sure you are categorizing your data in the best way for using later. Once you have a robust set of data, you can begin looking for patterns and trends, which will eventually help you to see strengths and weaknesses.
- Share insights with key stakeholders. Once you have properly identified themes, you can share this information with those who can make better decisions and contribute to more growth. As you think about how to share this data, remember that context is important. Don’t simply share the data – explain why it matters and where the team might go next. You’ll also want to tailor data to your audience. Does your business development team prefer a more concise format with key objections bulleted out? Your executive team might want a brief with key figures highlighted.
Examples of Competitive Intelligence
CI research can cover a broad spectrum of activities from tracking your competitors’ pricing model to monitoring their social media activity. It all depends on how much time and how many resources your team is willing to invest. Here are the most popular sources and intel used for CI:
- Press releases
- Paid advertising campaigns
- Lead magnets such as white papers or eBooks
- Firm updates on services
- Client reviews and testimonials
- Website changes or redesigns
- Social media platforms
Competitive Intelligence Research Best Practices
As you approach your CI research, keep these tips in mind.
- Keep things legal. This may seem obvious but sometimes lines can get blurred. Don’t cross over into “espionage” territory by hacking or anything like that. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
- Remain ethical. Similar to the point above: even if it’s legal, it doesn’t mean you should do it. For example, if you come across a disgruntled employee of a competitor and they are willing to share sensitive information, tread carefully. Remember that if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
- Share information regularly. CI should be viewed as an ongoing process and not a one-and-done tactic. As long as you plan to grow your firm, you should keep an eye on your competition and deliver those insights to stakeholders regularly.
- Provide context in reporting. The insights you’ll obtain don’t happen in a vacuum. They are developed over months and years of various internal and external factors. It’s important to take this information into account when creating reports. Similarly, in your reporting on CI, you want to include how these findings affect your firm and what the information means.
Tools to Help with Competitive Intelligence
Once your law firm has identified the competition, there are some tools you can use to monitor your competitors online activities. Here are a few:
- Crayon – Crayon is one of the leading competitive intelligence platforms on the market with data from over 300 million sources. With Crayon, you can track your competitors’ digital footprint and easily filter through everything from social media and events to client reviews and financial reports.
- Kompyte – This tool is great for visualizing the changes in your competitors pages. It gives you insight into the effectiveness of competitors ads, so that you can determine which to explore and which to avoid.
- SEMrush – This platform provides a deep dive into your competitors’ domain performance. You can monitor other domains’ authority, their link-building efforts, paid search strategies, and more across multiple channels.
- SimilarWeb – SimilarWeb will help you gather a more holistic view of your competitors online. The platform has monitoring, benchmarking, and analytics capabilities to help scaling firms find opportunities. From SEO and web traffic to ad placement, the platform’s CI capabilities are extensive in both free and paid versions.
- Visualping – Visualping is a free program that you can use to keep track of your competitors and their website changes. The site monitors website changes and then alerts you via email, text, Slack, or API. You can specify which areas of a page you are most interested in.
As you grow your law firm, it’s incredibly helpful and important to look around at your competitors once in a while. Doing so can not only let you see threats before they become a problem, but also provide new ideas and ensure you’re in touch with what’s happening across your larger landscape. For more insight into the competitive landscape and how to stand out, check out our 2020 Social Law Firm Index, which shares trends and best practices amongst law firms using digital marketing.
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