Competitive Intelligence

"In God we trust.
All others we monitor."

Economics | History | Intelligence | Military | Regions | Religion | Terrorism

Military Unintelligence: During the Revolutionary War, George Washington led the continental army to their first victory by surprising the British at the Battle of Trenton. A spy learned of Washington's plans and tried to warn the British commander. but the colonel refused to be interrupted while he was playing cards. The spy sent in a note explaining that the enemy was advancing for a surprise assault. the British colonel tucked the note in his pocket unread because it was his deal. the note was found on the colonel's body after Washington's victory.
To scope out competitors, he suggests you flip your badge over. "It's very rare that someone will actually invade your personal space and turn your tag back over," he says. "Next, look for a real customer and kind of tailgate [into a competitor's booth]. They'll ask the hard questions and you just listen to the response." Lin says he's picked up a lot of marketing secrets from the competition--what their direction is, how much venture capital they have, etc.--just by asking. If they think you're a customer, he says, they'll tell you, especially if you choose younger, energized, talkative booth personnel to chat with. By being there when a competitor is doing a formal presentation to a group, "You'll get a different story [than when there's] just one person standing around, completely bored," he says. So don't go by a competitor's booth just once.

CI is like oxygen. You have to have it, but the only time you realize you need it is when it is in short supply.



"After all, what is intelligence? It's actionable information. But you'll never get them to take action unless you tell them what it means. Because they don't have time often to sit down and figure it out. When you start to provide actual guidance, you begin to make an impact."


"If you have a competitive advantage, it makes a serious difference to the shareholders of your company."


  • Customer Challenges
  • Information is too shallow
  • Credibility
  • Timeliness
  • Focus
  • Whom to send intelligence to
  • Analyst Challenges
  • No clear objectives
  • Not enough time to satisfy all the users
  • Different needs of multiple users
  • Too much information to get through
  • Organizational Barriers (whom to call, no follow-up)
  • Poor identification of who the customer is
  • Lack of feedback
  • Low budgets
  • Tough to get on executives schedules
Competitive Intelligence Podcast

Companies Using Competitive Intelligence

  • 3M Pharmaceuticals
  • Abbot Labs
  • Amgen
  • Amoco
  • AstraZeneca
  • Avnet
  • Bayer
  • Bell Atlantic
  • Boehringer-Ingelheim
  • Boeing
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Centocor
  • Corning
  • Dow Chemical
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Eli Lilly
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Ford
  • GlaxoSmithCline
  • IBM
  • Immunex
  • Kellogg
  • Kodak
  • Larscom
  • Lexis-Nexis
  • Merck
  • Motorola
  • Nutrasweet
  • Pacific Enterprises
  • Pfizer
  • Proctor & Gamble
  • Progress Energy
  • Roche
  • Royal Dutch Shell
  • SAS
  • US West
  • Wyeth
  • Xerox

Competition Differentiators

  • Products
  • Financials
  • Technology
  • Organization
  • Alliances
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing/Advertising
  • Reputation/Image

Competitor Tiers

  • Tier One - Global Presence
  • Emerging Competitors
  • Regional Competitors
  • Niche Competitors

Critical Success Factors

  • One of the main items that a manager and his competitive intelligence unit should focus on is the company's Critical Success Factors.
  • For example, a large companymight consider managing a government regulation a CSF because they are so large that their actions may spark questions of market overhang.
  • A smaller company, in that same industry, may not consider regulation something critical to their survival. For the smaller company, regulation is an issue, but it may not be necessary to focus too many resources on it.
  • The manager was interviewed about what he believed was absolutely necessary for the company to survive, items that if not secured would lead to the company's failure no matter what else it did or accomplished.


  • Company Data
  • Industry Data
  • Patent & Trademark Data
  • People Data
  • Real Estate Data


  • Competitor Intelligence
  • Customer/Prospect Intelligence
  • Market Intelligence
  • Technical Intelligence
  • Partner Intelligence


Key Intelligence Topics: Strategic Decisions and Issues

  • Provide intelligence inputs for the company's strategic plan to create "our" future competitive environment.
  • Formulating "our" global competitive strategy: Asses the role of competitors in achieving our business objective(s)
  • Globalization of (Our) Industry: How/with whom should we proceed? What are our competitors doing? With whom?
  • Asian/South American/etc. market development: Assess current competitive situation; describe the most likely future situations
  • Strategic investment decisions: Identify and assess changes in the competitive environment, including (1) Key/critical industry investments by others, (2) Cash requirements of other industry companies, (3) Involvement/role of investment community, (4) Possible alternative sources for future investments, including alliances, acquisitions, etc.
  • Should we expand our present production capacity or build a new plant with a more cost-effective manufacturing process
  • What plans and actions must we take to maintain (our) technological competitiveness vis-a-vis key competitors
  • "Product" development program: Identify and assess the programs of our leading competitors and assess the status of other competing technologies
  • New product development and roll-out: How an when will the competitors respond? How will they affect our plan?
  • How will our new distribution/sales/marketing strategy be viewed by the industry? Our competitors? Our distributors?
  • Protection of "our" proprietary information/technology: competitor efforts to acquire it, others interested in it
  • Human resource issues: Hiring and retaining key employees
  • Which company has the most efficient operation?

Key Points for Briefings

  • Tell customer what they already know, but briefly
  • Then get to the non-obvious stuff
  • Always present what it means for the company
  • Recommendations, the "so-what" factor

Mergers and Acquisitions

  • Increase the universe of possible takeover candidates. You're not limited to those companies on the block. Your investigation will uncover many possibilities.
  • Help you look below the surface and see if there is a true fit between the companies.
  • Help you look your best to lenders providing financing. A well-researched report employing competitive intelligence can show the true worth (not money value) of your potenial acquisition and its contribution to your overall strategy
  • Help you buy a company for its future, not its past
  • Help you negotiate a better price
  • Allow you to compensate for being an outsider when you want to purchase foreign companies

Mission Statements

  • Mission statements are often written during a time of crisis, such as when a company is changing strategy, management, or the industry is in upheaval.
  • Because of this, it's something that analysts should pay attention to as part of a firm's remade overall picture.
  • Trammell Crow's mission statement changed from "To be the premier customer-driven real estate company in the US to: To be the premier customer-driven real estate services company in the US."


  • "Nothing goes on in this industry that I don't already know about"
  • "Nothing goes on outside this company or outside this country that's worth watching"
  • "Competitive intelligence is spying. It's unethical."
  • "It's not taught in business school, therefore it's not vital."
  • "Competitive intelligence is a cost center, not a profit center. It's too expensive to implement a program."



Private Competitive Intelligence Firms


  • Company Profile
  • Forecasts
  • Industry Briefings
  • Intelligence Slugs
  • Open Source Industry News
  • Psychological Profile

Psychological Profile

  • Childhood history
  • Education
  • Friends, Hobbies, Interests
  • Previous Employment
  • Personality Traits
  • Goals, Drives, Risk Taking
  • Lifestyle


  • What are our competitors doing with their promotional and advertising campaigns?
  • How are they pricing their products?
  • What do they have coming in new product introductions?
  • How are their existing products perceived in the marketplace?
  • How are they doing in customer satisfaction?
  • What kind of value-added initiatives are they working on?
  • What are the potential alliances and joint ventures?
  • Who can afford to build a world-class facility?
  • Who can make the investment to serve the global needs of our key customers?
  • Who has the staying power to challenge our low-cost produce status?

SEC Filings

  • Operating Expenses
  • Prepaid expenses
  • Profit is Revenue minus expenses
  • Revenue (Cash In)
  • Revenue by Geography (US vs Europe, for example)

Subject Matter Experts

SWOT Analysis



  • Blogs
  • Business Networking sites (Jigsaw, LinkedIn, ZoomInfo)
  • Company Dossiers
  • Competitor Experts
  • Competitive Counterintelligenge (internal and external)
  • Consultant Studies
  • Customer Surveys
  • Economic Indicators
  • Executive Profiles
  • Executive Speeches
  • Field Intelligence Reports
  • Forecasting
  • Forums
  • Government Paperwork Filings
  • Industry Publications
  • Job Postings
  • New and Emerging Technologies
  • News Articles
  • Patent Applications
  • Quarterly Conference Calls
  • Regulation and Legislation
  • SEC Financial Postings
  • Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace)
  • Sucks Websites
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Trade Shows
  • Venture Capital

Trade Shows

  • Brochures, Pamphlets, and One-Sheeters
  • List of Attendees
  • List of Exhibitors
  • List of Seminars, Speeches, or Lectures
  • Magazine Articles Given an Reprints
  • Press Releases
  • Price Lists
  • Product Photos
  • Product Samples
  • Taped or Written Transcript of Seminars, Speeches, and Lectures (or how to obtain a copy)
  • Technical Data Sheets

Word Analysis

  • Data Points
  • Subjects