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3 Challenges of Competitive Intelligence Teams & How to Overcome Them

The following topic is discussed more in depth in "Democratizing Competitive Intelligence to Drive Impact Across the Organization", published in the Summer Edition of Competitive Intelligence Magazine by SCIP.

As companies become more sophisticated about their competitive intelligence efforts, they often form a dedicated, centralized team to support the rest of the business’s competitive strategy. A centralized team comes with its benefits, but there are also a number of challenges they face when it comes to driving impact across the business. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a centralized CI team - and how to overcome the common challenges.

Advantages of a Centralized Competitive Intelligence Team

A centralized CI team does have its advantages, so it’s no surprise that companies will establish this function as the business scales. Formalizing a CI team brings competitive intelligence as an initiative to the forefront. This signals that the organization is making a commitment to understanding the competitive landscape and making informed decisions based on competitive intelligence. Forming a dedicated CI team also allows the business to build a best-in-class function that can specialize in the skills and practice of researching, analyzing, and distributing intelligence. Finally, centralizing CI allows the organization to identify patterns across large sets of intelligence - connecting a series of weak signals across areas that would otherwise get missed by individuals only honing in on sets of intelligence narrowly focused on their area of the business.

Get the free Playbook for Distributing Competitive IntelligenceChallenges Faced by Competitive Intelligence Teams - and How to Overcome Them

1. Misalignment with Key Initiatives

There are still challenges that CI teams face that can negatively impact their strategy and their business. One challenge commonly faced by the CI team is in misalignment with key business initiatives. CI teams work cross-functionally, providing value to sales, marketing, product, and executive teams. However, if the CI team doesn't have an in-depth understanding of what each team cares most about, their CI strategy won’t be successful.

Communication is key to overcoming this challenge. Each team should communicate their priorities on a quarterly basis to ensure that everyone is on the same page. For example, the product team may share that they’re working on a new integration for their product suite with a popular software solution. This can steer the CI team in a useful direction, and they could spend time looking into similar integrations of competitors’ products. In addition, if the CI team tells key stakeholders that they’re digging into emerging competitors this quarter, it opens up the floor for people to ask their burning questions about those companies. This allows the CI team to get the best information that will benefit their organizations.

2. Competitive Intelligence Not Customized to the Stakeholder

Every team within an organization has its own unique needs, so not all CI information supports every team. For example, a PR manager most likely doesn’t care about highly specific product information since it doesn’t directly impact their strategy. Conversely, the product team probably doesn't care about which thought leaders are producing blog posts about a competitor’s product, but the PR team definitely does.

This challenge has a simple solution - tailor your intelligence reports for each stakeholder so that they get the information they care about most. There are probably common intelligence types that every team wants to know, but each team will want the findings that are going to benefit their strategy directly. For example, your content marketing specialist wants to see all new content released by competitors - blogs, ebooks, videos, and so on. But, your customer marketer will want to see new reviews, testimonials, and advocacy program details. Setting up a framework for CI deliverables will allow your CI team to ensure their reports are the most relevant for each stakeholder. 

3. Competitive Intelligence Not Delivered in a Timely Manner

Timing is key when it comes to communicating competitive intelligence. Even if your CI team has aligned their strategy and taken the time to tailor the intelligence to each role, it all comes down to timing. If something major happens, such as a price change from one of your top competitors, but your sales team doesn’t know for weeks, then they can’t act on it. If they were informed when it happened, they would have been able to take advantage of the intel. This can be said about every type of intelligence whether it be team changes, marketing campaigns, or product updates. To make sure your team is able to be act on market opportunities, set up a monthly or quarterly frequency, or one that fits within your organization, for sharing CI findings. Sharing competitive intelligence information in a timely manner is critical to give your teams the competitive edge they need to succeed.

To make sure that the CI data your team is receiving is fresh and relevant, consider complementing your monthly or quarterly updates with daily digests personalized for each stakeholder. This allows employees to keep a pulse on your competitors’ actions.

Although competitive intelligence is valuable, if you have a lack of alignment, personalization, or timeliness, your data and analysis can fall flat on the floor. A strong CI leader who focuses on strategic priorities, and provides individualized intelligence reports in a timely manner is guaranteed to produce work that will have a direct impact on their entire organization.

Read more about how to democratize competitive intelligence to drive impact with CI in the Summer Edition of Competitive Intelligence Magazine by SCIP.

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Ellie Mirman
Ellie Mirman, a Crayon alum, is currently CMO at Mulberry, the consumer-first product protection platform. Previously, she was VP of Marketing at Toast, where she built and led the marketing function across demand gen, content marketing, product marketing, branding, and customer advocacy. Ellie also held multiple marketing leadership positions at HubSpot during its growth from 100 customers to IPO. She loves working at the intersection between marketing, sales, and product, and building marketing from startup to scale-up.