How to capitalise on competitive marketing intelligence


10 Tips for Efficiently Improving Your Competitive Intelligence

When trying to get senior decision-makers in a company to respond quickly to either a threat or an opportunity for the company, strategists tend to put a lot of effort into making their message as compelling as possible.

About half (51%, according to CEB data) of their effort goes into increasing the strength of the signal, so to speak, and is an approach that includes improving the quality of the information and presenting it in a more compelling way (see chart 1).

While this may seem like a sensible approach it is actually not the most effective. In fact, boosting the signal strength in this way is not nearly as powerful as helping senior execs come to a decision.

That doesn’t mean to say that it’s not worthwhile spending time on improving the quality of the data or making a presentation more compelling, just that it should be done as efficiently as possible. Heads of strategy in CEB’s network of strategy teams shared the following tips on quick, and easy ways to improve data quality and its delivery.

The levels of effort strategy teams put into increasing senior leaders' acceptance of competitive intelligence

Chart 1: The levels of effort strategy teams put into increasing senior leaders’ acceptance of competitive intelligence  Source: CEB analysis

Improve the Data Quality

  1. Lead with assumptions: Start the conversation with non-financial statements about the future to avoid discussions about the validity of the data.

    After all, it is hard to argue about the validity of a hypothetical statement.

  2. Document the data gathering process: Track and make available detailed information about how the data was gathered.

    Being upfront about data sources will answer possible questions in advance and help you gain credibility.

  3. Triangulate data: Use a variety of sources (internal and external) and choose the best data – that which is corroborated by numerous independent sources.

    Senior managers are less likely to question the validity of data that is supported by several unique sources.

  4. Focus on predictive indicators: Predictive indicators help reveal which economies, sectors, or companies show relative strength.

    Because these indicators are about what will be in the future, senior leaders are more forgiving about the need for accuracy.

Present Competitive Intelligence in a More Compelling Way

  1. Speak the language of the audience: When sharing competitive intelligence (CI) with colleagues, take into account whom you are talking to and what their priorities are. Make the information as relevant to them as possible.
  2. Use pre-reads intelligently: Sending pre-reading material only works when it is not overdone. Be selective about using it.
  3. Pre-sell: People have their own ideas and they need time to accept new ones. Identify or create opportunities (e.g., one-on-one meetings) to share information before asking senior leaders to discuss it.

    This is particularly true when sharing CI that is unexpected or that contradicts the conventional point of view.

  4. Conduct war games: When people step out of their roles, they are able to temporarily remove their biases and understand the external environment better.
  5. Use a third party to eliminate biases: Invite an outsider (e.g., topic or industry expert) to include the point of view of an objective bystander.

    Someone that is not directly involved in the company will be able to understand where different stakeholders are coming from and provide guidance on good options for the firm.

  6. Provide options on a course of action: Don’t present only a threat or only an opportunity; this leaves people with more questions than answers.

    Provide different possible responses and explain the pros and cons associated with each of them. If people understand the implications of responding to a threat or an opportunity they will be more open to discussing it.

This article first appeared in

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About Author

CEB Staff

CEB Innovation & Strategy provides senior leadership and their teams with insight and actionable solutions to transform operations. CEB’s insights, tools, and advisory services to help member executives focus efforts, move quickly, and confidently address emerging business challenges.

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