The Super Cool Guide to Competitive Intelligence

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence refers to the process, tools and methods used by a business to analyze competitors.

Your business has competitors. You watch them from time to time.

You’re paying attention because you care about your industry. Because you want your business to succeed.

Perhaps you’re interested in their pricing, employees, messaging, and customers. Think about the things you’d like to learn about the top contenders in your field. 

Now think about the bits of information that will help your sales team close more deals. Or, inform your product teams what to build. Or, guide your marketing org on what campaigns they should run.

That’s competitive intelligence.

Competitive Intelligence

Who are my Competitors?

Identifying your competition isn’t always easy. It’s largely influenced by the maturity of your industry and market saturation. A mature market might have dozens of businesses engaged in a heated rivalry. For example, ad-tech companies are up against hundreds of other players. 

In a mature arena it’s best to focus on the top 3-5 businesses that have the greatest threat to revenue within each geographic region.

Lani Leuthvilay, Senior Director of Product Marketing – PlainID

For newer, category-creating products – understanding the landscape can be especially complicated. A nascent product won’t have many direct competitors but it might come up against legacy vendors who compete for the same budget.

If you’re unsure whether someone is a competitor, ask yourself this question:
“If customers don’t purchase my solution, where else would their budget go?” The answer to this could be a combination of other products or another market incumbent. Your competitor is the business to which the money flows. 

Try the Competitor Tracker

Find your competitors with our free competitor discovery tool.

What does Competitive Intelligence Software do?

Manually gathering information about other businesses is a time-consuming task.

Competitive Intelligence software enables a business to keep track of competitor activity and helps guide decision-making on how to better serve customers. 1up is an example of a Competitive Intelligence Platform that makes it easy to monitor your competitors.

Competitor Intelligence Software

Automated Competitor Intelligence Gathering

There are many tools available that can help track everything from SEO to ad campaigns to news and social media. Good CI software should analyze everything your competitors are doing in real-time and answer questions like:

  • What are they building?
  • What are they saying?
  • Who are they hiring? 
  • Who are they firing?
  • Where are they headed?

The answers to these questions lie in a combination of first and third-party data sources. These can include customer reviews, social networks, marketing channels, and even internal sales intelligence.

Automated Competitor Intelligence

Digest Lots of Big Data with AI

Identifying gaps in the market is a time-consuming process. So is checking to see if your competitors are copying your messaging. These laborious, time-consuming, and sometimes difficult tasks can be handled efficiently and effectively by machines, though. And this is where AI comes in. Strong competitor analytics tools can leverage AI to provide competitive insights you didn’t even know existed.

Save Time Manually Analyzing Content

Nobody really wants to spend hours watching videos about competitors, reading their marketing collateral, and creating sales battlecards. But in a competitive market, this is a necessary evil. Using an app to monitor competitors can significantly minimize the effort required by automating the ingestion of marketing collateral, product launches, hiring trends, news, and more.

Integrate with Existing Sales and Marketing tools

What should I say about the competition when they bring up pricing?” — a question your sales team asks every day. Making CI available to them where they work is a huuuuuuuge win. With powerful integrations such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Slack and Microsoft Teams, your sales team can get the right intel exactly when they need it. 


Is competitive intelligence ethical?

Yes, and it’s essential for businesses to succeed. Ethical intelligence gathering relies on a combination of public and private signals. There’s no need to access data surreptitiously or by employing any dishonest means. The success of any great business requires it to learn about other companies and to use that information to better its product and service for customers. Businesses spy on competitors all the time — it’s that simple.

Where can I find free competitor intelligence?

You can research competitors for free by using a combination of manual and automated processes. This can be challenging as it involves tying together a range of tools and services such as Google, Reddit, marketing data, and ad tech platforms, with an array of analytics sources. A good CI program requires human interaction and collaboration. Although this type of analytics might have once been out of reach to Small and Medium Businesses (SMB), this is no longer the case. Try 1up and discover how businesses use AI for automated free competitive intel.

Who is responsible for competitor research in my business?

This varies depending on a variety of factors including the size of the business, its maturity, and the market where it operates. In SMBs, product managers and product marketers are typically the functions responsible. In larger organizations, however, you might see people with dedicated Market Intelligence or Competitive Intelligence managerial roles. No matter who’s responsible or what size your business is, everyone benefits when the product, sales, and marketing teams can analyze the competition.