Practical Competitive Intelligence – Step by Step


Google their name, or their product name and that’s that. Scramble to find more, when your colleagues ask for input on XY.

Better: follow a proven, step-by-step approach to learning about your competition: The following principles work both for international corporations and one-product companies. With details and suggestions that can be implemented for YOUR environment.

Puzzle pieces to symbolize competitive intelligence

Step 1) Decide what info you need,
Step 2) Gather that info,
Step 3) Analyze the data to get to “so what?” stage, and
Step 4) Use it so you can win

Have you been there? Beautifully compiled info that’s absolutely useless?

I remember the printed “beat cards” that one of my former employers produced for use of sales and marketing teams. They had beautiful layout, full colour print, were special format printed on thick card stock. They came attached and fanned open. While I have no idea which team actually made them, I know exactly who used them.

Ahem. Yes, you guessed it: we all admired the prettiness of them, and then shoved them deep into a drawer (that’s a polite way of saying they went direct to the bin). The problem? They were not relevant, not practical – AND were outdated even before they went to print.

Step 1) Decide what information YOU need

All right, now to the meat of it: How do you decide which information you need? You are the product person, you are the marketing manager, you are the CEO. The competition are out to win your customers away from you, menacing your funnel, right?

Ok, breathe, step back: this is an analytical process, and to determine what information you need, let’s go back to the basic goals of doing business:

  • Selling more or
  • Reducing cost

Next step, you have obviously decided that learning about and from your competitor will get you closer to either one of these primary business goals (else why would you want to know anything about your competition?).

If your primary goal is to sell more, you might decide to want to learn

  • who your biggest competitors are (in terms of revenue, in terms of number of customers)
  • which of your competitors is winning customers away from you
  • what the primary sales tactic of your biggest competitors are
  • which competitor is gaining market share
  • why customers buy from your competitors
  • what problems customers have with your competitors
  • what problems do your competitors have

If your primary goal is to reduce costs, you might decide to want to learn

  • what their cost structure is
  • how their product is being optimized, eg how often do they update their product
  • how big is their team
  • how does their customer service compare to yours
  • how expensive is their staff
  • what channels do they use for distribution
  • where do they manufacture and develop their products and services?

Do you have awesome Competitive Intelligence processes in place? Hate anything to do with CI?

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