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What is Competitive Intelligence? 10 Terms and Concepts You Need to Know

Picture of Emily Dumas
Emily Dumas on Thu, Dec 5, 2019

Competitive Intelligence (CI) is an integral piece of every successful business strategy. It’s important for a company to understand where they stand within their market, so they can make intel-driven decisions. CI avoids operating in a vacuum, instead encouraging decisions designed to place itself as separate from and ahead of the competition.

Competitive Intelligence requires understanding not just the general concepts, but the various nuances and subcategories that fall within. Keep reading to understand the complete picture of what CI entails.

1) Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence is the process of capturing and analyzing information about your competitors to drive internal strategy changes and tactics. CI is important because, while most companies have a great understanding of what’s happening internally, external information is necessary to drive sound strategic decisions.

The key here is making data-based, informed decisions based on the competitive landscape in conjunction with internal factors. CI allows organizations to make more informed business and strategic decisions. 

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2) Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis is the process of identifying strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of both your current and potential competitive landscape. You can use your competitive analysis to improve your strategy based on these internal and external factors. 

Typically, a competitive analysis is conducted by your product marketing or competitive intelligence teams, and then the findings are shared out to the organization. The insights from the analysis are leveraged by every team to make informed strategy decisions. It’s also important to note that this isn’t a one-time analysis; you should be conducting a competitive analysis as often as you deem necessary to maintain your competitive edge. 

3) Competitive Landscape

Your competitive landscape is a breakdown of the companies you compete with. Of course, you have direct competitors, but there are other types of competitors you need to keep an eye on, including your indirect competitors, perceived competitors, and aspirational competitors. You can also dig deeper and analyze your competitive landscape by sales competitiveness, industry focus, company stage, or solution type. 

Your competitive landscape encompasses all competitors that might influence your business success. It is important to define not just who these competitors are, but how they present themselves to both each other and potential customers. 


4) Competitive Matrix

A competitive matrix is a visualization tool that helps you map out not only your competitors, but how you compare to your market. Competitive matrices can take on a number of forms:

  • Feature Comparison Matrices that show each competitor's products and their core benefits and features.
  • Quadrants that 'sort' each competitor into one of four sectors based on two tangible metrics, like the ability to execute and completeness of vision. Third-party quadrants such as Gartner, Forrester, or G2 are excellent resources. 
  • Win / Loss Matrices map out where you struggle as well as where you excel in competitive scenarios. 

It’s also possible to combine multiple types of competitive matrices for a more in-depth competitive analysis. 

feature comparison matrix

(An example of a Feature Comparison Matrix)

5) Competitive Advantage

Ultimately, you want to carve out a competitive advantage and leverage it as much as possible. This is the one factor that's unique about your product/service or go-to-market strategy, able to sustain business growth even as competitors begin to encroach on your market share.

A competitive advantage can be anything from a product feature, pricing update, or strategy that’s hard to replicate. Even an intangible factor, like a charismatic leader, can play into this factor. However, it's crucial to define your competitive advantage based on an analysis of your market landscape. The more unique and sustainable your advantage, the better. 

6) Market Research

Market research is a broad term, but it's most often used when discussing the ways to gain insights from the opinions and experiences of stakeholders like your customers. Your customers are the key to taking your go-to-market strategy to the next level. In fact, your customers may even be an excellent addition to your product marketing team

Good market research is focused on customer needs and preferences. It encourages both qualitative methods, like focus groups and in-depth interviews, and quantitative tools like surveys and polls. Comprehensive efforts should include an evaluation of market needs as well as a deeper dive into top competitors to help you build materials such as the matrices mentioned above. 

7) Win/Loss Analysis

One type of market research that deserves particular attention is a Win/Loss analysis. This process takes a closer look at the sales opportunities won and lost by your organization and its competitors during a specific time frame, with the goal of finding the reasons behind those decisions.

Performing a win/loss analysis is complex once you get beyond the basics, but it's far from impossible. The key is visualizing and segmenting your data in various ways, always comparing against your competitors where possible. Focusing on your overall win rate is important, but make sure you’re slicing it in additional ways, such as analyzing your overall competitive win rate, and win rate by competitor. 

8) SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is an evaluation of business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The first two are internal, while the last two take the larger environment into account.

From a competitive standpoint, a SWOT analysis might actually be beneficial to perform for your competitors, as well. Again, the goal here is gaining as much intelligence as possible to 'know your enemy' and make more informed decisions as a result.


9) Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is the process of providing your sales teams with the data, tools, and resources they need to sell more effectively. Sales enablement materials can be in the form of collateral, tools (such as battlecards), trainings, or templated materials that will prepare your sales team for success. 

Sales enablement tools provide your sales team with all of the information they need to execute their sales process, and close more deals. To get there, you have to condense complex information into easily understandable, actionable takeaways. 

10) Battlecard

One tool that will transform your sales enablement is a competitive battlecard. It is, in essence, that snackable document designed to help your sales personnel better understand the competitive environment and know how to handle competitive sales conversations. 

A sales battlecard incorporates information about each competitor's products and services, while also highlighting potential strategies to compete against that company. Done right, they're short, snackable, and actionable, making them an easy reference piece for any member of the sales team. 

crayon battlecard

The Key to a Successful Competitive Intelligence Program

Competitive Intelligence involves a number of individual tactics and processes, all driving towards the same overarching goal. The key is making sure that any complexity gets boiled down to simple, visual, and actionable takeaways.

That's what makes resources like battlecards and competitive matrices such an important piece of the puzzle. The data gathering and analysis is only one piece; if you can turn that piece into a way to help your team on a daily basis, you've achieved a core milestone required for business sustainability and growth.

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Topics: Competitive Intelligence

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