Competitive Intelligence Gathering: Understanding the Importance of Staying Ahead of the Competition.

Image of the post author Jodie Shaw

In today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive business environment, companies must remain vigilant to stay ahead of their competitors. This is where competitive intelligence (CI) comes into play. 

Competitive intelligence gathering is a systematic and ethical process of collecting, analyzing, and using information about one’s competitors, market, industry, and customers to gain a competitive advantage. 

CI involves collecting information about competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as well as their strategies and tactics. CI helps companies to anticipate market changes and to react quickly to new developments. It also helps companies to make informed decisions by providing them with the latest market and industry trends within the competitive landscape. 

Competitive intelligence research helps companies identify their brand’s opportunities and threats, understand customer needs and preferences, and develop strategies aligned with their competitive environment.

The history of competitive intelligence can be traced back to the early 20th century when companies began to use market research to gather information about their competitors. Over the years, the methods and tools used for competitive intelligence have evolved and become more sophisticated.

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Modern technology has dramatically impacted competitive intelligence market research by making it easier to gather and analyze large amounts of data. For example, the internet and social media have made gathering information about competitors and industry trends easier.

Competitive intelligence is also known as business intelligence, competitive analysis, and market intelligence.

The person or team responsible for gathering competitive intelligence in an organization can vary, but it is typically a combination of marketing, research, and strategy departments.

Methods of Competitive Intelligence Gathering

There are several methods of gathering competitive intelligence, including primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources include direct interaction with customers, employees, and suppliers, as well as online forums, surveys, and interviews. These methods allow companies to gather first-hand information about the market, customer needs and preferences, and the competitive landscape.

Secondary sources include publicly available information such as financial reports, news articles, government reports, and industry publications. This type of information provides a comprehensive view of the market, industry, and competitors.

Competitive Intelligence Framework

The competitive intelligence framework is the process by which companies gather, analyze, and use the information to make informed decisions. The framework consists of four stages: collection, analysis, dissemination, and action.

The collection stage involves gathering information from both primary and secondary sources. This information must be relevant, accurate, and up-to-date.

The analysis stage involves the interpretation of the collected information. This is where the information is evaluated and compared to the company’s current position and objectives.

The dissemination stage involves the distribution of the analyzed information to key stakeholders. This includes senior management, department heads, and employees.

The action stage involves the development of strategies and tactics based on the analyzed information. This stage also involves the implementation of these strategies and tactics.

Legality and Ethics of Competitive Intelligence Gathering

While competitive intelligence gathering is a valuable tool for companies, it is important to note that there are legal and ethical considerations.

Companies must ensure that the information they collect and use is obtained legally and ethically. This includes avoiding the use of insider information or confidential information obtained through unethical means.

Gathering Competitive Intelligence 

Competitive intelligence research analyzes various sources, including financial reports, news articles, and company websites. The quality of the competitive intelligence gathered is determined by the information’s relevance, accuracy, and timeliness.

When gathering competitive intelligence, it is essential to research various areas, including the products and services offered by competitors, their pricing strategies, marketing tactics, and distribution channels. Researching the competitive landscape, including industry trends and market conditions, is also important.

The number of companies or brands included in competitive intelligence research can vary depending on the size and complexity of the industry. Generally, it is important to have the top competitors and any new or emerging players in the market.

When gathering competitive intelligence, it is crucial to be aware of legal considerations, such as antitrust and intellectual property laws. It is also important to consider ethical issues, such as using confidential or proprietary information.

Due to language barriers and cultural differences, gathering competitive intelligence in international or foreign markets can be more challenging. However, tools and resources are available to help with this, such as translation software and market research firms with international expertise.

To determine if the information gathered in competitive intelligence is correct and trustworthy, it is essential to verify the data from multiple sources and consider the source’s credibility.

Several types of competitive intelligence exist, including customer, product, and competitor intelligence.

The frequency at which brands and companies conduct competitive intelligence can vary depending on their industry and business objectives. Some companies may conduct competitive intelligence regularly, such as monthly or quarterly. In contrast, others may only conduct it occasionally, such as when preparing for a product launch or entering a new market.

If a company is in a rapidly changing industry, such as technology, it may be beneficial to conduct competitive intelligence more frequently to stay up-to-date with the latest developments. On the other hand, if a company is in a more stable industry, such as consumer goods, it may be sufficient to conduct competitive intelligence on a less frequent basis.

Using Market Research Firms

Many companies work with third-party market research firms to gather and analyze competitive intelligence. These firms have the expertise and resources to provide companies with comprehensive and up-to-date information about the market, industry, and competitors. They can also provide valuable insights and analysis to help companies make informed decisions.

Working with a market research firm also offers several benefits. These agencies have the resources and expertise to gather and analyze large amounts of data, and they can provide a comprehensive view of the market and competitive landscape. They can also provide objective and impartial insights, as they are not influenced by the company’s internal biases or preconceptions.

A market research agency can help brands with competitive intelligence in several ways. Some of the services they may offer include:

  1. Competitor analysis: A market research agency can help brands gather and analyze information about their competitors, including their products, services, pricing, marketing, and distribution strategies.
  2. Industry trends: A market research agency can help brands stay informed about industry trends and changes in the competitive landscape.
  3. Customer insights: A market research agency can help brands gather and analyze information about their customers, including their needs, preferences, and purchasing behaviours.
  4. Consumer research: A market research agency can help brands conduct consumer research to gather feedback on their products and services and identify areas for improvement.
  5. Custom research: A market research agency can help brands conduct custom research to gather information on specific topics or issues relevant to their business.

Whether it is better to conduct competitive intelligence in-house or by using outside resources such as a market research agency depends on the resources and expertise available within the organization.

Conducting competitive intelligence in-house can be beneficial because it allows organizations to control the research process and keep the information confidential. However, it can also be more time-consuming and may require specialised expertise.

Using a market research agency can be beneficial because it allows organizations to tap into the expertise and resources of the agency, as well as access a broader range of data collection and analytical tools. However, it can be more expensive and may require sharing some confidential information.

Overall, it’s important for brands to carefully evaluate their own resources and needs before deciding whether to conduct competitive intelligence in-house or by using outside resources like a market research agency. Both options have pros and cons, and the best approach will depend on the organization’s specific circumstances.