Competitive Intelligence Training and Strategy


Why is Competitive Intelligence important to your business?

Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a method used to gather and analyze information about competitors which may not always be easily obtained or publicly available.

Understanding how competitors will act in the marketplace can build profits and new competitive advantages for your company.  You can adapt your products faster, achieve cost advantages, and differentiate your market position.  CI can help you deter competitive movements and build marketshare.

Gathering Intelligence

There are several forms of intelligence gathering such as Market Research or Market Intelligence that can be used to:

  • understand the landscape of your market (e.g. size, regions, demographics).
  • gain feedback from prospects and customers about different products or services, e.g. you might learn about alternatives or substitutes being considered by buyers.
  • create a list of companies who compete with yours.

Competitive Intelligence is often used as a strategic tool to complement other findings. Having knowledge of the likely plans and efforts of your competition allows your company to have both offensive and defensive strategies in place to achieve greater success in the marketplace.

The process of gaining certain information about competitors requires a planned approach, good organizational skills and analytic experience.  It is not simply finding data or statistics, but understanding the implication it has to your business.

Good intelligence that is converted to insights can be used to help top executives and marketing managers to make better informed strategic business decisions – both short term as well as long term.

Developing Strategy from Competitive Intelligence results

Once a list of “target companies” has been identified via a variety of other intelligence, research and discussions, a plan needs to be developed and appropriate personnel need to be recruited to implement it.

Such a plan must set objectives and anticipate how results will be used.

  • What questions need to be answered?
    • Is a competitor planning to introduce a new product? Or enter a new market? Or expand its sales force? Alter its pricing?
    • Are there any merger or partnership opportunities?
    • (Note: It requires skill to get the answers to such questions since they cannot simply be posed directly. As in certain sports or fighting, you need to get your opponent “off balance” or distract them.)
  • Who will be interviewed?
    • What people are likely to have the answers — or part of the answers — to your questions? It could be the competitor’s sales force, engineers, their ad agency, public relations firm, present customers or members of their supply chain.
  • What will be observed?
    • Combining content from websites, newsletters, trade publications, patent filings, or even job postings can provide insights into informative.
    • Increasingly, selective monitoring of social networks, blogs, or discussion boards may uncover useful items about developments within competitive businesses.
    • Trade shows and conferences offer many opportunities to gather information that can be combined to form insights, e.g. booth size, amount of collateral, and number of staff present suggest approximate marketing budget for such an event. In addition, you may be able to listen to a presentation or sales pitch, thereby learning about a new feature or service.
  • How will the information be integrated and presented?
    • One data point is generally not sufficient to draw a conclusion, so multiple sources, interviews or observations are recommended.
    • Conclusions should be realistic and believable, and thus any assumptions need to be clearly presented.
    • It is a good practice to indicate the level of confidence one has in the advice provided to stakeholders.
    • CI provides an Early Warning System (EWS) that detects signals that can alert you that a competitor is probably planning to do something that will impact your business.

Competitive Intelligence Training

A good CI professional may have experience with journalism, interviewing, reporting and writing skills. Alternatively, a market researcher or statistician with strong analytic abilities can often be trained for this role. There are many other backgrounds which at times can lead to successful performance in the CI function.

It is important to understand that CI is focused on gaining insights into what your competition is doing or planning to do while Market Research is customer-focused.  As such, even if customers are surveyed and tell you about their attitudes about your competitors and their usage of their products, they are not a source of knowledge about future strategies of those companies.

SIS trains companies to build internal CI functions.  Founded over 40+ years ago as “Strategic Intelligence Systems”, we helped build CI departments that can rapidly receive and analyze information from around the world.  We continue this legacy in training companies to be agile CI organizations.