Competitive intelligence skills need to be honed and sharpened regularly. The field of competitive intelligence changes constantly, with new tactics and strategies popping up and “best practices” losing their effectiveness. The best way to stay ahead of the pack is to be constantly seeking out new learning opportunities.
Fortunately, there are several free resources available for those hoping to learn more about competitive intelligence. We have included sources that lay the groundwork for competitive and strategic intelligence, as well as frequently updated, modern resources to help maintain your edge as a lifelong CI learner. We have included books, organizations, blogs/epubs, online courses, and free CI tools to help you take your CI knowledge to the next level.
Good old fashioned books
There’s nothing wrong with a tried and true book. The competitive intelligence field has been around for decades, and it can be enlightening to go back to its roots. Whether you dig into a newly published book detailing how to leverage AI or big data for CI, or grab one of the original CI blueprints, you can find great strategies to apply to your business. There are plenty of published works that focus on intel alone, but consider venturing beyond, into topics of business strategy, branding, or customer analytics.
Here are some of the Crayon team’s favorites books:
Leonard M. Fuld
A favorite work of Crayon team, and on everyone’s required reading list, Fuld’s work is a staple for any CI professional. There is a fluid and easy-to-follow layout with useful methods for structuring a competitive intelligence project.
Michael E. Porter
Porter’s book offers a relatively granular look into the strategic and tactical needs of a competitive intelligence program. Topics covered include selecting competitors, industry segmentation, complementary products, defensive strategy, and more. If Fuld’s work is the quintessential starter for CI, then Porter’s is the tactician’s deep-dive.
The Art of War is an ancient text, dating back to the 5th century BC. The text has been translated and used to drive competitive strategy since the early 1900’s. While the text was originally written to inform military strategy, TAoW has been applied to sports, politics, chess, academics, law, and of course business. The 13 chapters of the book speak directly about different aspects of competition, with remarkable insight for the time. Of the 13 chapters, CI professionals should take particular note of chapters 1 (Laying Plans), 2 (Waging War), 8 (Variation of Tactics), and 13 (Use of Intelligence). If you have the time, it certainly doesn’t hurt to tackle the whole book.
Organizations and Groups
Every discipline has at least some professional groups that exist to educate, advance, and expand the reach of their respective cohort. Whether you come from marketing, sales, product management, HR, or a different department, you’re probably familiar with at least one professional organization designed to help you succeed. Professional associations vary from highly formalized groups with certifications, courses, and conferences to informal gatherings like casual meetups and LinkedIn groups.
Here are a few organizations and associations relevant to CI professionals:
SCIP is the premier organization for Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals. The mission of SCIP is to become the global organization of choice for professionals engaged in strategic, integrated, and competitive intelligence and related organizational decision influencing disciplines. SCIP also has a robust learning arm, aptly named “SCIP University” with a training-on-demand certification program.
The Academy of Competitive Intelligence
The Academy of Competitive Intelligence, co-founded by CI pioneers Leonard Fuld and Dr. Benjamin Gilad is another fine example of a formal professional CI association. Their CIP™ Certification goes the extra mile as it’s the only educational institution in the space of CI training boasting IACET accreditation.
Meetups & LinkedIn Groups
These associations fall into the “informal” category. Every interest/professional specialty is different, so it’s important to regularly scan these options frequently and expect lots of changing tides. These groups act like one part blog, one part professional association. As an example, let’s say you’re an aspiring music producer in Los Angeles. Here are perfect examples of informal groups that you could consider joining:
- Meetup: Electronic Music Producers. 700+ members, new meetups scheduled!
- LinkedIn: Music Industry Expert. 14k members, tons of different connection opportunities.
There are also several LinkedIn groups that specialize in competitive and market intelligence. Check them out here:
Blogs and E-Reading
Blogs and other online publications represent the cutting-edge of professional learning today. Though there’s nothing conceptually new about following relevant blogs, the speed at which this information is available online plays a critical role in being able to leverage it. By the time strategies, tactics, and tips hit a published book, an online course, or even a product, the blogosphere could already have 100x the data on that particular subject.
Here are a few choice online publications with a recommended post from each:
Crayon Resources Page
While this may be the obligatory Crayon plug, we really do make an effort to share out the latest strategies and best practices as it relates to market and competitive intelligence. As a software company, we believe it’s critical to share free educational content on new, modern approaches to the field.
If you’re here, you are already familiar with our blog. That’s not where the Crayon online learning stops! Our free resource hub offers downloadable guides and templates on topics such as intel-driven content, measuring product marketing, and landing page trends, to name a few.
Recommended Download: Crayon Competitive Analysis Template
Harvard Business Review
The Harvard Business Review (hbr.org) is a must-read if you’re searching for top-notch business content. HBR pieces touch on virtually every subject and discipline conceivable under the general umbrella of business. HBR publications frequently include cross-disciplinary data that elevates their materials above and beyond other available sources.
Recommended Reading: Leaders Can Turn Creativity into a Competitive Advantage
Quora is the world’s open-source Q&A platform. Like anything sourced openly, answers are not always high quality. Because there is no “gate” preventing amateurs from answering questions, you can expect results that vary in usefulness. The way that Quora handles this issue is by allowing users to vote up/down on the quality of the response, pushing the best answers to the top. While this isn’t exactly IBM Watson, it’s at least as good as having the “Ask the Audience” lifeline on Millionaire.
Recommended Thread: Is there a site you can use to search competitor's sites?
There are TONS of free courses out on EdX, Coursera, iTunesU, and beyond that can help aspiring competitive intelligence professionals grow. CI pro’s stand to gain a significant advantage by incorporating a “lifelong learner” mindset. Teachable skills in analysis, strategy, decision making, and market research (among others) can vastly improve the CI toolkit of anyone who reserves a seat in class.
Here are 6 free online classes that can add value to your CI skillset:
BONUS: 2 Free Competitive Intelligence Tools
If you’re looking to practice competitive intelligence and you want to work with a platform, consider Crayon’s two most popular free tools - Inspire and Intel Free. Our Inspire tool is like having lightning in a bottle for creative design inspiration across the web. For discovering, analyzing, and acting on just some of your competitor’s online content, look no further than Crayon Intel Free.
- Browse and save millions of web design examples
- Get inspired for your next marketing design project
- Discover and monitor content and design changes from key competitors
- Share your newfound insights and take ownership of your next competitive strategy