Competitive intelligence (CI) skills need to be honed and sharpened regularly. The field of competitive intelligence changes constantly, with new tactics, strategies, and technologies popping up and, historical best practices are losing their relevance. The best way to stay ahead of the pack is to be constantly seeking out new learning opportunities.
Fortunately, there are many resources available for those hoping to learn more about competitive intelligence. We’ve 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 pro. Take a look at our list of books, organizations, blogs, online courses, and more, that will help you take your CI knowledge to the next level.
Competitive Intelligence Books
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.
The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence by Leonard M. Fuld
A favorite work of Crayon team, and on every CI pro’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.
Seena Sharp is a well-known name within the CI community because she was the founder of one of the first CI firms in the US. This book goes through the ins and outs of competitive intelligence - everything from what exactly is CI, when to use it, and how integrating CI into your business strategy will allow your business to grow exponentially and stay ahead of your competition.
New Directions: A Competitive Intelligence Scale by Gary D. Maag and David J. Kalinowski
New Directions is not your typical strategy book. It’s actually a story about a man named Jack Turner, and he’s embarking on a competitive intelligence journey. Although Jack Turner is fictional, this story goes through the actual struggles a CI pro faces, and will help you make the business case for your own CI strategy.
Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance by 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 by Sun Tzu
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.
Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Application of New and Classic Methods by Craig Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan
This book is more a traditional textbook than a quick read. It has everything you need to know about business and competitive intelligence. The book goes through traditional CI methods, but also goes through popular forms of analysis, and emerging tactics for competitive intelligence success.
Never Split the Difference is a book written by a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI. It may not sound like it’s a direct correlation to the competitive intelligence work you’re doing on a daily basis, but this book will teach you how to perfect negotiation, a tactic that can be applied to the win-loss interviews you’re conducting, and even the intel you’re gathering about your competition.
If your business is in the startup phase, check out these books and tips to help get you started with a competitive intelligence initiative.
Competitive Intelligence 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. We’ve rounded up some of the best Competitive Intelligence groups.
The Competitive Intelligence Collective launched in 2019, and it’s the first online forum specifically for CI pros. The main attraction of this site is the forum discussion, where pros can ask about strategy, resources, participate in AMA’s, or simply network with their peers. The best part? Membership is completely free!
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 has an annual conference where CI professionals from around the world gather to learn about the latest technologies, trends, and exchange knowledge with their peers.
While Sharebird is primarily for Product Marketers to connect, a large part of product marketing is competitive intelligence. Sharebird is an online forum for professionals to connect, and often you can find nuggets of wisdom about CI, analysis, sales enablement, and market research.
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.
Check them out here:
- Global Competitive Intelligence
- Next Gen Market Research - NGMR
- Competitive Intelligence Professionals
- Market Research Marketing Professionals Group
- Marketing Intelligence Professionals
Competitive Intelligence Blogs & E-Reading
Here are a few choice online publications with a recommended post from each.
While we may be a bit biased towards these resources, 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 company that strives to make the job of CI pros easier, we believe it’s critical to share free educational content on new, modern approaches to the field.
If you’re here, you’re 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 competitive intelligence industry data, intel-driven content, measuring product marketing, and competitive battlecards, to name a few.
Recommended Download: Crayon Competitive Analysis Template
MAII is a great hub for marketers looking to learn more about AI, machine learning, and the marketing software that’s powered by AI. Though this site is geared toward marketers, the articles on their blog are valuable for CI pros because of the impact AI is having on the CI technology space.
Recommended Reading: AI for Predictive Analytics: Everything You Need to Know
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: When Data Creates a Competitive Advantage
Competitive Intelligence Online Courses
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.
Some online courses are master-classes, but you can also get essentially a full semester’s worth of CI knowledge, totally online, with a small monetary investment. Here are six online classes that can add value to your CI skillset:
- Marketing Analytics: Competitive Analysis and Market Segmentation - UC Berkeley
- Analytics for Decision Making - Babson
- Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage - Penn (Wharton Business School)
- Competitive Strategy and Organization Design Specialization - Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) ($)
- Business Intelligence Concepts, Tools, and Applications - University of Colorado ($)
- Marketing and Competition in Pricing Strategy - UVA ($)
Elements of AI - Free online course about Artificial Intelligence
Competitive Intelligence Degrees
Competitive intelligence and business intelligence have become so critical to business success, universities are now offering full degree programs. Here are a few programs for you to explore if you’re interested in pursuing a degree in CI/BI.
- Georgetown University - Graduate Certificate in Competitive Business Intelligence
- Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota - Business Intelligence and Data Analytics (online degree)
- Mercyhurst University - Bachelor of Arts, Business and Competitive Intelligence
No matter what industry you’re in, it’s never too late to expand your knowledge. We are big fans of continuous learning, in fact, here’s a roundup of Product Marketing resources that are likely to help you, too!
Did we miss any resources that you love? Tell us about them in the comments!
Originally published October 25, 2017. Updated on February 28, 2020.