My second job out of college as an analyst at a telecommunications consulting firm included collecting competitive intelligence on local telecom carriers. Yes we had the Internet as a tool (I’m not that old), but much of the information was gathered by calling companies and asking a series of questions. We published the reports that were usually purchased in hard copy. The reports quickly became outdated, as the data wasn’t in real time having been collected over the previous six months.


A couple years later, when I began working in email marketing, I established a seed address at which I signed up for every email newsletter I could find. Over the years that account has become a great resource for tracking delivery, creative and cadence of some of the largest and smallest B2C and B2B brands. However there is a problem with this method, which makes the data flawed: it only represents my experience with delivery to one email address and my interactions with the brand. Additionally, once again the process of searching and gathering statistics is tedious. However, using EDS Analyst from eDataSource we are able to get a better perspective of the competitive landscape across brands, verticals and domains.


One subscriber’s experience with an email program can be completely different than that of other subscribers depending on your domain, client, device and your interaction both in and outside of email. EDS Analyst gives a more broad perspective on what brands are sending, what ISPs are filtering, and how real users, through panel data, are interacting with the email programs.


When you take the time to analyze the competitive data through a tool like EDS Analyst, there are quick lessons to be learned.


• Lesson 6: Just because it came to your inbox, doesn’t mean it went to everyone’s inbox.

The inbox placement reports by eDatasource can give you some visibility into where your competitors, and your emails, are landing across the major ISPs. If you are using seed address to see what works for your competitors, it’s important to know that it landed in many inboxes, or spam folders.

• Lesson 5: Different messages are often sent to different types of subscribers.

It’s important to keep in mind that your experience can differ from the experience of others. Deciphering the targeted content is useful to determine the sophistication of your competitor’s program and to help give you ideas on what data you can and should be using to populate your campaigns.


• Lesson 4: Use your competitor’s emails to either replicate their successes or differentiate.

Whether your company is B2B or B2C, email competitive intelligence is one of the easiest ways to see what your competitors are up to not only in their marketing, but merchandising, brand strategy and product updates. Whether your competitor is hosting a webinar based on a new technology or product offering, or have come out with a new line of socks, chances are they will promote in email, and if you’re monitoring email, you’ll know as soon as their customers.


• Lesson 3: Look at how the email campaign fits into the overall marketing and/or content strategy.

Email works best as a piece of the whole. A cohesive strategy will promote, inform and encourage brand interaction or engagement. Of course tying your email campaigns with social media can give you feedback (good and bad) on a new product or promotion as well.


• Lesson 2: Don’t assume that just because your competitor is doing it, it’s effective. You don’t have access to their metrics or logic. You could be part of the “control” group, or they could just not be very good at what they’re doing.

• Lesson 1: Don’t assume that just because something is effective now, it will be effective tomorrow. Near the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, many marketers began using symbols in their email marketing subject lines.


In the end, it’s important to monitor your competitors’ programs to differentiate, inspire and avoid pitfalls. However don’t rely on your competitors to come up with new ideas and guide your strategy. Your program should be based on your brand’s needs and goals, not on the ability to replicate others.


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