2 Minute Read

Competitive Intelligence sounds sexy. It’s strategic. Or it can be. It’s weighty. Huge books are written about it. It’s valuable. Careers are made on it.

No wonder Product Marketing Managers get fired up about Competitive Intelligence (CI). It can be another way for us to provide strategic value to the enterprise.

And more often these days, leaders ask us for it.

But should we? Can we pull time away from other demands to give product marketing Competitive Intelligence the investment needed to make it worthwhile? Are we best positioned to provide it?

At first glance, of course we are!

We collect market information through contact with customers and third-party vendors. Sales throws us a competitive bone now and then. And they look to us for market insight. We monitor the pulse of (or sometimes freak out about) competitor marketing campaigns. We have analytical abilities and an audience with senior leaders who need strategic insights.

So yes, we can provide CI. But it depends on what your execs mean when they say they want “competitive intel?”

Is it sales intelligence? If so, great. Get busy collecting and monitoring transactional information. It can make a real difference to win rates. Consider launching a project to set a baseline, engage your teams in competitor analysis, monitor progress, and make regular reports. Go for it!

The Strategic Power of CI

But the real power of competitive intelligence is in developing strategy. That’s probably what the CEO means when she says she needs intel.

Are Product Marketing Managers willing and able to invest the time and energy needed to deliver this high-level value? Maybe. Can we comfortably probe competitor organizations to find out exactly what’s going on while remaining ethical? That’s a tough call.

It’s not dumpster diving. It’s getting information about a direct competitor’s plans and direction from people who really know. That’s what makes competitive intelligence valuable. And it’s why we pay external competitor intelligence consultants to track it down. It’s just not easy to get outside our routine, capture the big picture of direct, adjacent and emerging competitors while avoiding the inevitable blind spots.

There’s nothing wrong with secondary information collected from industry databases and augmented by sophisticated competitive intelligence tools. Add competitive analysis from your team and that may be good enough to meet your company needs. But without primary first-person data and external perspective that comes from thoroughly knowing the competitive environment, it’s hard to convert this information into real intelligence.

Read The Complete Guide to Market and Competitive Intelligence.

Market and Competitive Intelligence Guide

Enough on your plate?

Product Marketing Managers have enough on their plate without worrying about how to operate in the ethical gray zone.

We get pulled in many different directions every week.

Most of these tasks, we handle with aplomb. Or at least, we figure them out without breaking anything.

But the real job of managing the vague yet critical demands of competitive intelligence can be a burden.

Yes, competitive intelligence from a vendor costs more than DIY, but could be worth it.

The point is not to say that Product Marketing Manager are unable to do this. You may just need a little help.

Consider kicking off a strategic project with a competitive intelligence analyst, get them to run with the ball for a bit. Then collect internally for a while. Get the external team back later to update their original findings and deliver some forecasts. Long term collection, analysis, and reporting is necessary for CI success. You can do this!

There is a big difference between information about a competitor and competitive intelligence that could change the strategic direction of your company.

Make sure your leaders understand this when they ask you to add CI to your project list.

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