How to do competitive intelligence research


From providing cohesive information in a saturated market to monitoring website changes, competitive intelligence research has numerous advantages regardless for your business. Competitive intelligence incorporates various research methods ranging from advanced, free data assembling to coarse high-investment analysis and research.

Types of intelligence research

There are three levels of competitive intelligence research, each of which has different resources required to conduct it. Each of these levels will have a different impact on tracking your competitors.

1. Surface level research

There are ways to obtain actionable competitive information even with a limited budget and set of resources. The most obvious solution is to use Google or another well-known search engine.

Find the leading rivals in your industry and study their advertising, company news, and press releases. With this information, you'll get a feel for the current players, those planning to join shortly, and their overarching strategies in the market.

But remember to be specific: a search using long-tail keywords like "best gluten-free pizza in San Francisco" will provide better results than a search for just "pizza."

2. Analyst and database research

If your budget allows, competitive intelligence has the potential to advance beyond simple data collection and into the realm of analysis. 

Analyst websites research your competitors and trends to produce insightful analytics reports. Although they can be pricey, they are accessible for purchase and can offer helpful information.

3. Specialized secondary and primary data collection

While the preceding strategies for conducting research are helpful, they still have their limitations. Competitive intelligence provides you with intensive integral data through various primary and secondary data sources to predict the moves of your competitors much more accurately. 

Let’s suppose your direct rival is looking forward to launching a new product in the market. And a search reveals that they are starting to work on the designs in December. A launch in November 2024 may be anticipated based on typical trial and clearance processes as well as basic facts derived from the web.

However, this broad investigation may not uncover that design was finalized ahead of schedule,  moving the launch date to 2023. There is a risk of losing market share if you fail to adequately oppose the entry of a competitor who you expected to appear in the market in 2024 but instead appears in 2023.

The following type of concealed data can be uncovered by working with competent and highly-skilled teams of competitive intelligence. 

How to conduct competitive intelligence research

How to Conduct Competitive Intelligence Research

Studies show that 94% of businesses are investing in competitive intelligence research. It is essential to know how to conduct this research effectively to create better results for your investment.

Here are some steps you can take to complete this research:

Identify your competitors

You can't gather valuable competitive intelligence about your rivals until you identify them. The good news is that you can leverage research into your competitors' strengths and weaknesses to put together this crucial list.

Asking your clients directly through a survey could be the most straightforward method. For instance, you may use an open-ended question to request that clients list the names of their competitors.

You might also conduct a Google search to generate a long list of possible competitors and then have poll respondents mark whether or not they are familiar with each. That way, you can zero in on the actual competitors who offer identical items and services to your target market and the indirect competitors who serve the same demographic but sell different goods.

It is a good idea to begin by identifying your primary rivals. These competing brands provide a comparable service or product to the same demographic of consumers.

Next, make a list of companies that are indirect rivals. Although they provide something distinct, they may appeal to the same customers as you. It's better to track to get ideas than to get a competitive edge.

Sort the entries on your list according to the threat level.

Set an objective

You may sometimes get the impression that gathering competitive intelligence doesn't have an end. So, to get the most out of your competitive intelligence program, it's essential to lay out your specific objectives, the internal teams you want to equip with insights, and the information you hope to gather.

Setting objectives will provide a focus for your competitive intelligence gathering.

One overarching objective could be to expand your business's upstream activities to attract more enterprise-level buyers. If this is the case, the goal of competitive intelligence could be to equip go-to-market teams better to face off against rivals in the business market.

More specifically, this includes developing new battle cards for brand-new competitors that will regularly be encountered in this market and offering marketing insights on their messaging strategies.

Your data-gathering and competitor monitoring efforts are just guesswork if you don't have a target in mind. To better gauge the performance of your competitive intelligence collection program, you should first define the outcomes you hope to achieve. Having these key performance indicators (KPIs) in place is essential to show how your program is helping the firm achieve its goals.

Determine data collection strategies

The next step is for your CI group to set up their data-gathering tools now that they know where they stand in relation to that end goal.

When conducting a CI program, it is essential to thoroughly examine existing data-gathering procedures to determine what data should be filtered, what data requires additional improvement, and what data is missing. For instance, you can use a tool to monitor the competitor's website for changes.

Research designs for competitive intelligence should include the time and effort required to acquire the necessary data, the relative costs of different techniques, and the variety of metrics available for gauging the success of the research.

Data-collecting strategies aid CI teams in keeping their work manageable and within the project's parameters. Knowing where to begin when your net is too broad is tough.

Gather and analyze your data

Thanks to a clearer understanding of your market, objectives, and research strategy, you can now get to work.

Depending on your objectives, collecting data could take many weeks. Use a CI tool to help you organize your data as you gather it so that you can analyze it more effectively later. 

When you have all the facts, that’s when the game really begins. You can recognize patterns and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of your rivals.

Organize competitive intelligence

Competent intelligence won't be constructive if it isn't shared with the right individuals.

Teams tasked with gathering intelligence about the competition must double as researchers and data custodians. In this way, you may provide support for many teams.

Imagine walking into a bookstore and finding the books arranged in no particular order. Neither the genre nor the author is specified. Could you get your hands on the book you've been looking for? No — not without some effort, at least.

The first stage in developing a library of competitive intel is for competitive intelligence teams to store external and internal material in a central area that is easy to access.

Create profiles for competitors

Now all the data you need to beat the competition is in one convenient place. Stakeholders should be able to use it easily, so we must do that now. 

Grouping information about your rivals into several categories will help you create a complete picture of the businesses you must overcome. It provides workers with all the information they need about a rival company in one convenient place.

Relay insights to key stakeholders

The first step in the process is to recognize themes in your research, and the second is to offer your thoughts to relevant stakeholders.

They can use the data to expand their operations and bring in more money.

Remember that, as with any data analysis, you are in the role of a storyteller. You are expected to analyze it and provide context for the reader to understand its significance. Without that vital information, figuring out what to do next might be challenging.

You should also make team-specific reports. For instance, your marketing team might choose a visual reporting breakdown, whereas your sales team might benefit most from using battle cards.

If you are unsure what course of action to take, it is better to ask the experts. Discuss potential methods of dissemination with your groups.


Research and analytics are paving the way for an organization's success. Interestingly, 90% of organizational analytics and industry experts today feel data and analytics are critical to their company's digital transformation objectives.

Moreover, according to Gartner, 90% of business strategies name data analytics as a core capability and information as a crucial enterprise asset.

Organizations need to start putting a focus on improving their CI research to help them capitalize on their share in the market.

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