Competitive intelligence is more than a simple cliche like “knowing your enemy”. CI is a deep market analysis.

Traditionally, CI has been covert and unnoticed. It was based on government intelligence models, and involved framing people as customers of competitor businesses in order to gather information about pricing, products, and strategic plans.

Identifying Your competitors

No matter your role in product marketing, business development, or a member of the C-suite, there’s one thing that most professionals share: the competitive landscape is constantly changing. It’s for this reason that competitive intelligence services are so crucial. It allows companies to identify market shifts and respond with data-driven insight and a strategy compass.

Competitive intelligence services

The first step of a successful program for competitive intelligence is to identify your competitors. This requires a thorough analysis of the market as well as your organization in order to identify who you are competing against.

A clear picture of the marketplace allows you to identify your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths, so you can create a more effective marketing strategy. For example, if your competitor’s products are receiving high customer ratings but they’re lacking in specific features, you can use this insight to highlight the strong points of your own product.

While any publicly available information can technically be considered competitive intelligence, it’s important to be selective when collecting this data. You should clearly define your goals and then research sources that are aligned with them before you start. This will help you eliminate irrelevant information and focus your attention on the data which can have the greatest impact on future success for your company.

When evaluating your competitors, it’s also important to consider their strategies and any patterns that may emerge in their managerial decision-making processes. This will allow you to identify opportunities to learn from your competitors’ mistakes or leverage their best practices.

In addition to analyzing your competitor’s website and social media pages, you should also look at industry reports, patent filings, and customer reviews. The more diverse the sources you use, the more thorough your competitive analysis will be.

Analyzing Their Strategy

When you start collecting data about your competition, it is important to organize them into a structure that will help you better understand their overall strategy. You can use a variety of analysis models to do this. However, the model you choose should depend on your objectives for gathering competitor intelligence.

Some models are based on the theory that there are two main factors to consider when analyzing a competitor: their actions and their motivations. Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor, created an analytical framework to help you analyze your competitors’ goals and strategies, corporate cultures, leadership backgrounds, values/missions, and corporate culture in order predict their future behavior.

Still, even with a framework to analyze competitor data and some methods of collecting it, you might find that it’s difficult to get as much information on your competitors as you would like. In these cases, it may be wise to seek out professional help. Most companies that rely heavily on competitive intelligence find that an outside data provider helps them achieve their strategic goals. These providers provide a variety data types including firmographics and social media data that most companies cannot collect efficiently.

Once you’ve set clear and specific goals for your competitor research, it’s time to turn those goals into actions. Identifying which team members within your organization are integral to your intelligence efforts on competitors is the best way to achieve this. Set up a regular schedule of when your team receives competitor intelligence reports, and what information they should include.

Identifying Opportunities

As the process for gathering competitor intelligence continues businesses should look for opportunities. Competitive intelligence isn’t just about sifting data. It involves taking raw information and transforming it into valuable insights, which can then be used to make strategic decisions. It’s about cutting through the clutter and identifying potential gaps in a market, where your competitors have fallen short, or where they are looking to improve.

One of the most important steps in this process is to identify your competitors and their product offerings. You’ll need to create a comprehensive competitive environment. This should include your direct competitors, your indirect competitors, and your perceived competitors. Your direct competitors are the companies that offer similar products or services to yours. Your indirect competitors are those who compete with you in the same industry but don’t directly compete for your customers. Your perceived competitors are those companies that are seen as leaders in their field but don’t actually compete with you for business.

Once you have established your competitors, you can begin your research and data collection efforts. It’s important to set clear and specific goals, so that you can focus on the information that is most relevant to your company’s needs. This may involve understanding how your competitors are developing their software, what technologies they’re utilizing, or the trends they’re embracing. This may include identifying the pricing strategies and customer service policies of your competitors. These goals should be in line with the overall strategic goals of your company.

While a pessimistic perspective would say that spotting the flaws of your competitors can be viewed as an opportunity, an optimistic view would suggest that you can use these details to avoid making similar mistakes yourself. This will help you win market share battles against your competitors.

The ultimate goal of competitive intelligence (CI) is to give you the edge your business needs to succeed on your market. This can be achieved by identifying the weaknesses of your competitors and exploiting these, as well spotting opportunities that could lead you to greater market success.

Identifying Threats

The big picture use case for competitive intelligence is to identify potential business threats and opportunities. Competitive intelligence can give you an edge if, for example, you see your competitors entering a new space and you are not. It can also help you mitigate risk by anticipating competitor moves and creating contingency plans.

Competitive intelligence can also keep you ahead if you see that your competitors make mistakes you can exploit, for example, by offering more services or features than they do. It can help you identify opportunities that have slipped your mind, such a weakness in a marketing strategy or inefficient business processes.

One of the most challenging aspects of developing strong competitive intelligence is that it requires a lot of information that’s difficult for businesses to collect on their own. This is where outside help comes into play. 69% of companies who have used third-party services for competitive intelligence have reported positive outcomes. The right partner will help you to build a complete picture and provide a deeper level of analysis than most people can do.

For example, a third-party data provider might survey your competition’s customer base restlessly, and they can tell you what types of software, hardware, and other technology they are using, whether that technology is current and state-of-the-art, and more. This type of data is called technographic information, and it’s a vital component of competitive Intelligence.

A third-party provider of data can offer more than just technographics. They can also provide social media data and customer reviews. These data sets complement the information collected by internal teams, and can be an effective complement to their insights. When you combine all the pieces of your competitive intelligence, you’ll have a clear and defensible point of view about the competition that you can communicate to other departments–and then you can take action. This is the power of competitive intelligence, and it’s something that every company should strive to gain.