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Building a Competitive Dashboard

In this day and age of easy access to information, no company can afford not to stay on top of what’s going on. No matter if you are a business owner, product or marketing manager, or a sales guy – you need to know what your competitors are doing. The more you know about your competition, the better you can make business decisions that will allow you to differentiate yourself and to create a competitive advantage to your business. Without proper competitive insight, you can easily make the wrong educated guesses that could lead to business failure.

There is great information that can be found in many places: from news feeds, company databases, social media networks, monitoring and website benchmarking sites, patents and trademark directories, to key information such as PPC and SEO metrics from iSpionage.com. And most of the time, you can get a lot of this information for free. Creating a competitive dashboard has never been more accessible.

So where do you begin? Here are a few tips on what your competitive dashboard should look like:

Start with the Basics

The first section we recommend is to have the basic company information such as: company description, headquarters, industries and specialties that the company is focusing on, years founded, type of company (public or private) and the number of employees. There are a few great sources for this information: LinkedIn, CrunchBase, AngelList and ZoomInfo are just a few examples. Once you have found all of this content, we recommend putting this into a table (Excel or Google Docs are usually the tools used for this – create a tab for each section of your dashboard).

Here is an example of an Overview Table:

Financial Metrics

Unless your competitors are publicly traded companies, this section is quite difficult to assemble – but you should still try to get the following information for each of your competitors:

    – Revenues (past quarter, year)
    – Information about their Cost of Goods and Services (COGS)
    – Gross Margin
    – Profitability or EBIDTA

Try to find any information coming from press releases (check PR Newswire or Industry Reports (Gartner, Forrester, Frost & Sullivan, IDC, etc.) or any other information you would find by searching with Google or Bing. If you can get any of this information, then the next set of metrics can become highly valuable: financial ratios. Indeed, if you can get as close as possible in completing the following table, it will allow you to assess and benchmark your own company: are you spending as much in R&D as your competitors? How does your profitability level compare to them and what is your revenue per headcount? These are all important metrics that can make sure you are not comparatively overspending in any area of your business.

Funding and Acquisitions

How much do you know about your competitor’s funding and latest acquisitions? While these are not data points we need during your everyday work, they are most useful to have handy when you need to know. For example, most investors have a five to seven years window on their investments. If one of your competitors is about to hit that timeframe, there are most likely in discussions with the investor about finding an exit or someone else to buy their shares. Understanding also the kind of acquisition they have made in the past can also help you to better evaluate where each of your competitors are heading.

Some of the information you want to capture includes:

Funding

    – Date of funding
    – Round Type (seed, A round, pre-IPO, etc.)
    – Amount
    – Investors involved
    – Estimate of valuation / ratio
    – Link to any press releases

Acquisition

    – Date of acquisition
    – Company Name
    – Industry or specialties of the company
    – Amount
    – Estimate of valuation / ratio
    – Link to any press releases

Some of the sources that are useful for this section include CrunchBase , PR Newswire, The Software Equity Group (for the valuation and funding ratios) and of course Google and Bing.

Web Metrics

With some much business happening thru the web, it’s critical that you get a complete summary of all the web metrics you can get your hands on: web traffic ranking, number of sites linked, site load time, number of page views per visitor, web site reach, PPC budget, top PPC keywords, etc. There are several sources where you can get web metrics including Alexa, Compete.com, MOZ, and of course lots of great information from iSpionage.com.

Here is an example of a web metrics table you could build:

Social Metrics

In addition to web metrics, we also must know how all of our competitors in the world of social media. Again all of this information is freely accessible to anybody:

LinkedIn

    • Number of Followers

Facebook

    • Number of Followers
    • Number Posts – this month
    • Number Page Mentions – this month
    • Average # posts / month
    • Average # mentions / month

Twitter

    • Number Followers
    • Number Tweets – this month
    • Number Mentions – this month
    • Number Retweets – this month
    • Average number tweets / month
    • Average number mentions / month
    • Average number retweets / month

YouTube

    • Total Uploads
    • Total Views
    • Number Subscribers
    • Average Views per Video

AngelList

    • Number of Followers

Klout

    • Klout Score

PPC and SEO Metrics

Last but not least, we all need to know as much as possible about our competitors’ PPC and SEO metrics, including: PPC budget, top PPC keywords, average ad position, top PPC competitors, top SEO keywords, and top Ads in Google and Bing. Of course, all of this information can be found on iSpionage.

Keeping It Up To Date

We recommend that you take the time every month to make sure that you competitive dashboard is kept up to date. Depending on the number of metrics and companies you are tracking, this should not take you more than a day or so to update all the data points. The challenge is to get into the habit of doing this on a regular basis and not forgetting to do it after a few months.

Once you have this in your hands, it will be much easier to work when doing a strategic plan, updating your business plan, working on a new product launch or when you will do your next sales meeting. And if you really want to build such a competitive dashboard but you are afraid you will never have the time to keep it current, you should check out what my latest company is working on.

Author

Guest Blogger Michel Besner
Michel Besner has been successful for more than 20 years in bringing to market innovative products and solutions for B2B, cloud-based solutions, enterprises search, mobile applications, games development, film, broadcast, and the architectural market spaces. Michel is currently the President and CEO of Strategic Planner – a company that is building a competitive intelligence platform that allows companies to easily track the latest news and key metrics for all their competitors. Readers can sign-up for free at www.strategicplanner.com.

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