What is Competitive Intelligence and Why all B2B Tech Companies Need to Have It

Dejan Gajsek
Dejan Gajsek
December 1, 2023

What is Competitive Intelligence and Why all B2B Tech Companies Need to Have It

I used to think competitive intelligence was corporate espionage by another name; then I saw how it transforms business strategies and turns sales revenue into a hockey stick growth. Dolla dolla bills! But it also instilled confidence in all departments.

Gone are the days, when the best product automatically wins just because it’s best on paper. The competition is so good, that the customer today is picking more than just a product on paper. 

They are looking to see who would be the best partner, offer the most helpful support, grow alongside the company and fit their needs, etc…

And because multiple suitors can fit that role, companies have to find a way to prove why they are not just great (or the best) but better fit than anyone else. 

Since the sheer pain of transitioning in the B2B world is great, the companies that prove their fitness also enjoy the retention of their clients for a long time.

1. What is Competitive Intelligence?

In the arena of business, CI is your reconnaissance. It's a systematic approach to gathering and decoding information about market trends, competitors, and external environments. The aim is to provide clarity in strategic decision-making and business planning, making sure your business moves are not shots in the dark but calculated maneuvers. 

The Role of CI

The scope of CI goes beyond just data collection. It stretches from dissecting competitors'  brand positioning, pricing tactics, social media engagements, and job postings to evaluating potential acquisition moves. 

The essence is to capture the pulse of market dynamics ensuring your offerings stay not just relevant, but competitive and appealing. It's about having a 360-degree view of the market landscape, seeing the unseen, understanding the unspoken trends, and reading between the lines.

Proactivity over Reactivity

In the realm of competition, being reactive is being vulnerable. CI is promoting a proactive culture. It's about staying a step ahead, anticipating market shifts, and competitor moves, and being ready for the changes. While no one can predict the future - a good CI program can “unblur” the picture and give you a better and more confident answer.

It doesn’t matter how unique you think your solution is—buyers are going to pit you against other vendors or their status quo processes. So you need to be prepared. — Andy McCotter-Bicknell, Head of Competitive Intelligence at Apollo.io

2. Why You Need to Invest in Competitive Intelligence

Quick answer — to close more leads in the short term and solve the problem of losing competitive deals to your biggest rivals.

But it’s much more than just that. 

Let’s break it down into two major segments:

  • Tactical intelligence which is great for short-term results and treating acute problems (i.e. retention or sales). 
  • Strategic intelligence helps your organization understand the market swings, trends, and signals from competitors. 

Tactical Competitive Intelligence

  • Win more competitive deals: You’ve been losing deals to your competitor for two quarters in a row. By asking your team members and conducting research on competitors' strengths and weaknesses, you will find out and equip your sales teams with better intel on how to present your company when a prospect compares you to your competitor.
  • Pricing adjustments: Imagine you're a retailer and you notice that a competitor is offering a huge discount for the holiday season. Tactical CI will alert you in real-time, enabling you to respond by positioning your market campaign with either your offer or investing more into benefits such as the quality of your product or even new seasonal releases.
  • Promotional Tactics: A competitor intelligence told us that hey have just rolled out a new feature and is marketing it aggressively. With timely intelligence, your sales team can be armed with counterarguments and a revised battlecard that specifically addresses this new feature.
  • Customer Churn: Tactical CI can help identify why customers are moving to competitors. Quick surveys or interviews can reveal if it's due to a feature, pricing, or customer service, enabling you to address the issue swiftly.

Strategic Competitive Intelligence

Strategic CI, on the other hand, is long-term and focuses on helping companies shape their future path.

  • Market Entry: If you're considering entering a new market, strategic CI can give you insights into local customer behavior, existing competition, regulatory conditions, and more. This could prevent a costly mistake or optimize your entry strategy.
  • Product Development: the B2B tech industry is littered with competitors with great products. Strategic CI can help you understand not just what products your competitors are developing, but also what the tech market will need in 5–10 years. This can guide your R&D investments or iterate your product roadmap based on these signals. 
  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Before making a substantial investment in acquiring another company or merging, strategic CI can offer insights into the long-term viability, market reputation, and potential synergies or challenges of such a move. For example, is the company hiring or shrinking, what’s their reputation among previous employees, and how effective are the marketing channels?
  • Long-Term Investment: For instance, if you’re in the renewable energy sector, strategic CI can help forecast trends in legislation, consumer sentiment towards sustainability, and technological advancements in the next decade. This intelligence can be critical in shaping your long-term investment strategy.

Both tactical and strategic CI contribute to informed decision-making, though they operate on different timelines and often require different kinds of data and analytics. A well-rounded CI program will incorporate both types, ensuring not just immediate gains but also long-term competitiveness.

And then we have secondary benefits such as informed decisions across various departments (sales, marketing, product teams, customer success, and stakeholders), increased confidence when selling, and more connected departments.

Bottom line - you need to find and prove your competitive advantage.

3. How to Do Competitive Intelligence Research

Data is everywhere - either scattered inside your organization heads or your CRM contacts and notes, or publicly available on various corners of the Internet.

To start, you must answer the most important question — Why?

Is it to improve your sales win rate? Differentiate and position your new product. Get more intelligence before involving your legal team in a merger or acquisition opportunity.

Knowing what you want first, will indicate where and how you get the data and answers your organization needs.

Step 1: Setting clear goals for CI

What are the main and secondary benchmarks for this program? 

If you want to improve your product, you might want to understand the product of your closest rival. 

In that case, you’d want to do a product teardown along with pricing information.

If you’ve been losing competitive sales to a particular competitor’s product, you’d want to build and use fresh battlecards for your sales team. 

Updated battlecards with the right messaging will help your salespeople close more deals since they’ll know what to say, and how to position your product/service when compared to a competitor’s product. 

Download the Atomic Battlecard Template

Step 2: Identify your key competitors

Who are you looking to put under a magnifying glass? 

Chances are, you already know who’s been taking away your market share and revenue (and your sales commission cheques), but if you don’t know where to start — do the 80/20 analysis. 

The 80/20 principle a.k.a the Pareto’s Law says that 80% of your results come from 20% sources. 

The 80/20 approach for competitive sales means that 80% of lost deals happen from 20% of your competitors. For most companies, this means 2 or 3 main competitors. 

If you’ve been working with clean data in your CRM, then check which deals have you lost to a competitor most often. 

Tip: The most mentioned competitors aren’t necessarily your biggest threat. If your win/loss rate report shows that you’ve been winning deals against them, then put them into second priority. Instead, focus on a company you’ve lost deals to the most. 

It’s recommended to start small and pick one or two competitors first before scaling your intel program. Get the first big win, and you’ll get the resources to scale your program needs after.

Step 3: Prioritizing data sources based on set goals

Now it’s time to hunt for data. Collect your data from primary resources first — your colleagues from sales, marketing, and customer service already know where the issues lie. 

The best way to start is to ask your sales teams. You can use the 12 Questions format to get the answers.

As for secondary resources — the resources you can obtain from public sources like your competitor websites, customer reviews from review aggregator pages, press releases, and social media. 

Step 4: Fuelling your internal departments with insights and collaterals

Once you have primary and secondary data, you’ll consolidate your sources and build the collateral that you need. This is already bridging the gap between competitive intelligence (turning data into intel) to competitive enablement (using intel to achieve certain goals).

Step 5: Seek feedback and watch your metrics

Just like any action within the organization, you’ll have to measure the effectiveness of your work. This could be hard metrics such as improved win/loss ratio, or soft metrics like sales confidence.

After getting results, you can choose whether to optimize your efforts (by automating data gathering for example), iterate, or scale the program to other products or other competitors. 

Step 6: Cultivating a culture of competitive intelligence

To make CI a thing - you’ll have to keep your team motivated. Share your wins internally on a team communication platform, email shoutouts, or with your managers.

To keep the program working you’ll have to figure out and keep the inflow of fresh data within the organization and frequently update your collateral so your teams always work with the latest and most trustworthy materials.

If you want to go step-by-step on creating your competitive enablement program, check out our 7-day Competitive Enablement email course.

4. The Best Sources for Competitive Intelligence

Here are the best sources to start with when gathering data:

  • Your primary data: your CRM, sales reo recordings, and, win/loss analysis
  • Secondary Data: 
  • Social Media Monitoring, Google Alerts, and specialized platforms like Klue, Crayon, or Kompyte.
  • Aggregate websites - review platforms, past-employee reviews (Glassdoor)

Exploring examples of how these sources can be tapped for valuable insights.

Popular Competitive Intelligence Tools

There are a lot of tools available already. Depending on your budget you go with free or paid options.



Specialized CI Platforms for competitive intelligence professionals for automated gathering of data and quick curation:

Primary research tools: 

  • Groopit - a tool that gathers your sales reps' notes for simpler primary resource collection

Social Listening:

  • Determ - “better” social monitoring

Content Competitive Analysis —  looks for traffic growth, backlinks, content gaps, and content opportunities

One of the good ways to speed up time is to scrape websites with user-generated content. For example, aggregate review websites like G2, Capterra, and TrustPilot can be scraped with Python scripts or with 3rd party scraper tools (i.e. Bardeen.ai)

5. What Collaterals to Produce to Win?

This is where competitive intelligence turns into enablement. The competitive analysis of data will get you clearer information but if you want to use it for the success of your team you’ll have to build content.

Since this is out of the scope of this article I’ll just briefly mention the most common ones:

  • Battlecards - to win deals and support the sales team
  • Competitive newsletter - regular insights about competitors' movement so the company never gets caught off guard
  • Product teardown reports- getting to know your biggest competitors and building a product strategy that stays uniquely ahead
  • Marketing Collaterals - based on the depth of research, all other materials from ABM deck, line-of-business battlecards, comparison matrix, the voice of the customer, etc. can be produced from the pool of information gathered from competitive intelligence work
  • Public comparison pages
  • Marketing landers, competitor analysis sheets, marketing collaterals, etc…

Investing in competitive intelligence is crucial — you’re always going to be measured against another high-performing product. And it's not about collecting data but making smart moves based on the information that you tease out from collected data. It will set you ahead in the market, always. 

There hasn’t been one company that hasn’t pulled massive benefits from an effective competitive intelligence and competitive enablement program.

Staying updated with your competitors’ strategies is key. It's not spying; it's about knowing the market well to make better decisions. It enhances your business performance, keeping you ahead.

Looking to Ramp Up Your CI Game?

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