Competitive Intelligence: Know Your Competitor

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence has been defined as a systematic process by which a firm gathers, analyses and disseminates information about its rivals or as a process of researching a competitor’s organisation, products, prices, financial performance, technology and strategy.

In general, the research design employed for competitive intelligence is exploratory, using primarily secondary data, intelligence sources and qualitative primary data.


Competitive intelligence is not corporate espionage, stealing competitive documents or accessing competitors' computer files. Rather, the discipline is a structured approach to a different type of research which has evolved as an outgrowth of strategic planning and market research.

Commonly used techniques in competitive intelligence

  • Review of public records:
    Monitoring secondary sources of information such as government records, commercial databases, media reports and news clippings, and company-produced literature, for potential threats and opportunities.

Review of public records
  • Observational techniques:
    Directly observing competitors’ activities or facilities through overt surveillance is another way to acquire competitive data, though such practices may be viewed with suspicion. Likewise, learning about a competitor’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses through physical inspection of its products or actual use of its services is seen to be within the bounds of acceptable practice. Observers contribute to the gathering of ‘informal’ information concerning the market and business at different levels. Observers are not formal researchers but members of business departments, marketing specialists, technicians in engineering departments or plant-building departments. Employees in every department, including sales, purchasing and research and development, hear industry news well before it appears in a trade journal or in databases.These observers and their contacts form key components of b2b relationships set in the context of networks.

  • Personal interviews:
    Conversations with informed sources are beneficial when hard-to-find information about a competitor’s strategies and intentions are used to fill critical gaps in secondary data and provide a more complete understanding of the competition.

  • Competitor intelligence does not replace marketing research. In fact, the well thought out use of competitor intelligence increase the use and influence of marketing research.