A Complete Guide To Building A Competitive Intelligence Process


Did you know that 90% of Fortune 500 Companies use competitive intelligence (CI) to gain an advantage. Yet only two-thirds of businesses claim it has benefitted them.

Despite enabling businesses to make decisions up to
5x faster, not everyone is getting enough value from their investment. In fact, companies on average analyse just 12% of what they gather.

If you want to get the most out of competitive intelligence, it’s worth looking at some of the main reasons why it doesn’t always go well. This can include insufficient resources and lack of internal buy-in. But most of these challenges can be overcome by having the right competitive intelligence process in place.


In this article, we’ll break down the key parts of a competitive intelligence process – from goal setting to choosing a competitor intelligence platform to turn insights into actions that protect and grow your revenue.


competitive intelligence process

What Is A Competitive Intelligence Process?

A competitive intelligence process refers to the steps taken to set up a competitive intelligence programme and begin gathering, analysing and using the data it produces.


The intelligence often focuses on the activity of specific competitors or data about the competitive landscape. 


A competitive intelligence programme is typically undertaken to help organisations identify and respond quickly to threats and opportunities in the market. It enables them to gain a competitive advantage and protect and grow revenue.

What Are The Reasons Behind The Lack Of Success With CI

As mentioned competitive intelligence is readily utilised by organisations and confers a great deal of tangible benefits. But there is still a noticeable discrepancy between adoption rate and companies actually benefiting from CI.  

1) Insufficient resources

This is where companies don’t have the necessary resources to use competitive intelligence software. They may still be using manual competitor tracking methods which are slow and laborious and often produce incomplete results.

2) Unable to effectively analyse and interpret data

Competitor intelligence platforms are capable of producing considerable amounts of data. But without the ability (resources and expertise) to handle and process it, organisations can find themselves overwhelmed by the experience.

It’s estimated that 55% of CI managers say that their input made a difference on decision making, while 45% said they did not see any impact. The success of the former group can be attributed to 3 main reasons:


  • Gathering data from a reliable resource 
  • The analyst’s report called for proactive action rather than reactive 
  • The analyst was involved in the launch of the product, which seems to be the most engaging stage for CI input.

3) Lack of internal buy-in

A lack of internal buy-in for competitive intelligence and what it can bring to the organisation is a common factor. Some find it hard to transition into a data-driven organisation, particularly if things have been done the same way for many years.  

4) Insufficient actionable insights

Organisations periodically struggle to turn insights into actionable strategies and data-driven decisions.  Closing the gap between gathered intelligence and decisions that drive increased revenue can be a major challenge for a lot of organisations.

How To Build A Competitive Intelligence Process

With a well-defined competitive intelligence process in place, the above 4 factors can be largely overcome. This is why organisations need to fully grasp the necessary steps required to build an effective competitive intelligence process.

1) Defining your goals

Like any strategic endeavour, it can only deliver value if it has a clearly defined purpose. Otherwise, your competitive intelligence activity is likely to be inefficient and of little use on a consistent basis.


Your goals may be determined by the department leading the investment – such as marketing or sales – or by specific problems you’re facing as an organisation. 


Becoming a data-driven organisation doesn’t happen overnight. Many organisations prefer to start small with competitive intelligence, narrowing in on a specific challenge, reviewing its effectiveness and then expanding their activity over time.

2) Choosing the right competitive intelligence platform

There are many competitive intelligence solutions on the market, each one offering a range of benefits and features. Most focus on the core proposition of tracking competitor and market activity in real-time using automated technology.

That intelligence is then served up in a dashboard with the ability to filter results, share the intelligence with relevant stakeholders and inform strategies.

Key considerations when choosing a competitive intelligence platform are ease of use, the ability to control permissions, third-party integrations and access to market analysts.

These market specialists will set up your account and dashboard, curate and analyse the data and compile reports. This can be a big help to organisations that don’t have the resources to sift through and curate their own data. 

3) Identifying who to track

The next step in your competitive intelligence process is to identify which competitors you need to monitor.

When it comes to choosing competitors, there are two types: direct and indirect. Direct competitors are those whose products and services are in the same category as yours and compete for the same customers.

Indirect competitors can include organisations that offer different types of products and services but compete for the same customers, or they have similar products and services but compete in different territories. 

You’ll also need to consider the different levels of competition, from the established players that dominate the market to the up-and-comers, such as start-ups and scale-ups who are looking to disrupt the competitive landscape.

You may also want to track other aspects of the market, such as industry publications and regulators whose online activity can help build your understanding of trends.

4) Identifying what to track

You’ve got your platform. You know your goals and competitors. The next part of the competitive intelligence process is to establish the types of information you want to gather.


This will likely be informed by your goals. For example, if you’re concerned about missing out on price, you may want to monitor competitor price points and promotions such as sales and discounts. Or if your competitors have more social media followers, you may want to track the topics and content styles they use to engage their customers.

Other areas for you to consider are product developments, marketing tactics and messaging, website changes, regulatory changes, reactions to regulatory changes, personnel changes and more.


Again, a market analyst – either in your organisation, brought in as an external partner or provided by your competitive intelligence platform – will help you identify the right criteria and metrics to track. They’ll build your dashboard so that the most relevant intelligence is presented and easily accessible.

4) Analysing the data

The next important step in your competitive intelligence process is to curate and analyse the data. As above, this is often performed – at least initially – by a market analyst. 


It’s their job to sift through the data and identify insights that relate to your specific goals. The analysis will focus on data that points to potential threats and opportunities. 


The most relevant insights are quickly surfaced, ready for you to access, share, analyse in more detail and use in your decision-making. They can also be incorporated into reports that provide a collection of insights.

5) Sharing and reporting insights

How you share and report insights with the team is a vital part of the competitive intelligence process. 


We’ve already touched upon third-party integrations. Your competitive intelligence platform should have the capability to integrate with your existing communication and data visualisation tools, such as Teams, Slack and Power BI.

This will remove one of the barriers to adoption within the organisation. Other than the team accessing the dashboard, it means other stakeholders won’t need to learn new software. Insights will arrive as alerts in their existing workflows for maximum convenience.


Another consideration when sharing is who you’re sharing the intelligence with. This may include other members of your department, other department heads and the board of directors. You may also make some insights available to everyone in the organisation via your intranet or other channels. 


When deciding who, the key is not to overwhelm people with too much information. For competitive intelligence to be usable, it’s better to focus on getting the most relevant insights to people as quickly as possible. Wider insights can then be presented upon request or in a report.


Speaking of which, alongside real-time alerts, you may want to compile periodic reports that provide more detailed intelligence alongside analytical conclusions. This can be particularly useful for helping more people in the company to make intelligent, data-driven decisions.


6) Mobilising the team to use competitive intelligence

Once insights have been shared, the onus is on the relevant teams and individuals to adopt and use them in their strategic decision-making. But many competitive intelligence initiatives break down due to a lack of process beyond the point of the data being shared.


One consideration may be to assign specific responsibilities and expectations to key team members. You can ask for feedback or reports that document how your competitive intelligence has been used to inform strategic decisions and the impact they’ve had. This could even take place at board meetings depending on the scale of your investment in this area.


Gathering evidence of competitive intelligence’s impact on your sales, marketing and other performance areas is vital for increasing buy-in, particularly if you’re keen to secure more budget or resources. Your platform dashboard can usually be configured to track this impact, making it easy to report improvements to key decision-makers in your organisation.

Competitive Intelligence Process FAQs

1) What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence refers to gathering, analysing and using data about specific competitors or the competitive landscape to identify threats and opportunities in the market. It enables organisations to gain a competitive advantage and protect and grow their revenue.


2) What can be tracked using competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence allows you to track various aspects of your competitors and the market. Examples include monitoring competitor price points, promotions, product developments, marketing tactics, messaging, website changes, regulatory changes, personnel changes, and more. Additionally, you can track industry publications and regulators’ online activity to gain a better understanding of market trends.


3) What are the main benefits of competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence offers several key benefits. Firstly, it helps organisations stay informed about their competitors’ activities, enabling them to respond quickly to threats and capitalise on opportunities. It also aids in identifying industry trends and customer preferences, supporting innovation and strategic decision-making.

Moreover, competitive intelligence enhances the organisation’s ability to make data-driven decisions, leading to increased profitability and improved competitiveness. For a more in-depth look at the benefits of competitive intelligence, please click here.


4) Why do I need a competitive intelligence process?

A: Implementing a competitive intelligence process is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures that the gathering, analysis and utilisation of competitive intelligence data are structured and efficient. Without a defined process, organisations may struggle to extract meaningful insights or face challenges in turning those insights into actionable strategies.


Additionally, a competitive intelligence process helps in aligning goals and objectives, selecting the right tools and platforms, and facilitating effective communication and collaboration within the organisation. Ultimately, a well-defined process maximises the value and impact of competitive intelligence efforts.